Home Monitoring for Liver Health
This project is a work in progress!
Rubi is an investigation of home wellness monitoring and telemedicine applications for those who must closely track liver function. The device uses light sensing technology to measure blood content indicative of liver health. A paired app collects data to identify trends over time and enable efficient communication between doctor and patient.
I am currently working on this project so if you have feedback don't hesitate to reach out!
Liver transplant is a life-saving last resort when the organ has failed due to damage or illness.
performed last year
survival after 5 years
to recover and resume lifestyle
55 years old
Mother of three
Suffered liver failure due to hemochromatosis
Received a transplant 1 year ago
Reconstructing Jamie's Transplant Journey
Feedback from professors, online communities, and personal networks was used to reconstruct what the journey of a liver transplant recipient might look like.
One area that struck me as particularly compelling was life management after leaving the hospital. Something that makes liver transplant particularly daunting is the requirement to remain on immunosuppressants for the rest of one’s life. Rather than acting purely as a treatment, the use of immunosuppressants is a precarious balancing act.
Recognizing a foreign entity, the body naturally rejects the new organ. In order to mitigate this reaction, the medication suppresses the immune system. However, in doing so, it leaves the body much more open to infection. Medication levels must be kept as low as possible, toeing the line between rejection and compromised immunity.
How might we help liver transplant recipients track organ health from home so they can quickly counteract issues that could put their lives at risk and take ownership over their own wellness monitoring?
What's the deal with Bilirubin?
When discussing the project with professors of physiology and immunology, I was directed toward bilirubin as a possible opportunity area. Elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood cause jaundice, which is a visible signal of a compromised liver.
These level changes are most universally visible in the nail beds and whites of the eyes, since skin color varies. Organ failure can also cause inflammation in the body, emanating heat with added blood flow.
Opportunity: Computer Vision
During the research phase, I gravitated especially toward opportunities that leveraged non-invasive monitoring. Patients already have to undergo extensive blood work and testing, so how could a passive system supplement current processes? Today computer vision is being used to track incredibly complex physical functions, from daily vital signs to disease diagnostics.
New Tech Spotlight:
Another group that requires frequent bilirubin measurements is newborn babies. Like liver transplant recipients, this has historically been done with blood tests. The Philips Bilichek, however, takes a transcutaneous bilirubin measurement.
Basically, that means it measures bilirubin with a super sensitive light pressed against the forehead. Not only is it non-invasive, but it's also quicker and results are immediate. With this new research discovery, I decided to pivot to leverage transcutaneous bilirubin measurement.
How might we adapt transcutaneous bilirubin measurement for personal home use?
What do you want to touch your face with?
tissues and kerchiefs
tapered top touch point
wider face contact point
Here's a peak at the form development thus far. My goal is to create a playful form that fits into the home, flipping how we view the hardness and sterility of typical medical devices. I hope that by reframing how we view the objects that track our health, health tracking can become a less scary⏤and perhaps even delightful⏤endeavor.
What's in there?
What do fruit ripeness and bilirubin levels have in common? They can both be measured with a white LED and a spectrometer to collect spectral data from reflection on the skin!
Check out this cool project from the MIT Media Lab!
Further form development + flesh out the app
Stay tuned :)