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A gloved hand holding an enlarged chip (left), a hand with a drop of blood above the index finger and an arrow pointing toward the chip (right)
Illustration by Sam Bradd, courtesy of Transform Heart Failure

A New Way to Monitor Heart Patients

“Lab on a chip” technology will reduce travel expenses and improve care for those living in remote communities

If you’re among the one million Canadians living with heart failure – a weak or damaged heart from a heart attack, high blood pressure, disease or a defect – you know how important it is to be monitored regularly. But this can be challenging if you live in a remote area, where getting bloodwork done or seeing a specialist could mean lengthy travel, delays in treatment and poorer patient outcomes.

Now imagine if you had a compact device that, with a tiny pinprick of blood, could measure cardiac biomarkers that indicate a heart attack or worsening congestive heart failure, give results within 45 minutes, and communicate wirelessly with health-care providers who could remotely prescribe treatment? 

This cardiac-based “lab on a chip” is one of the projects under development at Transform Heart Failure, an initiative of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research that aims to address inequities in care and revolutionize treatment for all heart failure patients.

Anthony Yong, a master’s student in the department of chemistry and a Transform Heart Failure Trainee Award winner, designed the device to use digital microfluidics – tiny droplets of chemicals that are manipulated on a platform of electrodes. The size of a credit card, the device is affordable, accurate and simple to use.

Field testing in Northern Ontario, in partnership with Indigenous health authorities and patients, is expected to begin in the next year or two. “The motivation to increase availability of these tests to Indigenous communities is because they have the least access to treatment,” says Yong.

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