Newswise — Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and China’s Xidian University present, in Chemical Reviews, a comprehensive review of smart systems that provide continuous information on a subject’s health. These nature-inspired systems are based on advanced hybrid sensing, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing.

Much of the review is based on the authors' research, which is led by Professor Hossam Haick and Yoav Broza of the Technion’s Wolfson Chemical Engineering Faculty, and Professor Weiwei Wu of Xidian University in China.

“Wearable monitoring” is an inclusive term for innovative technologies that provide information on a person’s health, based on continuous monitoring of a series of biomarkers. The speedy development of this field is very important news, especially at a time of aging of the population, and the fact that people 60 years of age or older comprise about 13% of all humanity.

However, for various reasons, diagnostic technologies are evolving in different ways, with no deliberate direction and no integration of the various data obtained from them. Such integration is a prerequisite for optimizing diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. In the absence of such integration, and despite developments in medical diagnosis, in many cases the diagnosis is made very late. This reduces the ability of the medical system to address the problem successfully. Additionally, preventive medicine – one of the most important approaches in the world of medicine – is not advancing fast enough.

Extending life, which is welcome in and of itself, shifts the center of gravity from serious, short-term illnesses caused by external factors such as infections and injuries that can be healed to long-term, chronic, and incurable illnesses that impair the quality of life over time. Today, nearly 45% of Americans suffer from chronic illnesses, and the need for continuous and integrative monitoring is especially important in this regard.

This is the backdrop to the tireless efforts invested in recent years by Prof. Hossam Haick's research group. In the current report, the team’s researchers – in collaboration with Prof. Weiwei Wu, who did his postdoctoral fellowship under the guidance of Prof. Haick – present an in-depth and extensive review of innovative sensors that provide quick and cheap diagnostics with minimal invasiveness.

In this review, researchers present a complex system that analyzes, using technological means that include cellular and cloud and Big Data analytics, a series of biomarkers derived from body fluids – blood, tears, breath, saliva, urine, brain and spinal fluid, and more. The overall goal of this research activity is to develop hybrid sensing systems that integrate different sensing technologies. For this, a combination of different fields of knowledge is required, including chemistry, electronics, and physics – a combination that takes place in Prof. Haick’s research group.

“Until now, the most reliable diagnostic tools have been radiological diagnostics (such as X-rays, MRIs and CTs), laboratory tests (of urine, blood, etc.), and various microbiological tests, said Prof. Haick.

The problem is that these are expensive methods that require experts to decipher the findings. Technological advances make it possible for us to introduce inexpensive, fast and exact automated methods that collect and analyze a wide range of data. By integrating various technological capabilities, we present a cheap, easy-to-use and effective follow-up tool that will provide practitioners with comprehensive and continuous feedback on the patient's health.

One of the vital conditions for achieving this goal is the development of highly sensitive and accurate sensors. These, according to Prof. Haick, are inspired by nature.

“Over billions of years, evolution developed excellent and efficient sensors, based, for example, on interaction among enzymes, receptors, and suction systems like the tongue of the hummingbird," said Prof. Haick. "Not only have we been inspired by these mechanisms, but we have created even better systems by using engineering, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing. The bottom line is a complex system that will supply the relevant medical professional with a continuous, comprehensive, and accurate diagnosis in real time, and recommendations for early and effective treatment."

Prof. Hossam Haick is the head of the Laboratory for Nanomaterial-Based Devices in the Technion’s Wolfson Department of Chemical Engineering, and a member of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnlogy Institute (RBNI). The present study was carried out with support from the Horizon 2002 of the EU Framework for the VOGAS and A-Patch Consortiums.

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