"Mouthlab" measures vital signs through a patient's breath

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Body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure are the signs of your overall health. Many of us get these measurements done during an annual exam.

Now, bioengineers have developed a user-friendly way to gather all this information quickly, potentially uncovering life-threatening conditions earlier than ever before.

Spock and other Star Trek characters had the fictional Tricorder medical device. Now, bioengineers have developed something much more science than fiction.

Gene Fridman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore says he began his current research after a personal tragedy.

“I had a friend whose grandmother died because she got to the hospital too late,” Fridman explains.

The Mouthlab device was the result. Fridman says the mouth is a great place to start because it contains a lot of medical information.

“It has your saliva, it has your breath, it has blood vessels that are very close to the epithelium and mucus membrane,” he explains.

The mouthpiece of the device goes in front of your teeth, covered by your lips; sensors at the lip or thumb take your temperature and measure heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, electrocardiogram trace, lung function and blood oxygen levels.

David Feller-Kopman, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore has been taking blood pressure and other measurements the traditional way for years. He says there’s a benefit to having one device that does the work of many.

“The easier that is for the health care provider to assess, the better the care that’s going to be delivered,” Feller-Kopman says.

Call it a check-engine for humans, boldly going where no device has gone before.

Professor Fridman says the device is designed to be easy to use and provide results in about 30 seconds. Right now, the vital signs are sent to a computer or tablet, but Fridman says future versions of the Mouthlab may have the results displayed on the device.

Future versions may also detect a wider range of disorders. The device will retail for about $300 to $500.

Read the research summary