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Ulster University has secured £450,000 for research into cutting-edge wearable technologies that will continuously monitor blood pressure and heart rate, dramatically reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease across the globe.

The research is part of a £2.8 million connected health project funded by Horizon 2020 under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks scheme.

Connected health experts at Ulster University will develop two non-invasive devices that can be worn by patients over prolonged periods and do not require intervention from a medical professional such as a GP or nurse. The devices will allow patients to take control of their own health, enhance early detection of cardiovascular disease and decrease the risks of delayed treatment.

Current blood pressure monitoring systems use a cuff attached to the upper arm that slows the flow of blood, which can be uncomfortable and makes continuous monitoring impossible. The new blood pressure monitoring device will improve the speed and accuracy at which blood pressure readings can be captured through the development of advanced wearable sensor technology.

The team of experts at Ulster University will also research a separate wearable device to monitor heart rhythm and identify any irregularities that could be a sign of heart disease.

The research is being carried out as part of the Connected Health Early Stage Researcher Support System (CHESS), Europe's first connected health PhD training programme. The CHESS programme will deliver PhD training to 18 students from seven European countries. It aims to develop multi-disciplinary skills of scientists across health, education, industry and policy to enhance the global connected health sector.

Professor James McLaughlin, Director of the Engineering Research Institute at Ulster University said:"Ulster University is at the forefront of research in the connected health sector and is focused on developing cutting-edge technology to enhance patient care and deliver cost efficiencies for the healthcare industry.

"The University's research will enhance remote delivery of healthcare and encourage patients to take control of their own heart health. It will also increase the amount patient information available to clinicians without putting pressure on resources in hospitals and allow for more effective treatment. 

"As part of the CHESS PhD programme, Ulster University will also produce highly skilled connected health researchers who will help to drive Northern Ireland's reputation in the healthcare technology sector."

As part of the CHESS programme, the research will be undertaken at Ulster University's Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) by Professor Jim McLaughlin, Dr. Dewar Finlay and Dr. Daniel Guldenring.