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Nov 17, 2021
Respira Labs Invents a New Way of Remotely Monitoring COPD, COVID-19 and Asthma Patients at Home

Chest wearable uses tiny speakers and microphones to inject noise in lungs and ‘listen’ for lung resonance changes to detect unhealthy lung air trapping 

Mountain View, Calif. – Nov. 17, 2021 – Respira Labs, a medical technology company specializing in respiratory care, today announces a new wearable which continuously and easily assesses lung function, without requiring patients to blow into anything. Designed initially to assess COPD, COVID-19 and asthma patients, the wearable patch has embedded speakers and microphones which measure changes in acoustic resonance as a proxy for changes in lung air volume, the basis of pulmonary function testing.

The wearable, called Sylvee, is worn by patients on the lower part of the rib cage. It is paid for by Medicare and monitors the lung function over time to provide a comprehensive overview of a patient’s condition.

Sylvee ‘injects’ noise into the lung area and then measures the type of sound that is produced. Like a thump on a drum, if there is air trapped in the lung the sound it makes differs from the resonance of sound produced when air is fully expelled from the lungs. Air trapping is a central and early symptom of respiratory decline. The Sylvee app uses DSP (digital signal processing) and AI to analyze the results which pulmonologists and primary care physicians can review, looking specifically at lung volume, capacity, rates of flow and trapped air.

“Well-established science shows that air trapping can be measured with more than 90% accuracy using low-frequency sound. There is a clear difference in the acoustic resonance spectra of COPD patients versus healthy controls,” explained Dr. Maria Artunduaga, Respira Lab’s founder and CEO. “With more than 100 million Americans affected by COPD, COVID-19 and asthma, and with an aging population, it can be lifesaving to remotely and accurately monitor lung function and discover a problem early enough to avoid serious consequences. Our goal is to flag abnormalities early, enable earlier treatment at home and empower patients to manage their  own health.”

The Sylvee Technology

Sylvee takes the concept of ultrasound to the next level, using sound to assess lung health rather than to create images. The device uses off-the-shelf sensors similar to the technology in hearing aids. The sensors in the device connect to a Smartphone app where proprietary algorithms and machine learning convert active sound signals into acoustic resonance signatures. 

Dr. Artunduaga said, “The device facilitates early diagnosis and management of acute deterioration, which is what respiratory patients must avoid. We provide vital information to doctors and patients so they can make the medical treatment changes earlier and prevent hospitalizations.” 

“This is what happened with my grandmother,” Dr. Artunduaga continued. “She suffered from COPD and had a sudden exacerbation of her symptoms and tragically died. I left my medical career and devoted myself to devise the Sylvee--which is named after my grandmother--because of this terrible and common outcome.”

Speaking to the medical impact of Sylvee, Pulmonologist and Intensivist at the Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Institute Luis Peña-Hernández, MD FCCP, said, “Sylvee is a tool that could allow us to intervene early when patients with chronic lung conditions develop air trapping, which is a consequence of bronchial spasm or narrowing. Patients could receive early medical care that could prevent an exacerbation of asthma or COPD. So besides the obvious economic impact, it could be a game changer improving people’s lives; minimizing a disruption in their quality of life, and preventing exacerbations of their chronic lung condition.”

“It’s very likely that these early interventions could translate into improved survival. However, we still need data that supports that hypothesis,” Peña-Hernández continued.

Respira Labs has set a goal of achieving 90% accuracy in measuring air trapping by pursuing a large trial of more than 500 patients located both in the U.S. and internationally. They also intend to publish in top journals by late 2022. The device is currently in prototype with FDA clearance expected within the next 18 months. 

About Respira Labs

Founded by Harvard and UC Berkeley-trained scientist and translational physician, Dr. Maria Artunduaga, Respira Labs helps patients with respiratory diseases through a wearable lung-function monitoring device using acoustic resonance technology. The company has been granted three patents for its technology, and the team includes hardware, software, data science and clinical experts. Since its founding in 2018, the company has received $2 million in grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit https://www.respiralabs.com/