A Fitbit-like tracker to predict asthma attacks could be on the way

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A portable, wearable system could be commercially available within five years.

Scientists have created a graphene-based sensor that paves the way for the development of devices – possibly resembling fitness trackers like the Fitbit – which people could wear to alert them to impending exacerbation, and know when and at what dosage to take their medication.

“Our vision is to develop a device that someone with asthma or another respiratory disease can wear around their neck or on their wrist and blow into it periodically to predict the onset of an asthma attack or other problems,” explained senior author, Mehdi Javanmard. “It advances the field of personalised and precision medicine.”

The portable non-invasive approach measures levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in the respiratory tract by quantifying nitrite content in exhaled breath condensate (EBC) using reduced graphene oxide.

Javanmard said being able to monitor biomarkers continuously could result in a paradigm shift. “The ability to perform label-free quantification of nitrite content in EBC in a single step without any sample pre-treatment resolves a key bottleneck to enabling portable asthma management.”

The next step is to develop a portable, wearable system, which could be commercially available within five years, he said. The researchers also envision expanding the number of inflammation biomarkers a device could detect and measure.

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