Arizona researchers develop wearable device capable of detecting disease


By Spencer Blake

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TUCSON, Arizona (KTVK, KPHO) – Engineers at the University of Arizona have created new medical technology that can help detect disease and deterioration in the elderly. It’s a wearable device, but it’s much smaller than a watch or fitness tracker.

The portable medical device is smaller than a dime and much more accurate than any fitness tracker that sits on your wrist or in your pocket.

“The vision of the device is ultimately, you put that on, and we can detect what’s wrong with you,” said biomedical engineer Philipp Gutruf, who is leading the project. The team begins by doing a body scan of a patient. From there, they 3D print a strip of mesh to hold the device in place.

“[It’s] soft, tender. Inherently sweet. Almost imperceptible. Almost like a second skin, ”said Gutruf.

The perfect fit on any part of the body can give a patient a benchmark of their health.

The perfect fit on any part of the body can give a patient a benchmark of their health. Comparisons over time help diagnose conditions like frailty as the device detects changes in muscle movement.

“If we can diagnose this early on, we can have a big impact on a large population,” Gutruf said.

The tiny tracker is so sensitive that it can detect a person’s slight increase in temperature by walking up only one flight of stairs. Surprisingly, the whole system is wireless, so there is no bulky battery.

“We have the ability to harness the power of a power casting system. I have one here sitting at my desk. This keeps my device running 24/7, ”Gutruf said.

As the device runs nonstop to track health data, the wearer will likely forget that they have turned it on. The team is working with Tech Launch Arizona at the University to develop a start-up to bring the device to market.

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