Partnership to develop low-cost biosensor to identify heart attack patients

A collaboration between academia, a UK metrology institute and the NHS has been awarded funding to develop a rapid low-cost sensor for use by paramedics and in ambulances to detect heart attack victims more quickly.

The mobile electrochemical detection platform is being developed in Glasgow by the Centre for Advanced Measurement Research & Health Translation, a strategic partnership between the University of Strathclyde, the National Measurement Laboratory at LGC (NML at LGC), and NHS Lanarkshire.

The technology would work by screening for proteins released into the bloodstream during a heart attack and which currently can’t be measured in GP surgeries or community pharmacies, or by emergency services and first responders.

Early diagnosis

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), coronary heart disease is responsible for around 66,000 deaths in the UK each year - an average of 180 people each day, or one death around every eight minutes. Early diagnosis is key and current detection technologies are laboratory and hospital-based and costly in terms of resource.

Rapid action when someone is having a heart attack is essential to minimise tissue damage and reduce the risk of death and the cardio biomarker means the most severely affected patients could be signposted immediately.

Clinical trial

The three year project, funded through a Translation Award from the BHF will deliver a prototype unit, tested against clinically validated samples and ready for a full clinical trial.

Researchers say that while there are systems in existence, they are expensive, and taking the diagnostic test out of the hospital would provide a faster confirmed diagnosis, potentially saving lives. They also contend that also being able to rule out patients who do not have a cardiac issue could save NHS resources.

Principal Investigator, Professor Damion Corrigan, Director of the Centre for Advanced Measurement Research and Health Translation at Strathclyde, said:

Cardiac biomarkers can support an early and accurate diagnosis and our test will be lower cost, more accessible and available at the point of need.

This will empower paramedics, community healthcare practitioners and first responders to make the best decisions for delivering healthcare to patients and help save lives.

“The highly portable, low cost and rapid nature of the technology means we envisage it being applied to screening for heart attacks in rural and remote communities, in primary care and also for heart attack screening in low- and middle-income countries.”

Unnecessary admissions

Dr John Keaney, Acute Medical Director at NHS Lanarkshire, said: “Testing outside hospital will accelerate decision-making by reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.

"Superior information to support early diagnosis of a heart attack means healthcare providers can prepare and initiate appropriate treatment strategies, such as administering medications or arranging clinical procedures such as stenting or heart bypass surgery.

"Advance notice of patients coming to hospital requiring urgent intervention also means A&E departments can streamline their triage."

Other conditions

It’s anticipated that the technology will also eventually provide a route to developing and testing biomarker panels for other conditions, including cardiac monitoring, sepsis and cancer.

The project also involves FlexMedical Solutions, who will manufacture the sensors and Compliance Solutions who will assist the University team towards gaining regulatory approval.