A life-saving device that detects silent heart attacks | Akash Manoj

A life-saving device that detects silent heart attacks | Akash Manoj


When I was 13, I lost my grandfather
to a silent heart attack. What happened to be more
shocking was that at 75, grandpa was really normal,
healthy and energetic, but he was diabetic. Learning all of this was so painful that I decided to go out on a war
against this deadly killer and see what could be done. It was shocking to discover
the results of recent studies that have shown an estimate
of nearly eight million people who die from heart attacks every year. Heart attacks occur for many reasons, but most often, they occur
when arteries get clogged, blood flow is cut off and oxygen-starved cells
in the heart muscles start to die. You may know the common
symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, arm pain, shortness
of breath, fatigue, et cetera … but there is a type of heart attack
that is quite common, just as deadly, but harder to detect
because the symptoms are silent. People having silent heart attacks
just don’t realize what’s happening, so they’re not seeking medical attention, which means they’re less likely
to receive the treatment that they need at the critical moment. And even if they do
get to the hospital by chance, either before or after
they are struck by a heart attack, they might have to go through one or more
of these time-consuming, expensive tests and treatments, which are currently considered
the gold standards of heart-attack diagnosis. The greater concern, however, is that these silent heart attacks
account for nearly 45 percent of all heart attacks. Patients with diabetes and similar
disorders suffer from nerve damage that prevents them from feeling
the sort of pain that usually signals to someone that he or she may be having
a heart attack. Which means they suffer
the damage of a heart attack without even knowing or feeling anything. These already at-risk patients
suffer from nerve damage, and they do not get
immediate medical care. They do not know anything before
an unlikely event is about to occur. My grandfather
was an at-risk patient, too. I probed this issue further — read as much as I could
to understand the heart, met researchers
and worked across labs in India. And finally, after three long years
of persistent research, what I have to share with the world today
is a promising solution. A noninvasive device that is inexpensive, portable, wearable by at-risk
patients at all times. It greatly reduces
the need for a blood test and works 24/7, collecting
and analyzing data at preset intervals. And all this data is collected
for a single purpose: detecting heart attacks as they occur. This is a very promising solution
that might help us in the future. You may not know how intelligent
your heart really is. It tries to communicate to your body
multiple times before failing, by indicating symptoms like chest pain. These symptoms are triggered
when the heart loses out on oxygen-rich blood flow. But remember I told you
about the nerve damage. It silences these symptoms
before a silent heart attack, which makes it even deadlier. And you may not even know
the common symptoms. Meanwhile, the heart also sends out
certain biomarkers — cardiac biomarkers or proteins
that are SOS messages — in the form of SOS messages — into your bloodstream, indicating that the heart is at risk. As it gets riskier and riskier, the concentrations
of these cardiac biomarker proteins keep increasing abysmally. My device solely relies on this data. The key is that these cardiac
biomarkers are found in one of the earliest
stages of a heart attack, when someone is almost sure to survive if he or she gets prompt care. And my device is solely based
on that basis. And here’s how my device works. A silicon patch is worn around your wrist
or placed near your chest. Without having to prick your skin
for a biomarker blood test, this patch can spot, isolate and track
a heart-attack specific biomarker called H-FABP, and alerts you if and when it reaches
a critical level in your bloodstream — a process that’s much simpler, easier
and cheaper than conventional methods of heart-attack diagnosis. By checking on biomarker
concentration data, a system like this,
with advanced research in the future, could significantly reduce the need
for an at-risk patient to go to a doctor for a biomarker blood test, because the device
could be worn at all times, sensing biomarker elevations in real time. Thus, if the device senses the biomarker
levels going beyond the critical point, the at-risk patient could be warned
of an impending cardiac arrest and that he or she needs
immediate medical attention. Although the device may not be able
to provide the patient with the complete analysis
of the cardiac injury, it might be of immense help in actually indicating
that the patient is in danger, so that the patient can be alarmed and know that immediate care is crucial. Every at-risk patient will now receive
more time to survive and reach out for medical help. Consequently, they don’t have to go for expensive and invasive
medical treatments that would otherwise be necessary
after a heart attack. When I got my device tested
on at-risk patients under observation, results from the clinical validation tests certified close to a 96 percent
accuracy and sensitivity. I intend to make my device available
to people in two variants: one which gives digital analysis
of the biomarker levels and a simpler version
for the people in rural areas which simply vibrates when the biomarker
levels go beyond the critical point. When we look at our progress
in cardiac health care today, it is more of sick care than preventative
self-care and technology. We literally wait
for the heart attack to occur and put our vast majority of resources
into post-care treatment. But by then, irreversible damage
will already be done. I firmly believe it’s time
for us to rethink medicine. We must establish proactive
health-care technologies. A change must be brought out
not 10 years from now, not five years from now, but today. And so, hopefully, one day, with the help of these devices, someone else won’t lose
his or her grandfather just like I did. Thank you so much. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause) Thank you.