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  • Photo of Morteza Gharib
    Morteza Gharib, Caltech vice provost and the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering
11/11/2013 09:01:12

A New View into Cardiovascular Disease

About a third of American adults suffer from cardiovascular diseases, which are the underlying cause of about one in three deaths in the U.S. In 2010, cardiovascular diseases generated direct and indirect costs of approximately $503 billion. New techniques to detect these diseases early and provide ongoing health information could significantly reduce such unacceptable human and financial costs. Such new techniques are in development with support from the Caltech Innovation Initiative, a philanthropically funded internal grant program designed to provide research funds to high-risk but potentially high-reward projects that could produce disruptive technologies with practical applications in the marketplace.

Caltech's Mory Gharib—a professor of aeronautics and bioinspired engineering, and an expert in cardiac mechanics and bioinspired medical devices—is developing a new method and device for easy, low-cost, and early diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.

Clinicians could gain a wealth of information by analyzing the waveform of the patient's arterial pulse if they could retrieve the information easily enough. But current approaches to this analysis require simultaneous measurement of pressure and flow waves in the same location, which would be difficult if not impossible in clinical settings.

In the second year of a Caltech Innovation Initiative grant, the Gharib group is conceiving a new way to collect this information through noninvasive measurements that medical staff or patients themselves could easily perform. The technology extracts information by using anatomical knowledge and new methods in applied mathematics to extrapolate from intrinsic frequencies observed in arterial pressure waves or in wall displacement. Only a single waveform is needed, representing either pressure or flow—the two no longer need to be measured simultaneously in order to access the rich information they can provide.

For the first time, patients could have an easy, low-cost way to get information on the health of their hearts and arteries.

Written by Ann Motrunich