A new product from six Johns Hopkins University grad students updates current IV infiltration detection tech to help cancer patients avoid a condition called lymphedema.
The term refers to a gradual buildup of lymphatic fluid in the extremities, often following cancer treatment, that causes swelling and pain. It’s treatable if caught early, but once a patient feels something wrong, it’s typically too late. To fight this, the students developed LymphaSense, which acts as a noninvasive patch-like sensor for patients to test fluid levels.
“Early detection is the key,” LymphaSense cofounder Hunter Hutchinson said in a statement. “We want to prevent the disease from getting to the point where a patient needs a long, complicated surgery.”
The sextet from the university’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design program designed the sensor for easy use anywhere. Patients at risk of lymphedema apply the patch to their skin, after which a combination of biosensors will detect any trace of fluid build-up. Bluetooth technology sends the data to their smartphones and doctors, who can monitor the measurements. Hutchinson envisions the sensor being the standard of care for early lymphedema detection, as well as having similar fluid monitoring applications for cardiac and renal diseases.
“We considered a ring, a bracelet and a cuff, but lymphedema can impact any part of the body, so a patch was the most feasible option,” fellow cofounder Jennifer Schultz said in a statement. “We created a solution that’s effective, affordable and could be used anywhere.”
The product is still in the trial phase. The students will run a clinical study this summer to test the device on patients. After that, they plan to submit a Food and Drug Administration application and aim to have the device available for medical use by 2025.
“This is a patient population that’s not used to being listened to. They often have to advocate for themselves about their condition,” Hutchinson told Technical.ly. “We feel like we owe it to them to see this through and bring a product to market that will actually help a lot of people. What we’re working on is something that if I had breast cancer, I would use it myself, 100%. I’d want my mom to use it. I’d want anyone I know to use it.”
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.