Its inventor has dubbed it “the check your engine light” for humans. Handheld and battery powered, it’s the ‘MouthLab,’ a medical diagnostic tool that its makers say is destined for the field, the home and the emergency room.
The device, still in prototype, originated at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Maryland USA and is designed to measure many different vital signs simultaneously.
In a video made to promote the gadget, chief engineer Gene Fridman, Ph.D. explains its core benefit as a way for the patient to ‘make more intelligent decisions about their healthcare.’ Friedman is MouthLab’s originator as well as assistant professor of biomedical engineering and of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the university.
About the same size as an old style push button house phone, the design of the MouthLab maximises its potential. A thumb pad on the grip has a pulse oximeter and an electrode for an electrocardiogram (ECG). A mouthpiece, reminiscent of the sort of thing used in underwater breathing apparatus, has sensors for blood volume and body temperature; for an ECG the mouthpiece has electrodes on the bottom and top lip.
Since it checks a patient’s status orally, its inventor said the device is uniquely placed to close in on tell-tale crucial markers in the breath, blood and saliva. This makes it an ideal early detection device for cancers that attack the breast and lung, as well as diseases like diabetes.
Right now the MouthLab uses Wi-Fi to send the collected data from the user to a laptop, to a physician for diagnosis. John Hopkins imagines that this process will be displaced completely by apps and mobile phone technology.
There is no official word from John Hopkins as to when the MouthLab will hit the marketplace. But already the gadget has received a positive diagnosis from the biomedicine community itself. The Annals of Biomedical Engineering – the sectors official journal – published a study of the gadgets potential and performance parameters and found that they compared favourably with the standard procedures across a spectrum of metrics.