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Neo Kok Beng, CEO of AWAK Technologies, hoists a lightweight vest over
his shoulders and arranges it evenly. Two plastic lobes embedded in the front
of the vest rest at his stomach. They house a tangle of tubes, wires, and filters
that perform the duties of external artificial kidneys.
Typically, kidney failure leads to dialysis, a thrice-weekly hospital-based pro-
cess that may take almost a full day. This can prevent patients from carrying
out a normal work-load or traveling.
Current research alternatives focus on home-based dialysis, but these still
leave patients tethered to an immobile machine.
"This machine mimics the functions of a normal kidney," says Neo. "It per-
forms continuous dialysis, so the patient can go anywhere with it." He points
out that the vest need not be worn at all times; a patient may rest it next to a
desk or by the bedside. The liter of fluid that the machine uses is recycled and
regenerated. The cartridge that cleans the toxins from the kidney fluid lasts
eight hours before it needs to be changed. The machine is currently in the
testing and development phase.
Ting Choon Meng, founder and executive director of HealthSTATS Inter-
national, believes his innovative solution will have a significant international
Today, hypertension is diagnosed by a brief test in a doctor's office. "This is
far from ideal," says Ting.
"Studies have shown the superiority of a 24-hour blood pressure pattern
in predicting a stroke [or] a heart attack, and whether you will die from that
attack," he explains.
24-hour monitoring already exists, but it is bulky, with a pump that activates
every half hour to tighten its grip, which disrupts a patient's sleep.
Instead, Ting has developed a BPro "watch" that rests lightly on the wrist's
pulse point and captures the arterial pulse wave. The watch's sensor converts
the pulse waveform into blood pressure and heart rate over 24 hours. It also
measures the arterial waveform to provide information on the stiffness of the
artery, because stiff arteries can lead to heart failure and stroke.
After 24 hours, the information from the BPro watch can be uploaded to
a computer. The occasions when the patient's blood pressure and heart rate
dips or spikes can be identified, and his overall risk moderated by the specific
timing and dosage of drugs. The watch's software and the mathematical
formula for interpreting its output have been tested on thousands of patients,
and have been patented and received FDA approval.
Guan Cuntai from A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), is work-
ing with local hospitals to "read the minds" of stroke patients.
One result of a stroke is paralysis, which is caused by the death of neurons
that command muscle movement. Fortunately, the brain's plasticity is known
to allow neurons in other sections to take over control from damaged areas.
Guan hopes to speed up the process of reconnecting the motor intent to
the desired activity, using his team's brain-computer interface technology.
The technology is non-invasive. Patients are given a specific task, for
instance to play a computer game. They wear a cap covered with electrodes
that is connected to a computer. When they fire, neurons release electrical
impulses that computers understand and connect to the patients' desired
movements. The team develops the algorithms that help to determine the
patients' intentions. The same technique is also being applied to help children
with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to concentrate better.
Artificial kidney vest from AWAK Technologies mimics the functions of
a normal kidney. It performs continuous dialysis, so the patient can go
anywhere with it. The cartridge that cleans the toxins from the kidney
fluid lasts eight hours before it needs to be changed.
The BPro "watch" from HealthSTATS International measures blood
pressure and heart rate over 24 hours. The diagram (insert) shows the
cross section of the wrist with the BPro monitor and sensor.
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