A Fujitsu research lab has developed software that can accurately measure a subject’s pulse using the small digital cameras attached to smartphones and tablets.
The technology is based on the fact that the brightness of an individual’s face changes slightly as their heart beats, due to their blood flow. Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body, absorbs green light, so analyzing the change in color of parts of the face reveals their heart rate.
As most image sensors capture pixel information in red, blue and green, they have the ability to detect hemoglobin built in. Fujitsu’s technology keeps track of specific regions of the face over time to take pulse measurements.
It seems that every day a new app or device promising the ultimate in health or fitness monitoring enters the market. A startup has created a personal analytics dashboard which gives people a big picture view of their own aggregated data and underlying patterns, helping them make sense of the numbers.
A doctor recently used his iPhone, in combination with AliveCor, a mounted sensor capable of delivering clinically accurate electrocardiograms, while in flight, to measure the vital signs of a passenger experiencing severe chest pains at 30,000 feet.
The results indicated that the passenger was having a heart attack. The doctor recommended an urgent landing, and the passenger survived after being rushed to the hospitall
PUMA measures six components to evaluate metabolic function: oxygen and carbon dioxide partial pressure, volume flow rate, heart rate, and gas pressure and temperature. From those measurements, PUMA can compute the oxygen uptake, carbon dioxide output and minute ventilation (average expired gas flow rate). A small, embedded computer takes readings of each sensor and relays the data wirelessly to a remote computer via Bluetooth.
Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute had another idea. They knew a gene called Tbx18 is normally activated during the sinoatrial node’s development, when an embryo is forming. So they set out to add Tbx18 into a functioning, fully grown heart. To do it, they inserted the code for this gene into a virus, which they then inserted into the hearts of guinea pigs. The infected hearts beat according to this newly formed pacemaker, Eduardo Marbán and colleagues report in Nature Biotechnology. It also worked in a Petri dish.
The team used ventricular cells, one of three main types of heart cells (along with pacemaker cells and atrial cells). The infected cells changed their appearance, taking on a distinctive tapered shape, and this lasts even after the Tbx18 has faded away. That suggests it’s a permanent structural change, which means this could be a lasting treatment for diminished sinoatrial cells.
“This technology thus represents a promising alternative to electronic pacing devices,” Marbán et al. write. Longer-term experiments are still needed, but the work so far is promising, they say.