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YOUR HEALTH: Perfecting your own EKG monitor

How healthy is your heart? Bioengineers design a tiny monitor that may help answer that question

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Doctors can manually take your pulse and use other technology to measure the rhythm of your heart. 

Now a cutting-edge monitor that's smaller and thinner than a postage stamp is about to give doctors another option for monitoring your heart health.

Keeping an eye on your heartbeat has never been so important for some people.

But an electrocardiogram, or EKG, requires patches and wires to produce a reading. 

Scientists at Purdue University have developed a wearable triboelectric nanogenerator, or TENG, a tiny monitor made out of polyvinyl alcohol. 

It looks and feels like a small square of flexible plastic.

"We can easily attach it on to any part of the body because the material itself is very soft," explained Wenzhuo Wu, an industrial engineer at Purdue University.

"It's also very thin. Just like the tissue from your top skin." 

When the TENG is placed at a pulse point like the wrist, it can pick up and transmit cardiovascular information, like this… 

Think of it like a doctor taking your pulse.

"We use the finger to feel the vibration," he said. 

"We use the device to measure, precisely, the vibration and we analyze the data."

Professor Wu says the monitor may help doctors detect common cardiovascular diseases, like coronary artery disease and ischemic heart disease.

"TENGs produce fast readout with distinct peaks for blood ejection, blood reflection in the lower body, and blood rejection from the closed aortic valve, which may enable detection of common cardiovascular diseases such as cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease and ischemic heart disease."

The monitor also uses static electricity to self-power, meaning it does not need a battery or electrical charge to operate.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.