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Researchers Show That Blood-Flow Sensor Can Monitor Vascular Disease

Image courtesy of NIBIB.

Frequent measurement of blood-flow changes could improve the ability of healthcare providers to diagnose and treat patients with vascular conditions, such as those associated with diabetes and high blood pressure. A U.S.-Chinese research team conducted a pilot study showing that an ultrathin, skin-conforming sensor-resembling a peel-away tattoo-provides noninvasive, precise, and continuous monitoring of circulation, including blood flow within the smallest vessels. The team included researchers from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which both operate as parts of the National Institutes of Health.

In a study published in Science Advances, the researchers showed that the sensor can measure blood flow in both large and micro-sized blood vessels near the skin’s surface. They also provided details about the design and operation of the device. The researchers assessed the sensor’s performance under various conditions, showing that the technology could be used for continuous blood-flow monitoring during daily activities and in a variety of clinical research and healthcare settings.

The device, co-developed with researchers at Northwestern University, is among a variety of tools available to measure blood flow. Other devices, such as ones based on optical or acoustic methods, however, do not work as well when the body is in motion.

The researchers overcame these challenges with the soft, skin-conforming electronic device that is applied directly onto the skin and uses thermal sensors to collect data on changes in temperature, including those caused by changes in blood flow.

At this stage, the device shows promise as a low-cost, readily-fabricated sensor for use in ambulatory or hospital-based settings.

This article was adapted from information provided by NIBIB.