A Galway led consortium is developing a next generation ‘shape-shifting’ medical device for monitoring people’s blood pressure.
The EU has awarded €4.4 million for the SMARTSHAPE project, which aims to develop an implantable medical device which can continuously monitor a patient’s blood pressure.
The SMARTSHAPE consortium is led by Professor William Wijns, a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded researcher at University of Galway.
According to Professor Wijns, “The best innovations start with a clinical need. Patients who require monitoring are better off in their own homes rather than in a hospital setting.”
“There is a huge market opportunity for a medical-grade, user-friendly, and minimally invasive solution for continuous blood pressure monitoring.”
Hypertension is the leading global contributor to premature death, accounting for more than 9 million deaths a year.
Elevated blood pressure is a chronic lifetime risk factor that can lead to serious cardiovascular events if undiagnosed or poorly controlled.
Many high-risk patients require long-term monitoring to tailor drug treatments and improve healthcare outcomes.
But despite this, there is no clinically accepted method of monitoring blood pressure beat-by-beat, which can be used outside of a hospital.
The SMARTSHAPE consortium has developed a specialised sensor for continuously measuring blood pressure.
But Dr Atif Shahzad, joint director of the Smart Sensors Lab at the University of Galway added that there are many more challenges related to “biocompatibility, longevity, and delivery to the target tissue” that need to be addressed in the medical device.
They intend to address these by developing a new biomaterial, a temperature-dependent shape memory polymer (SMP).
“SMPs will enable the development of a microsensor that can be curled up, introduced into the body through a minimally invasive procedure, and ‘opened up’ when placed at body temperature to take a predefined shape.”
Dr Sandra Ganly, Senior Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Risk Factor Research at University of Galway, said that the potential for this sensor technology goes well beyond blood pressure monitoring.
“Continuous physiological pressure monitoring can provide key information for early diagnosis, patient-specific treatment, and preventive healthcare in a wide range of healthcare indications.”
“This will significantly broaden the potential and open avenues for other products and research innovation.”
The SMARTSHAPE consortium of eight partner institutions is led by the University of Galway and includes partners across Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.