Heart disease is one of India’s main health concerns, claiming the lives of more people than any other condition. Early detection is imperative and Indian research institutions are working to make this an easier goal.
Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad are working with research institutions across the globe with the aim of developing a sensor device able to detect heart disease both reliably and simply. Renu John, head of the research team, said that the research focuses specifically around the detection of biomarkers. These biomarkers are specific chemicals that are released in the body in response to certain physiological conditions. Detection of these molecules can be used as a means of diagnosis.
In some cases these chemicals are released very early on in disease pathology, a time period in which symptoms may be minimal, or even non-existent. During this period many conditions are not identified or misdiagnosed. Use of biomarkers may allow for earlier and more accurate diagnosis. It could also allow for far more cost-effective screening programmes to detect those with heart disease before symptoms arise — thereby reducing the potential for further complications later in life.
These biomarkers can be picked up using devices known as biosensors. “Biosensors are devices that combine the sensing element (e.g. antibody) with a transducer that converts the interaction of antibody into electrical or optical signal that can be measured,” said Renu John.
Cardiac troponins or cTns, for example, are biomarkers of heart conditions and are conventionally detected in the blood stream using antibodies that bind specifically to them.
As such, all that is needed for the biosensor to operate is a blood sample. From this, testing could be performed to detect the biomarkers for various forms of heart disease.
Heart disease accounted for 28.1 percent of all deaths in India in 2016. There is a clear margin between heart disease and other leading causes of death within India, and this margin is ever widening. Issues such as hypertension, poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles are becoming more common in India by the day, making the issue of heart disease one that is unlikely to be addressed in the near future.
Early detection methods such as this device are vital if the effects of heart disease are to be limited. With such a high death toll, the majority of Indian families will lose at least one person to heart disease. Early diagnosis could transform the condition from a death sentence to a condition manageable through medication and lifestyle changes.