Mal­tese com­pany could rev­o­lu­tionise med­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions with tat­too-like heart sen­sor

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Re­becca Iversen

A tem­po­rary tat­too based on pro­pri­etary tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped by a Mal­tese com­pany that mon­i­tors a pa­tient’s heart, could rev­o­lu­tionise med­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tions in the fu­ture.

Car­di­ol­o­gist Dr Robert Xuereb spoke to The Malta In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day about the tat­too-like sen­sor that could re­place the cur­rently used and bulkier Holter mon­i­tor, and still pro­vide all the in­for­ma­tion doc­tors need to mon­i­tor a pa­tient’s heart, over a pe­riod of time.

The tech­nol­ogy’s de­vel­oper, Umana Med­i­cal Tech­nolo­gies, is a Mal­tese en­ter­prise, which has been work­ing on the tech­nol­ogy for a while now, has cre­ated a tiny de­vice, dubbed the ‘Umana T1’ that wire­lessly cap­tures and anal­y­ses in real-time the car­diac elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity (ECG) in a non-in­va­sive man­ner.

The sen­sor works by mon­i­tor­ing pa­tients’ heart­beat and heart rhythm and changes. The data is then trans­ferred wire­lessly to an ap­pli­ca­tion, which can be down­loaded on a nor­mal smart­phone, through a small flex­i­ble in­ter­face (the T1 Box) placed on top of the tat­too-like sen­sor.

The app then records and anal­y­ses the ECG sig­nal in real-time.

Dr Xuereb spoke about the cur­rent sys­tem in place, which has been used since the 1990s, a mo­bile am­bu­la­tory sys­tem called a Holter mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, which is a rather bulky con­trap­tion with elec­trodes, wires and a large mon­i­tor that are not so prac­ti­cal or com­fort­able in warm cli­mates such as Malta’s. Such mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems are used for stretches of ei­ther 24 hours, 48 hours or seven days.

Dr Xuereb, who is the Chair of the De­part­ment of Car­di­ol­ogy and Pres­i­dent of Mal­tese Car­diac So­ci­ety, ex­plains, “We need this sort of ma­chin­ery for pa­tients who, for ex­am­ple, faint and have lost con­scious­ness and we need to know why. If their heart has slowed down, the pa­tient may need a pace­maker. If the heart is beat­ing too fast, it could be there isn’t enough flow to the brain – re­sult­ing in loss of con­scious­ness, in which case the pa­tient may need med­i­ca­tion. Or there could be other rea­sons at play.

“With this nice tiny de­vice, it would be much more com­fort­able, more durable and just eas­ier for the pa­tient in gen­eral. This truly opens up new hori­zons in which pa­tients can mon­i­tor their hearts and we can link to the data and an­a­lyse it too.”

Dr Xuereb spoke about his team’s next plans with this new piece of tech­nol­ogy: “The com­pany ap­proached us as it wants to ver­ify if the de­vice is as ac­cu­rate as the Holter sys­tems we use now. There­fore, we will be car­ry­ing out a study in which pa­tients will have both the Holter and Umana T1 sys­tems and they will be in­ter­preted in­de­pen­dently to see how ac­cu­rate this new de­vice truly is.

“There is more re­search be­ing done not just in heart mon­i­tor­ing but also for blood pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing. I truly feel this is the fu­ture for car­di­ol­ogy.”

He added, “I think this is the fu­ture, more elec­tron­ics, more com­put­ers, more per­son­alised medicine. The time will come when ev­ery­one will be run­ning around with a wrist­watch able to check heart, blood pres­sure and what’s go­ing on in our body. This is the fu­ture of medicine.”

Dr Xuereb con­firmed that heart dis­ease still re­mains the num­ber one killer in Malta and be­lieves that such med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy could al­low doc­tors and even pa­tients to de­tect heart prob­lems ear­lier and as such be able to treat pa­tients as early as pos­si­ble.

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