‘Shape-shifting’ implanted medical device to provide continuous blood pressure monitoring outside of hospital

From left, Dr Atif Shazid, University of Birmingham; Professor William Wijns, University of Galway; Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of University of Galway; and Dr Sandra Ganly, senior research fellow at University of Galway.
Jan 31 2023 Posted: 12:01 GMT

SMARTSHAPE consortium, led from University of Galway, will develop a disruptive technology sensor

 The European Union has awarded a European consortium €4.4million for the SMARTSHAPE project to focus on developing an implantable medical device for continuous blood pressure monitoring.

Hypertension is the leading global contributor to premature death, accounting for more than 9 million deaths a year. Elevated blood pressure is a chronic lifetime risk factor that can lead to serious cardiovascular events if undiagnosed or poorly controlled. Many high-risk patients require long-term monitoring to tailor drug treatments and improve healthcare outcomes, but there is no clinically accepted method of continuous beat-to-beat blood pressure monitoring that patients can use outside of the hospital setting. 

The SMARTSHAPE consortium is led by Professor William Wijns, a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded Research Professor in Interventional Cardiology at University of Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

According to Professor Wijns: “The best innovations start with a clinical need. Patients who require monitoring are better off in their own homes rather than in a hospital setting. There is a huge market opportunity for a medical-grade, user-friendly, and minimally invasive solution for continuous blood pressure monitoring.”

Professor Wijns is also a Funded Investigator at CÚRAM, the SFI research centre for medical devices based at University of Galway which focuses on developing biomedical implants, therapeutic and diagnostic devices that address the needs of patients living with chronic illness.

Dr Atif Shahzad, joint director of the Smart Sensors Lab at the University of Galway and a research fellow at the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research at the University of Birmingham, said: “Our SMARTSHAPE consortium has developed an IP-protected technologically disruptive sensor for continuous pressure measurement. There are challenges related to biocompatibility, longevity, and delivery to the target tissue, and these need to be overcome to deliver the sensor to the market.” 

Dr Shahzad added: “This project will address these challenges by formulating an innovative biomaterial: a novel temperature-dependent shape memory polymer (SMP). SMPs will enable the development of a microsensor that can be curled up, introduced into the body through a minimally invasive procedure, and ‘opened up’ when placed at body temperature to take a predefined shape.”

The consortium of eight partner institutions is led by the University of Galway and includes partners across Ireland, the UK, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, consisting of two academic partners, two multinationals, one ISO-certified company, two SMEs and a patient collaboration company.

Kevin Michels-Kim, chief executive of Merakoi, which facilitates patient collaboration in research. He said: “We are committed to putting the patient at the centre of SMARTSHAPE, allowing us to create novel solutions that truly meet the needs of patients. Merakoi will play a crucial role in the SMARTSHAPE consortium by integrating the patient voice across the product lifecycle. Our ability to harness deep patient understanding from the start enables the consortium to develop patient-beneficial solutions that maximise the adoption and impact of innovative technologies and devices.”

Dr Sandra Ganly, Senior Research Fellow in Cardiovascular Risk Factor Research, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, at the University of Galway, said: “Blood pressure monitoring will represent the first SMARTSHAPE application. However, the potential of this sensing solution goes significantly beyond BP monitoring. Continuous physiological pressure monitoring can provide key information for early diagnosis, patient-specific treatment, and preventive healthcare in a wide range of healthcare indications. This will significantly broaden the potential and open avenues for other products and research innovation.”


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