06 Sep 2023
ICFO-led consortium now moves to commercialize its near-IR device.
Led by Spain's ICFO research center, the VASCOVID project was founded in December 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the discovery that the disease caused damage to blood vessels that can then induce strokes, renal failure or heart injury.
It was one of 13 projects launched in response to an emergency call from the European Commission for innovative actions to address the pandemic and its aftermath, through development of medical technologies and digital tools.
Since the previous August ICFO had already led an initiative named Hemocovid-19, formed to develop a near-IR spectroscopy device and associated algorithms specifically for the monitoring of microvascular health in Covid-19 patients staying in intensive care units.
That project discovered that the microcirculation of Covid-19 patients was altered by the disease, and that the severity of these alterations was related to the severity of the acute respiratory distress syndrome they experienced.
VASCOVID aimed to build on those findings, and compensate for some shortcomings in Hemocovid-19 that had been identified but were inevitable in a project founded with such urgency. In particular, Hemocovid-19 used commercially available near-IR spectroscopy devices, which did not necessarily deliver optimized accuracy and precision.
The device duly developed by VASCOVID employs two core technologies, time-resolved near-IR spectroscopy (TRS) which measures total hemoglobin content and oxygen saturation; and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) which assesses the blood flow in the vasculature under examination.
Clinical uses in post-ICU therapy and neuromonitoring
DCS, which analyzes diffused light returning from illuminated areas of tissue and detecting the speckled spectral signals of blood cells in motion, is expected to have a significant impact in clinical applications. A 2022 SPIE report on diffuse optical techniques for human brain imaging indicated that "an exciting era of technology transfer is emerging" for DCS in biomedicine.
"By integrating these technologies with near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), the device measures the microvascular blood oxygen saturation, the blood flow and the estimated oxygen metabolism," commented ICFO in its VASCOVID summary.
"Furthermore, by means of a provocative test, the technology also allows for the assessment of microvascular reactivity, reflecting endothelial function. The platform measures in a non-invasive way, and gives accurate and robust information in real-time, that clinicians can use to make decisions regarding the health status of the patients."
At the conclusion of VASCOVID the project had developed two portable prototype devices, which were assessed and validated to ensure compliance with current regulations. More than two hundred patients and healthy volunteers have been tested, according to ICFO.
The team will now move towards commercialization of the VASCOVID platform, alongside investigations into use of the device in post-ICU personalized physiotherapy. Other applications could include neuromonitoring, where a proof-of-principle has already been developed, the assessment of new biomarkers, or managing fluid resuscitation when hemodynamics is restored to damage tissues.