Meet Akash Manoj, a student who built device to predict ‘silent’ heart attacks
Akash Manoj has been reading medical literature for fun since he was in the 8th standard. It comes as a little surprise then that this Class 10 student has developed a device to predict ‘silent’ heart attacks, identified as one a major health risk for thousands of Indians.
Since the time Akash was in class VIII, he started visiting the library at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, which is more than an hour away from his hometown Hosur in Tamil Nadu.
“Journal articles are expensive, so visiting the libraries was the only way I could do it. Otherwise, it would have cost more than a crore (of rupees) for the amount I read. I was always interested in medical science and I liked reading the journals…cardiology is my favourite,” said Manoj.
He is a confident teenager who has been globe-trotting to attend various scientific conventions. At the age of 15, his visiting card describes him as a researcher in cardiology. He can speak at length about his project and break it down for you if you cannot understand, so, board exams are not a big deal. “I have seen people worried about board exams. I study for it, but it does not bother me,” said Manoj.
It was his grandfather’s death that prompted him to take up this project. “He was a diabetic and had high blood pressure, but he was healthy otherwise. He had a silent heart attack, collapsed and died,” he said.
That’s when he embarked on a journey to create a device that could detect ‘silent heart attacks’.
A heart attack is characterised by chest pain, pain in the left arm or shortness of breath. A person who has a silent heart attack may not show these symptoms at all. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels all put you at risk of a silent heart attack.
Having a silent heart attack puts people at a greater risk of having another heart attack, which could be fatal. Having another heart attack also increases risk of complications, such as heart failure.
The skin patch invented by Akash has to be attached to the wrist or the back of the ear and it will release a small ‘positive’ electrical impulse, which will attract the negatively charged protein released by the heart to signal a heart attack. If the quantity of this protein – FABP3 -- is high, the person must seek immediate medical attention.
Clinical trials for the medical device are on and it could be approved for a human trial. The product would be fit to be launched in the market after two months of human trial, assuming nothing goes wrong.
“I have already filed for a patent and I would tie up with department of biotechnology for the trial. I would want the government of India to take the project instead of selling it to a private company because it is for the public good,” he said.
Akash aims to study cardiology at the country’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.
What is a silent heart attack
•A silent heart attack is when the symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath that are indicative of heart attack is not felt.
•People mistake it for indigestion, nausea, muscle pain or a bad case of the flu
•Having a silent heart attack puts you at a greater risk of having another heart attack, which could be fatal. Having another heart attack also increases your risk of complications, such as heart failure
• The only way to detect it is if electrocardiogram or echocardiogram is performed
How does the device work
•A small silicon patch stuck to your wrist or back of your ear can be used regularly to monitor whether there has been a heart attack instead of waiting for a doctor to prescribe a test
•The patch uses a positively charged electrical impulse to draw negatively charged ---protein to the surface
•If the amount of FABP3 is high, then the person would need immediate medical attention
•People who are at risk are recommended to use the device twice a day -- in the morning and at night, before going to bed
•The product can soon be seen in the market and would cost around R 900, cheaper than a glucometer