Galway engineer's software 'predicts' sudden cardiac death
14 January 2015
In University College Hospital Galway, a device is currently being used to ‘predict’ cardiac events in people at risk of sudden cardiac death. This technology was developed by a Mexican and it has since been patented by the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway), with an eye to selling it to specialised companies.
In 2013, the hospital cardiologists used this technology to diagnose and test its accuracy. The software is in the process of prototype and marketing.
In Ireland, some 8,000 of the population hail originally from Mexico. The researcher Antonio Aguilar is one of them. He came to this country to visit family and learn English, and decided to stay to complete an engineering degree in electronics (in Galway-Mayo Institute of technology) and continue with postgraduate studies in KTH Royal Institute of Technology and then NUI Galway. Five months ago, he became the founder and chief scientist at Healthformics Ltd, which specialises in medical software for hospitals.
The company’s history begins with his PhD research, which was entitled: ‘Method to diagnose patients at high risk of sudden cardiac death’. “I decided to focus on sudden cardiac death because it’s a condition that kills many people and is very difficult to predict,” Aguilar said.
Through a scholarship, the electronics engineer began developing the algorithm that, by testing the patient, makes an electrocardiogram and record 15 minutes of the patient’s heartbeat. The algorithm processes this information and analyses through a statistical model if the patient is at risk of arrhythmia, which is the sign of sudden cardiac death.
“When there’s less variability in the heartbeat of a patient, this indicates a problem. We’ve studied the electrocardiogram of many patients with diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases, and heart rate variability is very different between ill and healthy people. A patient before suffering an arrhythmia has certain patterns which can be detected and the variability in heartbeat is lower. With this algorithm, we can ‘predict’ whether the patient will have an arrhythmia hours before it happens.”
The researcher, who is a member of the Network of Mexican Talent Abroad, Chapter Ireland, used a database of 400 patients to ‘prove’ the algorithm and diagnose patients at risk for arrhythmias. Although he was born in Irapuato in Mexico, Aguilar lived in Acapulco, Guerrero and Nuevo Laredo, where he studied his first year of engineering at the Technological Institute of Nuevo Laredo.
“From the age of nine, I knew I was going to devote myself to science or computing. I studied engineering because I always got the numbers, the mathematics. I always liked computing and especially electronics and robots,” he said.
Work and study in Ireland
He came to In Ireland during a “good period in the country’s economy” and while in the third year of his career, he entered an internship in S3 Group, a company developing software for Intel, Motorola and other international companies.
“They liked my work and I was offered a job as an engineer in software even without finishing my career. The company allowed me to continue my career studying part time. In fact, they even handled my work visa. In 2003 I finished my career, the company closed its branch in Galway, and a Swedish friend told me about a scholarship to do a master’s in Stockholm, which I applied for and was accepted at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden.”
He carried out his master’s degree in Stockholm and spent two years in microelectronics, focusing on developing microprocessors. He returned to Galway and moved into the health area implementing wireless networks in Galway hospital, where he developed an application to review patients’ records electronically.
There he worked as an engineer developing medical software, and was offered a job as a researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute, a web-science research institute at NUI Galway. There he worked for three and a half years on projects in medical informatics and bioinformatics.
“When I was in this institute, my supervisor told me that there was a grant to start a PhD. I was accepted in the project to develop the algorithm and diagnose patients with sudden cardiac death.”
Aguilar acknowledged that in Ireland, there is much support for students and businessmen – and he is an example, because since he was a student a lot of opportunities have presented themselves to him. When founding his own software company Healthformics Ltd, he had the support of the Irish Government. A future plan is to implement this technology in Mexico. “My plan is to develop technology here, try the software in several hospitals, implement it in Mexico and sell it to the rest of Latin America.”http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/01/14/nui-galway-engineer-develops-software-predict-sudden-cardiac-death/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cardiac.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Cardiac-300x300.jpgTechmedical devices,NUI Galway,software