Fitness monitors and other wearable sensors may be able to predict sickness in individuals. A new study from Stanford University School of Medicine stated that these sensors already track an individual’s health including skin temperature, activity, heart rate, and other health variables. These wearable sensors may also be able to predict inflammation, infection, and possibly even insulin resistance.
Wearable technology is worn on the body as an implant or as an accessory. Activity trackers such as the Fitbit, Pebble, Apple Watch, or the Jawbone Up can track everything from the quality of sleep, steps, activity, and caloric intake. Wearable sensors are used for both public and private use.
Michael Snyder, Ph.D., professor and chair of genetics at Stanford and a senior author of the study, stated that the group wanted to “study people at an individual level,” he said in the Stanford press release. The study was published recently in PLOS Biology. Snyder’s team collected two billion measurements from 60 people who included weight, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, skin temperature, activity, calories burned, and exposure to gamma and X-rays. The participants wore between one and seven publicly available wearable sensors that “collected more than 250,000 measurements a day.” With these readings, it was possible to predict illness in individuals.
Researchers hoped the wearable sensors could identify insulin resistance and other harmful diseases and condition before they spiral out of control. For Snyder, this was the case. Wearing such a device, he was able to treat the Lyme disease before it was officially diagnosed. For others in the study, the “increase levels of C-reactive protein” was noticed treated, according to the press release. C-reactive protein is an “immune system marker for inflammation and often indicative of infection, autoimmune disease, developing cardiovascular disease or even cancer.”
According to Infowars, some of the wearable sensors the study used were “not effective, ” and one had been recalled since the survey began. Some say, however, that the devices “may not be appropriate for the population at large as of now” and could only worry some about their health leading to misdiagnosis of their conditions. More study and newer devices are needed.
Wearable sensors may help primary care physicians treat and keep track of their patients’ health. While currently, most devices follow activities, future devices may also start monitoring other activities that can help the individual. The devices could detect data that are outside the person’s usual range and flag them for further investigation which can lead to “intervention, prevention or cure,” for the oncoming illness or disease, according to the press release.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Steve Fisch/Stanford