The University of Malta will next year run a six-month study to test a new type of heart monitor, made by a Maltese company, that will not require the complications of wiring the patient.

The university was chosen to test the efficacy of the 24-hour ECG Holter monitor before it is produced and released onto the medical market.

The new product is a simple patch placed onto the skin with water, explained Victor Grech, the lecturer, paediatrician and cardiologist who will be responsible for the study.

A tattoo-like sensor will replace the bulkier Holter monitor and provide all the information doctors need to monitor a patient’s heart over a period of time.

Umana Medical Technologies, a Maltese enterprise, has created a tiny device, the Umana T1, which wirelessly captures and analyses in real-time the cardiac electrical activity (ECG) in a non-invasive manner.

Prof. Grech said the device is attached to a sensor on the skin and monitors the patient’s heartbeat and rhythm, data which it transfers wirelessly to an application that maps the results for doctors to read and interpret.

Malta is the ideal place for such a study

The fact that the device is wireless means that it is easier to carry out the test on children.

The test is usually run for 24 to 48 hours while the patient goes about their daily routine. The lack of wires will make the results even more precise.

Prof. Grech explained that the Maltese company wants the study to verify the effectiveness of the device and its accuracy compared to the widely-used Holter.

In the Maltese product, a tattoo-like sensor will replace the bulkier ECG Holter monitor seen here. Photo: ShutterstockIn the Maltese product, a tattoo-like sensor will replace the bulkier ECG Holter monitor seen here. Photo: Shutterstock

Patients in the test will wear both the Holter and the new device when running the tests so the results can be compared.

“Malta is the ideal place for such a study. Our health system is open to clinical trials and we have the potential to develop into a pharma and medtech hub,” Prof. Grech told Malta Profile in an interview about other work at the University of Malta.

He told The Sunday Times of Malta: “Our commitment to this can also be seen in our Life Sciences Park, which today hosts lab space and offices. Academics and industry should also look at Malta, because it is easy to conduct long-term, population-based studies here,” he continued.

Asked about the main challenges that medical research faced in Malta, Prof. Grech pointed to excessive bureaucracy and finding people who believe in investing in an idea.

He said the university had developed a course for academics that would help them write and publish a scientific paper. “We are already running this course in London and plan to take it to the Middle East next year,” he said.

“The future is good, because the potential is great. All we need are ideas – generated by industry or academia. I believe Malta can become a hub with global reach if we foster greater cooperation between scientific minds.

“In the short to medium term, Brexit might also turn out to be an opportunity. While the UK’s exit from the EU might lead to difficulties for researchers in the UK in terms of access to EU funds, other EU Member States, including Malta, might benefit.

“Now is a good opportunity to promote Malta as a hub for pharmaceuticals and medical technology solutions,” he added.

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