Personalization, autonomy and decentralization

——The medical industry is quietly changing. Digitization is the driving force, and micro sensors are the key.

Real time laboratory



Senior manager of digital health of Ames OSRAM group

Compared with today, the life of patients will be very different in ten years. Smart phones and wearable devices will not only be used to take photos and send messages. They will help us keep healthy.

Whether through wearable devices, rapid digital testing or smart phones integrating additional functions, digitization is fundamentally changing the medical industry. And everyone’s health care has changed. Health care services will be more personalized and autonomous, not limited by geographical space. Infectious diseases will be better controlled, life-threatening diseases will be found earlier, and chronic diseases will be easier to monitor. If the critical value is about to be reached, the algorithm will warn us. Even if users are far away from the medical center, AI can provide medical decision support through cloud connection.

As sensors become smaller and more intelligent, these developments will become possible. The digitally processed light can penetrate the skin and tissues directly to the blood vessels, opening up a new possibility. With the improvement of digitization and the rapid development of in-depth learning, we can observe various health parameters all day without leaving home.

Next generation medical diagnosis

At present, these developments are still at an early stage, but the COVID-19 has pushed the process forward.

“Long before the emergence of the novel coronavirus, we began to study demand based digital medical solutions.” Alexander Volk, one of the pioneers of interconnected medical solutions of Ames OSRAM group, said, “we first developed a spectral technology solution, which is used to analyze drugs and food, and determine skin parameters, such as moisture. Our newly developed product – the novel coronavirus rapid lateral chromatography detection kit based on sensors – is only the first product of the digital health series tools.”

When performing chromatographic detection, it is necessary to drop the test sample onto the test strip. The biochemical reaction between the antibody and the molecule to be detected will produce color changes. Spectral sensors are combined with light emitters to detect color or fluorescence behavior. The sensor is connected to a microcontroller that supports Bluetooth. The value can be read from the microcontroller and transmitted to smart phones and medically certified cloud environments. Therefore, the results can be displayed immediately in electronic form.

This product is not only used for virus detection. Monitoring ovulation or vitamin levels also requires rapid, high-precision tests. For people who take drugs regularly, vitamin level testing is crucial. You can easily test and identify diseases at home. You don’t have to see a doctor if you have a little problem as before. For this purpose, Alexander Volk and his team will continue to work on the rapid and high-sensitivity test and research of various parameters.

Light entering the skin

Another important basis of digital health monitoring is wearable devices for some life function measurement. Wearable devices first appeared in the 2010s, when they were used for health monitoring, but now the monitoring is more accurate and more informative. Wearable devices use light-emitting diodes to make light penetrate the skin and tissues, so as to measure heart rate and blood oxygen saturation. The sensor records and evaluates the absorption level of hemoglobin.

“With our proprietary technology in the generation and detection of light, we can continuously improve the measurement accuracy. We are working together to develop an optical system based on a single light source to perfectly match the components.” Volk said. He also highlighted the opportunities brought by the newly merged Ames OSRAM company.

Small volume, large capacity

Some technical challenges need to be overcome before providing cost-effective and easy-to-use mobile solutions for the exclusive services of previous laboratories and medical institutions. The first task is to significantly reduce the size of the module. A complex system consisting of light emitters, related detectors and connecting optical elements must be accommodated in a space of only a few cubic millimeters.

Ames OSRAM’s developers are working on these solutions, including solutions to measure parameters such as blood glucose, lactic acid, cholesterol and urea levels. Here, the measurement of molecular spectral characteristics by so-called molecular spectroscopy technology is the most promising to help the realization of these solutions. However, the issue of miniaturization must be addressed first. The interaction between light and matter can help us deeply understand the properties of samples. The laser is emitted to the sample, and then the spectrum of the light scattered on the sample is measured. A small part of the reflected light is different from the emitted light in intensity or frequency. Based on this, the relevant information of the detected substance can be obtained.

The key to future medical reform lies in

Realize the miniaturization of this technology,

Make it suitable for daily application.

Shrinkage spectroscopy

So far, the laboratory has adopted a suitable spectrometer, which runs very sensitively. In most cases, it is a CCD camera for cooling photodetectors and semiconductor image sensors. For example, even the portable version currently used for forensic forensics is too large to be integrated into mobile phones or wearable devices.

Ames OSRAM is cooperating with Johns Hopkins University to research and develop mobile solutions. Johns Hopkins University is responsible for providing medical models and supporting laboratory devices, while Ames OSRAM is responsible for developing miniaturized technologies suitable for daily applications.

Alexander Volk described the huge technical challenges faced: “the whole system needs to operate without cooling, achieve minimum power consumption, only a small part of pixel counting, and adopt microchip format.”

The signal received by the system from human body or sample is very weak, so it must be amplified without noise. It takes us a long time to produce a uniform light source. Another challenge is to develop some high-precision optical and mechanical components that can only penetrate specific wavelengths of light and integrate them into microchips.

None of this is simple. However, once the problems of miniaturization and integration are solved, the road of mobile health monitoring for all mankind will become unimpeded, and new medical insights and treatment solutions will be obtained.

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