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UArizona researchers develop wearable device that can detect diseases

By Spencer Blake

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

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

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

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

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 diseases like frailty as the device picks up on changes in muscle movement.

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

The tiny tracker is so sensitive, it can sense the slight rise in temperature a person has by walking up just one flight of stairs. Amazingly the entire system is wireless, so there’s no bulky battery in the way.

“We have the capability to capture power from a power-casting system. I have one here sitting at my desk. It keeps my device topped off 24/7,” Gutruf said.

As the device works non-stop to track health data, the wearer will probably forget they have it on. The team is working with the University’s Tech Launch Arizona to develop a startup company to bring the device to market.

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