Starting around the 1980s researchers, including pioneering UC engineering professor Chong Ahn, developed point-of-care lab tests that allowed doctors to get immediate results. Instead of shipping samples to a lab, doctors could test samples themselves using tiny self-contained devices.
“Dr. Ahn has been at the forefront of developing these point-of-care devices,” Heikenfeld said.
Now, Heikenfeld said, we’re in the midst of a third wave — continuous health monitoring with wearable devices like those developed at UC. These provide data over time so doctors can track health trends instead of relying on the snapshot that a single blood test provides.
“That’s super powerful because it tells me am I getting better? Am I getting worse?” Heikenfeld said.
Eventually, the field will see devices implanted in the body for long-term diagnosis or monitoring, he said. But first researchers will have to create robust sensors that can provide accurate information over a much longer time frame.
“That’s the big challenge,” Heikenfeld said. “Sensors are chemically reactive themselves. So they don’t last.”