A Gonville & Caius College Fellow is seeking to revolutionise the experience of blood pressure measurements with research which could see the traditional squeezing cuff replaced.
Engineering Fellow Francesca De Domenico took up her role at Caius focusing on combustion noise and diagnostics, but has since diversified to a medical application of her research which could affect all of us needing treatment or assessment.
“I have a background in acoustics and I’m using this background for understanding how the blood pressure measurement works, trying to get a very good picture of the physics of what’s happening into a cuff,” Dr De Domenico says.
“I am looking at how we can improve blood pressure diagnostics, or any kind of diagnostics that goes through sound signals, in order to make it more reliable, more accurate and a bit less cumbersome than using a cuff.”
Working in the Energy Group at the Department of Engineering, Dr De Domenico has not left combustion engines and lasers behind, but she seized the opportunity to start working on a project on blood pressure diagnostics without hesitation.
She says: “I thought there wasn’t anything that theoretically I couldn’t tackle. And I saw the potential in something I could find entertaining, and I could branch out a bit.
“I really like the medical application. The creation of smarter sensors that can be used in everyday life is something that is happening a lot, like a sports watch, fitness tracker or health monitors. They’re getting smaller and smaller and more and more people are buying them. Sometimes it’s because it’s cool, but if it’s also useful, then great.”
The development of a blood pressure measurement device is not targeted at those seeking fitness improvements, more at those who otherwise need to be attached to a cuff to monitor their health. Sensors could be used on the body while the patients continue with their daily activities.
Dr De Domenico adds: “The targets are people that have to be on a cuff 24/7 to check that their blood pressure stays within their ‘normal’, and their ‘normal’ is already out of range. We hope we can help those people with something that is a bit more versatile and can give them alerts when something is going wrong.”
Acoustics could have a role in other medical applications, and it is the thought of contributing to helping people which motivates Dr Domenico.
She says: “It’s important to me to do something which is useful for someone else. I hope blood pressure diagnostics has opened up a path to solving every day life problems which haven’t been fully solved, because the old methods are working just fine.”