News | Wearable Sensors | March 14, 2017

Clinical Study Uses Consumer Wearables to Anticipate Illness

NIH researchers are able to track health changes in one patient for two years with data from seven different wearable devices

wearable biosensors, anticipate illness, track health changes, PLOS Biology study

Wearable devices used in this study. The colors for different human figures indicate the specific studies in which each person participated. Red figures represent participation in all five studies; grey figures represent participation in the activity and insulin studies; blue, the activity, insulin sensitivity, and inflammation studies; orange and yellow, activity and air flights; green and pink, inflammation; and purple, air flights. Image courtesy of Li, et al, Stanford University.

March 14, 2017 — Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health have revealed the ability of wearable biosensors, similar to the Apple Watch or Fitbit, to detect physiological changes that may indicate illness, even before symptoms appear. The findings, published Jan. 12, 2017, in PLoS Biology, may open the door to new ways to manage and monitor health, especially for those with limited access to doctors or clinics.

Changes in heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature can reveal health issues, such as cardiovascular disease or infection. While these are evaluated at yearly checkups, without more frequent monitoring, diseases can go unnoticed and progress between doctor visits. Additionally, these parameters vary greatly over the course of the day and between individuals, so a one-time reading may not be representative or give enough information to make a personalized assessment.

Wearable biosensors, like fitness trackers and activity monitors, can now check these parameters regularly. Although many people have started using them for personal use, larger, more comprehensive studies are needed to investigate their potential in healthcare.

“You can’t really make any scientific conclusions from personal data,” said Grace Peng, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) program in Computational Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis. “Here, the authors have taken an enormous of amount of data and made sense out of the entirety in a very systematic way using data science tools and analytical methods.”

The team of researchers, from Stanford University and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto, first followed one man’s results for the two years that he wore seven different devices. Each device measured a variety of parameters, including his level of activity, radiation exposure and levels of oxygen-bound hemoglobin in his blood, and recorded more than 250,000 measurements each day. Based on its accuracy, ability to measure three key variables — heart rate, skin temperature and movement — and easily accessible data, they selected a Basis brand device to monitor an additional 43 subjects for an average of five months each.

In the first individual, they assessed how physiological measurements fluctuate over the course of the day, revealing the importance of frequent measurements, as a once-daily reading might not provide the whole picture. Comparing the other participants, they noted a wide range of heart rates, indicating the need for personalized analysis. The results also showed that wearable biosensors can provide both frequent measurements and personalized analysis.

Next, they evaluated instances when the readings appeared abnormal. The participant who was monitored for two years had four periods in which his heart rate and skin temperature were unusually high. During three of those periods, he reported clinical symptoms like congestion; following one of the outlying periods, he was diagnosed with Lyme disease. “The wearable was actually able to predict Lyme disease even before the patient had any symptoms,” said Peng.

Three other participants became sick at some point during the monitoring period. In each instance, the participant’s heart rate spiked, compared to his or her individual average. Using their data, the team created an algorithm, called Change-of-Heart, to identify possible illness based on when heart rate deviated from its normal range.

“It was incredibly exciting that we could actually detect illness using just a consumer wearable device,” said Jessilyn Dunn, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University and one of the lead authors on the paper. To prevent false alarms, Dunn said they will continue to refine the algorithm to identify only true outliers and take into account one’s level of individual variability. She does not envision Change-of-Heart as a diagnostic tool just yet, but rather as a red flag to tell people they may need to examine their stress levels, get more rest, or see a doctor.

Although not a means of diagnosis yet, the study did raise the possibility of someday using wearable devices to identify risk for type 2 diabetes. Because many of the participants were at risk of becoming diabetic, the team was able to demonstrate the physiological signals, like high daytime heart rate, that correlated with insulin resistance. The study also investigated how parameters change during airplane flights and the ability of the monitors to detect radiation exposure.

The 24/7 monitors might also provide a more representative assessment of general health. “We know that the day that you go into the doctor once a year, it might not be your typical day, so we can get a picture of what that really is,” said Dunn.

Additionally, the trackers can monitor patients in rural or low-income areas that may not have easy access to a doctor. “For those individuals who can’t easily come into a clinic, they’re still under a sort of health surveillance mechanism,” Dunn said. “There’s a really exciting potential for this type of technology to really revolutionize the healthcare model.”

The research was funded in part by NIH grants, TR001085, EB020405, and DK102556.

For more information: www.journals.plos.org/plosbiology

Related Content

New Blood Test Predicts Major Cardiac Events Better Than Clinical Evaluation of Other Common Risk Factors
News | Blood Testing| April 28, 2017
Prevencio Inc. announced the publication of data demonstrating that a simple new blood test is more accurate than...
New Twelve-Month Data Show Efficacy of Pulsar-18 Bare Metal Stent
News | Stents Peripheral| April 28, 2017
Biotronik’s Pulsar-18 bare metal stent (BMS) has yielded high primary patency in a real-world setting, according to the...
Mercator MedSystems Announces First Enrollment in TANGO Trial for Below-the-Knee Vascular Disease
News | Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)| April 27, 2017
Mercator MedSystems Inc. announced the first patient enrollment into the TANGO (Temsirolimus Adventitial Delivery to...
News | Venous Therapies| April 26, 2017
A new Varicose Vein Registry has begun producing useful outcomes information, as reported in the May edition of the...
Twelve-Month Data Positive for Ranger Paclitaxel-Coated Balloon Catheter
News | Drug-Eluting Balloons| April 26, 2017
Boston Scientific announced results from the RANGER SFA trial for the Ranger Paclitaxel-Coated PTA Balloon Catheter at...
AATS Consensus Statement Helps Manage Treatment of Coronary Anomalies
News | Cardiac Diagnostics| April 26, 2017
The issues surrounding congenital coronary anomalies and their effect on sudden death are complex. Researchers are...
Body Weight Fluctuations Linked to More Deaths in People with Coronary Artery Disease
News | Cardiac Diagnostics| April 25, 2017
Repeated cycles of weight loss and gain may be linked to higher risk for stroke, heart attack and death in people with...
Clinical Study Validates Efficiencies of Stereotaxis Niobe ES System Over Niobe II System
News | Robotic Systems| April 24, 2017
A recent study conducted at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) of Saint-Étienne, France validated the advantages of...
USC Study Finds Potassium-Rich Diet Can Lower Blood Pressure
News | Hypertension| April 19, 2017
Eating potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas and even coffee could be key to...
3-D-printed Model of Stenotic Intracranial Artery Enables Vessel-Wall MRI Standardization
News | 3-D Printing| April 18, 2017
A collaboration between stroke neurologists at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and bioengineers at the...
Overlay Init