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'Laboratory' Under the Skin May Predict Heart Attacks Hours Before They Happen

Update Date: Mar 20, 2013 11:30 AM EDT

If you are afraid of needles, a new blood-tracking device may become your new best friend. Set to hit the market in as few as four years, the tracker sits under a person's skin and can monitor up to five different substances in the blood. Even more impressively, the monitor can reveal hours ahead of time an impending heart attack, which may improve treatment and reduce deaths.

The prototype was developed by the prestigious école Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. According to the BBC, through the use of a needle, the device is inserted in the interstitial tissue in the abdomen, arms or legs. The device may remain for months before it needs to be replaced.

According to Fast Company, the device is not the only such prototype in the works. Other experimental designs read blood levels through a wristband or a patch, and are thus far less invasive than the école Polytechnique device.

However, the researchers behind the technology believes that theirs has a leg-up on the competition because it can check for more than one substance at a time in the blood. It can also remain in a person's body for months before needing to be removed. In addition, the data that the device records is sent via radiowaves and Bluetooth technology to a mobile phone.

"It will allow direct and continuous monitoring based on a patient's individual tolerance, and not on age and weight charts or weekly blood tests," Dr. Giovanni de Micheli said in a statement.

The device, which has been tested in the laboratory and on animals, has been found to have the capacity to regularly detect blood cholesterol and glucose levels. It can also test for other substances in the blood that doctors routinely check.

The device will likely be particularly useful for people with chronic conditions, like high cholesterol and diabetes, as well as monitoring the progress of people receiving treatment like chemotherapy. Because it can recognize the metabolites that the heart releases when it is under duress, it can also uncover heart attacks hours before they occur.

The research will be presented and published at an electronics conference called the Design, Automation and Test in Europe.

A video of the device can be found below.

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