The device for monitoring hypertension, a prototype of which he is wearing here, “is essentially empowering people to manage their disease,” says Mohan Thanikachalam. (Credit: Anna Miller)

A team has developed a wearable blood pressure monitor, designed to continuously monitor his blood pressure at home. The Tactile Blood Pressure Imager (TBPI) is worn on the wrist, over the radial artery, and uses a sensor to capture skin-surface forces affected by blood in the artery, respiratory rhythm, and pulse rate.

The TBPI’s proprietary algorithms incorporating these markers then provide a continuous estimate of heartbeat-to-heartbeat blood pressure. The TBPI is also worn overnight, and can be integrated with a mobile phone for remote monitoring by health-care professionals.

To validate the technology, the team inserted an arterial catheter in an animal model to measure blood pressure and then compared that to signals from the TBPI prototype strapped to the animal’s leg. They then varied the blood pressure in the animals with drugs, which helped the researchers tweak the algorithm for different pressure ranges. In clinical studies, the team demonstrated that the TBPI estimates blood pressure in accordance with FDA standards. Next up, the TBPI will be tested on human ICU patients who also have intra-arterial catheters to monitor blood pressure.

While the current TBPI prototype is bulky, the team is working on a more streamlined model with a product-development company. Tufts and MIT have both patented the work; Mohan Thanikachalam and team will establish a start-up, which will license the technology from Tufts and raise private capital.

In getting the device to market, Thanikachalam is focusing on two factors: affordability and physician buy-in. Most importantly, health-care providers need to feel confident that “this is a reliable technology and I can make treatment decisions based on it,” he says.

If all goes according to plan, a person with hypertension — or at risk of hypertension — will be able to continuously monitor his blood pressure at home with the TBPI (marketed as the Vitrack), share the results with his doctor, and get ongoing treatment support. “This is essentially empowering people to manage their disease,” he says.

Thanikachalam is also working with outside partners on other mobile phone-enabled portable devices to help patients manage diabetes, including a neuropathy analyzer, which tracks nerve function, and a retina camera, already in the hands of community health workers, which takes images of patients’ eyes to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy caused by damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye.