The MIT engineers have been working with commercial sponsors to develop a marketable version of the wearable sensor. "We should be ready to commercialize it in four to five years at most," Asada said. The cost should be comparable to that of existing electronic devices, he added.
Along with providing immediate readings of blood pressure, the sensor could allow continuous monitoring, Asada said. "The data could be transmitted to the Internet," he said. "But because of security considerations, there are non-trivial issues to be resolved. We are still debating how to get continuous readings, and at what cost."
The continuous readings of blood pressure promised by the new device would be "extremely helpful" for the many people who have great variations in blood pressure throughout the day, said Dr. Adolph Hutter Jr., a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a clinical cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
"If the technology works, then I think it would be a significant addition," Hutter said. "But it has to be comfortable for the patient, and it has to be proved in clinical trials. It has to be shown to be a reliable indicator of blood pressure as shown by standard methods."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a guide to controlling blood pressure.
SOURCES: H. Harry Asada, Ph.D., professor, engineering, and director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology d'Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology, Boston; Adolph Hutter Jr., M.D., professor, medicine, Harvard Medical School, and clinical
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