Softsonics wearable sensor promises to replace twice-a-day blood pressure measurements with a non-stop readout. This groundbreaking initiative was a finalist for Nature’s 2020 Spinoff Prize.
Blood pressure management is hard
Diagnosing and monitoring high blood pressure is complicated. A big part of this stems from the fact that blood pressure is in constant flux. A patient can measure 160/95mmHg at the doctors office but 120/80mmHg at home (white coat hypertension). Others can have low pressure at rest but reach astronomical levels in their stressful daily life. Doctors have devices that can measure a patient’s blood pressure throughout the day, but they’re bulky and last for 24 hours at a time.
Enter Softsonics wearable sensor
Sheng Xu, Softsonics’ co-founder, knows his way around bendable electronics. This sensor is just that- a small patch that attaches to patients’ fingers and uses ultrasound to measure arteries’ diameter. After it finds good signal from an underlying small artery, calibration takes place with the help of a standard blood pressure cuff. Without the need for further calibration for about a week, it then returns a continuous reading of patients’ blood pressure. As Xu said himself, having this data may do more than make blood pressure monitoring easier – it can change all we know about high blood pressure. That said, Softsonics’ first rite of passage could take place in the ICU. There, continuous blood pressure readings routinely take place, but involve poking patients’ arteries with sensors. Replacing this invasive status quo with a blood pressure patch could save patients from infections and bleeds.
A long way to go
This technology is still at its earliest stages – it’ll take months of intense work before a patient-ready prototype is ready. In the meantime, other blood pressure wearables are showing up, like Omron’s smartwatch we covered previously. Will Softsonics’ product survive the development process and subsequent physician scrutiny? We’ll keep you posted!