Wearables Can Detect Illness

Researchers recently presented the results of a two-year study in which they collected wearable device data from 60 people and correlated it with other health information to determine whether personal self-monitoring could be used to flag the onset of disease. It was concluded that by continuously following various physiological parameters and comparing them to a person’s normal baseline measurements, these devices could potentially provide early detection of not only things like the common cold, but also more complex conditions such as Lyme disease and diabetes.

Wearing between one and seven commercially available monitors, participants gathered up to 250,000 measurements per day, including data on weight, heart rate, oxygen level, skin temperature, type of activity, calories expended and exposure to gamma rays and/or x-rays. Over the course of the study, approximately two billion data points were collected. Deviation patterns associated with environmental conditions, illness or other health factors were then analyzed to develop algorithms, which could be used to sense when a person is becoming sick.

In an isolated example, when one of the researchers contracted Lyme disease while on vacation, an elevated heart rate, decreased oxygen and low-grade fever prompted him to seek medical attention. The diagnosis was confirmed early and antibiotics reversed the symptoms.

In other volunteers, variations in daytime and nighttime heart rate patterns helped successfully distinguish participants with insulin resistance – a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. And in several cases, reduced oxygenation during airplane flights was strongly associated with fatigue that is often attributed to “jet lag.” Although it will take some time to determine just how this information can be integrated into clinical practice, wearable biosensors could someday help us to maintain much healthier lifestyles by providing personal, actionable feedback.

For information: Michael Snyder, Stanford University, Department of Genetics, 300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305; phone: 650-723-4668; email: mpsnyder@stanford.edu; Web site: http://snyderlab.stanford.edu/ or https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/01/wearable-sensors-can-tell-when-you-are-getting-sick.html