Published March 25, 2013
Heart attack coming on? Yep, you guessed it: There’s an app for that.
A new medical device could turn your phone into a lifesaver; the tiny implant monitors your blood and can send a warning to your smartphone if it detects potentially life-saving problems.
The device, developed by a team of scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland is the world’s smallest such implement ever; using Bluetooth, it transmits data to your phone and could even warn you if you’re about to have a heart attack.
Often in the moments before a heart attack, fatigued or oxygen starved muscles begin to break down, and fragments of a heart-specific smooth muscle protein -- triponin -- are dumped into the blood. If this can be detected before disruption of the heart rhythm or an actual heart attack, lifesaving pre-emptive treatment can arrive in time to save a life.
The device can also track levels of glucose, lactate and ATP providing valuable data for physiological monitoring.
Outside the body, a battery patch provides the 100 milliwatts of power the device needs, sucking juice via wireless inductive charging off the skin.
Dr. Leigh Vinocur, from LSU Health Science Center, told Fox News the implant has many potential uses, including monitor glucose levels for diabetics and helping prevent deaths from heart disease. But the connection to the smartphone may prove problematic.
“What happens if you’re in an area where there isn’t good cell service? It’s not that reliable right now. Is it 4G, is it 3G?” she said.
The other challenge for the device, which has yet to receive FDA approval, is in the monitoring style. Simply put, Triponin may not be the most effective way to gauge when a heart attack has occurred.
“The chemical is first released 4 hours after a heart attack and peaks at 16 hours after. And sometimes that’s very late and it means the muscle is already damaged,” Vinocur told FoxNews.com.
She said other devices being looked at study heart rhythms and can detect more immediately when when a clot has formed. Those devices rely on pagers and the individual person to call 911 for help -- a smarter system than relying on the wireless connection from a smartphone.
“Sometimes when time is critical, you do have issues: are you going to have service in that area?”