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Spirosense Ready to Fight Respiratory Illness

A group of undergraduate students at the Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering has fabricated a magical device to help people suffering from respiratory illnesses. The new device has been named SpiroSense.

SpiroSense is a low-priced spirometer designed to monitor an individual’s breathing and gauge whether he or she is experiencing any restriction or obstruction when breathing. This economical device might particularly be useful for patients in poor and remote areas in developing nations. It should help people in those parts of the world to get the right treatment for ailments such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma without burning their pockets.  

Rodolfo Finocchi, the leader of the team of eight undergraduate students responsible for designing and developing SpiroSense, said that while the price of a traditional spirometer may range between $750 and $20,000, their device has a production cost of less than $25.  

SpiroSense is basically one of several medical innovations crafted by students for the Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering Design Day of 2015, celebrated at the institute’s East Baltimore campus on May 5.  

This year’s challenge saw almost 150 graduate and undergraduate students participating. The challenge had two categories, one required the participants to create health innovations for people in the United States and the other required them to come up with health innovations for people in developing countries. SpiroSense, as discussed above, belongs to the second category.

The majority of the spirometers available on the market rely on ultrasound or pressure sensors, which are quite expensive and users need to calibrate them regularly for ensuring accuracy. These features of the conventional devices, according to Finocchi, make them unsuitable for use in less-developed nations.

SpiroSense, however, is different; patients would just need to blow into it and the pair of battery-powered microphones will immediately detect the air pattern. Then, the software embedded in the device uses the audio signal from the microphones to gauge the velocity and volume of exhaled air.

Doctors and health care providers in a distant location can use the data gathered by SpiroSense to make virtual diagnoses. This means SpiroSense can help patients get the right care even if they are unable to visit a clinic or hospital for check-ups and treatment.

During initial testing of the device, the team found that a 3D printed version can offer as accurate results as the expensive spirometers. Now, Finocchi and his team want to begin manufacturing the device and carry out field-testing in remote parts of India.

Rachel Yung, a member of the SpiroSense junior team, said that the project was an enriching experience for her. She added that the project gave her and other members of the team the opportunity to network with professors and doctors from different fields and gather knowledge.

Innovations like SpiroSense are nothing new for Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering. The Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design or CBID, a wing of Johns Hopkins, allows undergraduates and graduates to work together to come up with such health innovations at regular intervals.

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