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Biophotonic Device from International Consortium Aims to Support Current and Forthcoming COVID-19 Therapies

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BARCELONA, Spain, Aug. 5, 2020 — A team of researchers from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) and experts in the field of diffuse optics are collaborating on the creation of a biophotonic device designed to test the efficiency of individualized COVID-19 treatments targeting the health of the body’s smallest blood vessels. Its device, which is like a common blood pressure measurement unit, gauges microvasculature response to extended arterial cuff blockage in the peripheral muscles, such as those in the forearm, establishing a biomarker of endothelial (and microvascular) health.

The international consortium spearheading the work, called HEMOCOVID-19, pairs ICFO scientists with intensivists from Hospital Parc Tauli in Barcelona, Spain. The device the team has introduced is battery-operated, noninvasive, and portable, enabling measurements at different times over the course of a patient’s intensive care. The goal is to help clinicians in the stratification of patients, and to guide the development of therapies examining endothelial function.

The consortium is aiming for many of the therapies it is targeting to be completely personalized to best meet the needs of severely ill patients.
Marco Pagliazzi and Umut Karadeniz testing the devices at ICFO
Marco Pagliazzi and Umut Karadeniz testing the devices at ICFO. Courtesy of ICFO.
Research into COVID-19 treatment and management has determined microvascular health, or the health of the body’s smallest vessels, may be vital to ascertaining information relating to the evolution of the disease. Following Spain’s national lockdown in March, the team, led by Turgut Durduran, a professor at Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), developed customized algorithms and applied them to near-infrared spectroscopy in a system that delivers an evaluation of a patient’s well-being. The system uses near-infrared light to measure blood oxygen saturation, volume, and flow.

The first wave of testing using a cursory design of the device took place in March on patients receiving care for COVID-19 at Hospital Parc Tauli. Team members, encouraged by results, said next steps will include enhancing the precision of the device and the testing it performs, and incorporating next-generation technologies to expand device relevance.

The dual benefits of the device, according to Jaume Mesquida, lead doctor at Hospital Parc Tauli, are its usefulness for the stratification of the risk for COVID-19 patients due to complications stemming from acute respiratory distress syndrome, as well as its potential to serve as a tool to evaluate the efficiency of potential new therapies.

“To date, we do not have other parameters at the patient’s bedside to monitor endothelial function, and using this technology will probably be mandatory when evaluating therapies targeting the microcirculation, which seems to be very important [with] COVID-19,” Mesquida said. “For sure, this will also be useful in other populations with underlying endothelial alterations or inflammatory diseases such as in septic shock patients.”

The consortium consists of 10 partners based in four countries: Spain, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.S. Its members have yet to meet in person.

“I would have never imagined that we could go from having an idea, to one week later developing materials and sending it to hospitals, and in two weeks obtaining ethical approvals and starting to take data,” Durduran said. “This is an indication that our technology has reached a level of maturity that has allowed us to take this big step forward. We are yet to see where this takes us.”

Photonics.com
Aug 2020
EuropeSpainCOVID-19COVID-19 testingBiophotonicsICFOICFO Barcelonanear infrared spectroscopycoronavirusspectroscopyResearch & Technology

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