Scientists are developing portable devices that will allow women to track and monitor their health and hormones on the go.
It will help identify symptoms that can help diagnose common women's health conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and alert women if their symptoms require them to see a doctor.
The device is smaller than an iPhone and tracks the full picture of women's health, from menstrual symptoms to hormonal fluctuations, mood and sleep.
We collect data on various reproductive hormones, such as luteinizing hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone, which stimulate ovulation.
The project is being led by Dr Sadeque Reza Khan, a biomedical devices and sensing expert at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and is being funded by the Scottish Government.
Dr Khan is collaborating with viO HealthTech and biosensor development expert Dr Ruchi Gupta from the University of Birmingham, whose OvuSense device provides continuous general monitoring of the reproductive cycle.
Waiting lists for obstetrics and gynecology appointments, diagnosis and treatment have soared by up to 60% in recent years, affecting more than half a million female patients, according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG).
Research conducted by the RCOG in 2022 found that these delays can have a significant impact on women's physical and mental health, as well as their quality of life.
Dr. Sadeque Reza Khan said: “We are working to create a device that is about half the size of an iPhone and is completely portable. Women can take it anywhere.
“Women will be able to test both their blood and urine, as well as record their symptoms, providing the most accurate, real-time information about their health.
“The device wirelessly transmits key data to an app and shares it with the gynecologist.
“At Heriot-Watt, we are working on hardware development and miniaturization aspects of the device, which is very important in envisioning a portable female health monitoring device that women can carry anywhere and use it reliably without hassle.”
Industry partner viO HealthTech launched its OvuSense platform in 2016. OvuSense is the only women's health monitoring platform that provides continuous insight into the female reproductive cycle. To date it has been sold to over 45,000 users in the UK, Europe, US, Canada and Australia.
Rob Milnnes, CEO of viO HealthTech, said: “Our users tell us that they want access to personalized health information and insights that can help them make informed decisions about their health, not only when problems arise, but also to prevent them in the first place.
“This project offers exciting prospects for adding targeted diagnostics to existing monitoring systems.”
Dr Ruchi Gupta, University of Birmingham, added: “We have been developing leaky waveguide (LW) biosensors to measure different types of biomarkers. Proteins, DNA, hormones and even cells.
“Our LW biosensor will become the core of women’s health monitoring devices. “Our partnership with Dr. Khan and viO HealthTech will be an important step in transitioning LW biosensors from bench to bedside.”
The team has been working on this project for six months. Once the proof of concept is complete, we will focus on commercialization, a process that could take two to three years.
Dr. Sadeque Reza Khan said: “As well as meeting all regulatory requirements, we need to ensure that women can afford these devices.
“We are focused on using affordable, sustainable materials to make them available to more women.”
Heriot-Watt University has established a global research institute in healthcare and medical technology, accelerating the adoption of innovative work in the field. This is an important project in our research focus that includes expertise provided through the Medical Device Manufacturing Center (MDMC).
Professor Steve McLaughlin, Vice-Principal for Research and Impact at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The development of this device demonstrates how our new center of excellence supports the creation of groundbreaking technologies that have the potential to revolutionize patient care.
“By bringing together academic and industry experts, we want to accelerate the process of bringing these important developments to market. “We already have a number of research projects underway and the next 12 months will be a really exciting time to showcase our developments on the world stage.”