Getting under your skin

Robert Amelard (BSE ’11, MASc ’13, PhD ’17)

AmelardWaterloo alumnus Robert Amelard (BSE ’11, MASc ’13, PhD ’17), has been making headlines with a new portable touchless system that enables whole-body blood flow monitoring using patent-pending technology called Coded Hemodynamic Imaging.

Accompanied by a light source, the device uses medical hardware design and digital signal processing to produce data and a visualization of blood pulsing at various parts of the body. More complex than what your typical video camera would capture, the device can see deeper into
the skin, highlighting the blood flow.

“Looking at the medical imaging systems widely used today, like x-ray, CT, MRI or ultrasound, they share one common trait: they make the invisible visible,” says Amelard, whose device relies on the interaction of light with blood. Plus, it’s safe: no threatening radiation, just the type of light you would experience walking outside on a sunny day.

“Biomedical imaging systems let us see cancer before it has spread, a bone healing after injury and babies before they are born,” says Amelard. “What inspires me most is building innovative technology to empower physicians to make data-driven diagnoses and monitor treatment efficacy.”

The magic of Amelard’s system is that it doesn’t require a physician to touch the patient to observe blood flow. This is critical in cases of severe burns, or small babies in incubation. It also lets doctors observe the entire body’s blood flow at the same time as one system.

This real-time visual feedback about blood flow is drawing excitement in stroke pre-screening, critical care monitoring and early detection of heart failure, as well as monitoring changes in intracranial pressure.

“It’s very easy to think that, ‘if you can’t feel it, it’s not a problem.’ Our health-care system primarily relies on us individuals to self-detect and discuss a physical symptom with a health-care professional,” he says. “But, it’s much better to catch these diseases earlier than when the symptoms present themselves.”