NUIG Developing Wrist-Worn Device to Reduce Rate of Stroke and Heart Failure

By Gemma Creagh - Last update


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NUI Galwaybased Biomedical Engineer, Oisín McGrath has been awarded a grant from Enterprise Ireland for €500,000 to further develop his project ‘Galenband’ for commercialisation. The project aims to provide a convenient and reliable wrist-worn device to monitor the heart activity of people with atrial fibrillation, and ultimately aims to reduce the rate of stroke and heart failure caused by the pathology.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats don’t work properly, causing the heart to beat irregularly. Tens of millions of people globally suffer from this dangerous heart arrhythmia which often presents with infrequently occurring symptoms, making it challenging to detect with currently used monitors due to their short recording durations. Years of suffering, and lives themselves could be saved if a heart monitor were available which could be worn discretely and unobtrusively for extended periods of time, whilst continually capturing data.

Early Detection

Galenband seeks to provide cardiac clinicians with a wrist-worn device capable of drastically increasing detection rates of the infrequently occurring symptoms of intermittent atrial fibrillation. This notoriously difficult-to-detect pathology is responsible for half of all fatal ischemic strokes, and is a leading cause of heart failure. Galenband is a data collection and analysis device that will monitor the heart activity of wearers on a long-term basis, recording episodes of infrequently occurring heart arrhythmia.

The initial inspiration for the project came from Oisín McGrath’s own personal experiences with heart arrhythmia. For 13 years, Oisín suffered with an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia. A standard response for a clinician when a heart arrhythmia is suspected is to issue a 24-48-hour heart monitor in order to capture the symptoms. This would ideally allow for the diagnosis of the condition. As Oisín’s symptoms were often spaced out by a week or more, the short recording duration of these monitors failed to capture any symptoms, and the arrhythmia continued to go undiagnosed, causing great mental anguish, high financial costs, and a potential danger to his life. During that time 11 different heart monitors failed to capture anything. Eventually, a cardiac pacing procedure was necessary in order to diagnose the arrhythmia. From this experience, Oisín recognised that a change in recording strategy was required in order to increase the efficacy of non-invasive symptom detection methods.

Response

Galenband project lead, Oisin McGrath, says: “The achievements of the project are a strong endorsement of the level of teaching and research in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway. With the support of academic staff and the Technology Transfer Office in NUI Galway, and the funding received from Enterprise Ireland, Galenband will press forward in an effort to change the lives of atrial fibrillation patients on a global scale.”

Professor Mark Bruzzi, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and Science, NUI Galway, said: “This innovation is a great achievement and demonstrates the potential of teams innovating new technologies through the Master’s in Biomedical Engineering programme at NUI Galway.”

Background

In 2010, shortly after his cardiac pacing procedure, Oisín began work on the earliest version of what would become Galenband. Cardiac rhythm monitoring methods formed the subject of Oisín’s Biomedical Engineering undergraduate thesis at NUI Galway, to allow him explore possible methods of accurately measuring heart rhythm with a long-term monitoring device. The needs-led innovation approach of the Biomedical Engineering degree programme at NUI Galway provided him with the perfect platform through which development of the wrist-worn device could be furthered.

During his Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, Oisín collaborated with students David Kerr, Belén Enguix, and Syed Kumail Jaffrey to investigate the logistical feasibility of the Galenband system ranging from a competitive landscape review to an overview of the regulatory pathway. The work carried out during this time received the Zenith award from Aerogen Ltd.

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Gemma Creagh

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