What is the overall goal of your project?
With participatory design and stakeholder input, the PATHS-UP ERC will develop two transformative engineered systems: a Lab-in-your-Palm (LiyP) and a Lab-on-a-Wrist (LoaW), to monitor key biomarkers (biochemical, biophysical, and behavioral) of chronic disease (namely cardiovascular and diabetes prevalence in our underserved and underrepresented communities).

The specific goal of this project is to create a wearable pre-prototype, like a watch-type device, that can get relevant health data from a human. The watch-type device would include different sensing approaches like bio-impedance and optical methods for getting data from the body such as heart rate or blood pressure without using a cuff. The device would also include the ability to use optics to read a “bar-code-like” device about the size of a grain of rice implanted just under the skin. This tiny implanted “bar-code” would change its color in the presence of various chemicals such as glucose for more effective management of diabetes.

The proposed pre-prototype will be designed with several sensors in an array configuration covering larger areas on the wrist for better sensing. Having an array of sensors that are different (e.g. like bioimpedance and optical) will increased redundancy and improved robustness of the signal making it more accurate and useable for real health monitoring, rather than the typical fitness watches on the market that are not as accurate and do not always measure multiple things. The proposed prototype will require students from all areas of engineering to design the mechanical form factor, the circuits, the firmware, the signal processing, and the user interface to offer a solution with the ability to extract actionable information for the patients, doctors, nurses, or family members.

Which grand challenge are you addressing?
Our team, representing Texas A&M University, the University of California at Los Angeles, Florida International University, Rice University, and the University of Illinois, has a vision to change the paradigm for the health of underserved populations by developing revolutionary, cost-effective wearable technologies. This project will provide a great opportunity to a multidisciplinary student team to work closely with graduate students and faculty and contribute to addressing a major health issue.

What is the key challenge your project is trying to solve?

  • The Strategic Plan for the PATHS-UP ERC will initially focus on developing multi-modal and robust wearable technologies and systems to capture physiological readings like heart rate and blood pressure.

What is the impact on society your project has?
Chronic diseases have emerged over the last two decades as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the US and globally. Of all chronic diseases, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are now the leading cause of death worldwide, with cancer, pulmonary diseases, and diabetes close behind. On average, every 30 seconds someone will suffer a coronary event in the US and half of those will die. In addition, over 29 million Americans (nearly 10% of the population) have diabetes. With over 1.4 million new diabetes cases diagnosed each year in the US, this amounts to one American diagnosed about every 30 seconds. Both diseases are also linked since CVD is a major complication of diabetes. Chronic diseases are particularly devastating in underserved communities in the US, where they are contracted at a higher rate than the national average. Thus, the PATHS-UP ERC seeks to develop the fundamental knowledge, enabling technology and engineered systems that overcome current technology gaps and address current barriers.  This project will provide the pre-prototype of one such technology, namely a lab on a wrist for monitoring multiple biomarkers.

Faculty Mentor: Drs. Gerard Coté and Roozbeh Jafari

Targeted Engineering Majors: BMEN, ISEN, CSEN, MEEN