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Vol. LXVI, No. 2
January 17, 2014

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NIBIB Partners with India on Blood Pressure Initiative

Hypertension is responsible for approximately half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease and is the second leading cause of kidney failure. Yet despite being a treatable condition, hypertension goes untreated in one in three adults worldwide. One explanation is that effective screening, diagnosis and management of blood pressure can be difficult to achieve using current technologies.

To address this issue, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering will commit $2 million to fund research leading to the development of new technologies for measuring blood pressure that are unobtrusive or passive and that can automatically provide frequent feedback to both patients and health care workers. The goal is to create less expensive, less intrusive and faster technologies for measuring blood pressure than are currently available and that can be operated by untrained individuals in homes or regional care settings.

NIBIB is partnering with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) in India to leverage resources of the two countries. NIBIB will fund up to 3 projects for a maximum of 5 years.

NIBIB is specifically interested in funding technology that can be used to measure the blood pressure of large numbers of individuals—so-called high-throughput blood pressure systems. This type of system would measure blood pressure while an individual performs a routine daily activity such as walking through a doorway, checking out at the grocery store, using a key fob, holding a cell phone or interacting with an office item, as well as performing a task in a home environment.

In addition, NIBIB envisions that the future of blood pressure management will involve automatic, wireless transmission of blood pressure measurements to a patient’s electronic health record. Such a system would allow physicians to track changes in an individual’s blood pressure over time and help to determine whether a particular blood pressure medication or lifestyle intervention is working. Thus, any new technology for blood pressure measurement must be able to integrate with communications devices such as cell phones and the Internet.

NIBIB director Dr. Roderic Pettigrew points out that our current technique for measuring blood pressure—the blood pressure cuff—is more than 100 years old and is insufficient for addressing hypertension on a global scale.

“A reading taken with a blood pressure cuff at a doctor’s office—while relatively accurate—only gives a snapshot of a patient’s blood pressure status. Because blood pressure varies considerably throughout the day and from one day to the next, doctors are missing the full picture,” said Pettigrew. “To effectively manage hypertension, doctors need to be able to track blood pressure and its response to medications over time. From a practical standpoint, this is going to require the development of technologies that can unobtrusively and more frequently take blood pressure measurements and send them directly to a patient’s record. Simply put, to reduce rates of hypertension worldwide, we need a passive technology for measuring blood pressure.”

As part of an ongoing commitment to encourage collaborative research and technology development between scientists and engineers in the U.S. and India, the Indian government has committed to support similar research for new blood pressure technologies by Indian investigators. U.S. applicants are encouraged, but not required, to identify Indian partners to work with on their projects when submitting their applications; successful applicants may be asked to share their abstract and specific aims with the Indian funding agency so that they may fund Indian investigators who best match their U.S. counterparts.

For details, contact Dr. Vinay Pai,, (301) 451-4781.

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