UK-based scientists have completed pioneering research into these devices, which have been developed to allow medics to monitor their patients’ health in real-time and ultimately deliver a greater level of personal care than has been available before.
The Imperial College London team – which has been developing the devices for several years now – have recently published findings in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Lab on a Chip. The findings detail how they have overcome the challenges of creating large external support systems and sensor deterioration by successfully developing a 3D-printed chip that is far more robust and can be controlled remotely using a tablet of computer.
“Our research has shown that these sensors are capable of successfully monitoring patients who are in incredibly unstable conditions and provide their healthcare team with reliable information as soon as they need it, as well as a means of alerting them when critical clinical changes occur,” said Professor Martyn Boutelle, Professor of Biomedical Sensors Engineering at Imperial College London. “Through providing optimal therapy, this will result in better outcomes for patients and therefore has the potential to deliver cost savings for the NHS.”
The chips can now be set up to monitor chemical fluctuations inside the body, giving quicker and more accurate results, as well as enabling medics to gather crucial data which could not be monitored previously. In proving the technology, the team monitored traumatic brain injury patients at the intensive therapy unit at King’s College Hospital. The trial required neurosurgeons placing a sampling probe into patients’ brains, which was coupled to an external ‘lab on a chip’ device set to continuously monitor the levels of multiple substances in the brain such as glucose and pyruvate. By monitoring the levels of glucose and pyruvate in the brain (both of which are crucial in for brain function), the chips gave medics an early warning of possible declining brain function, allowing them to take action and improve conditions for the patient.
“This paper demonstrates an exciting and significant step towards this technology being used to great effect in real-world clinical situations,” said Dr Annika Friberg from the Royal Society of Chemistry commenting on the findings. “The team at Imperial College London has shown the potential these devices have to radically improve the treatment of patients with acute injuries and sets out the roadmap for reliably testing new ways of monitoring and identifying clinical changes in patients which impact on the outcome of their treatment.”
The paper can be found here.