New at CES: A "Lab" You Can Wear on Your Arm

"You forget that it’s there."
Paul Ratner
Lingo biowearable sensor. Via: Abbott Labs / YouTube.

Wearable biotech is big at CES 2022.

In a keynote address at the conference, Robert Ford, the chairman of the board and CEO of Abbott Labs, announced his company's bid to help people keep track of what's happening inside their bodies. Products in the company's new "Lingo" line are consumer-oriented “biowearable” sensors that monitor glucose, ketone, lactate and alcohol levels. Ford says Lingo could lead to an “unprecedented understanding of human metabolism” that would spur breakthroughs in health and athletic performance.

Another device Ford focused on was the FreeStyle Libre diabetes sensor. The device measures glucose every minute, both day and night, using a small sensor on the back of the arm and an app. “It’s like wearing a lab and you forget that it’s there,” explained Ford. He said it’s the most affordable and widely-used glucose monitor in the world.

While sharing stories of people who benefitted from Abbott devices, Ford said his company would be developing more sensors and testing technology because “precise and personalized medical devices can take the guesswork out of preventative care and disease management”. These devices would aim to help people like those living with heart disease to live fully.  For example, the CardioMEMS remote monitoring platform helps patients at risk for heart failure. Every night, the pillow of a patient wearing this implant sends data received from the device to the doctors, alerting them if there are any issues.

Ford also demonstrated Neurosphere Virtual Clinic, a technology for Parkinson’s patients which involves neuro-modulation, delivering low-intensity impulses to the nerve structure to suppress tremors.

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CEO Robert Ford of Abbott Labs at CES 2022.
CEO Robert Ford of Abbott Labs at CES 2022. Via CES 2022.

Dr. Fiona Gupta of Mount Sinai Health Systems expounded further that neuro-modulation uses weak pulses of electricity to modulate brain function to help restore movement in the body. The NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic, the first of its kind technology, would allow for remote care, with doctors not only being able to see their patients remotely but to truly optimize their care. No more waiting in line at the doctor’s office.

This would be “huge” for patients with movement disorders, Gupta said. She showed a video that demonstrated how the NeuroSphere technology would work, with the remote doctor being able to control the tremor symptoms of a patient in real-time through an online interface. That means patients can be more comfortable and doctors can learn about environmental factors at home that might affect patients' recovery.

Ford also lauded their company’s stress on improving testing as a means towards achieving much better outcomes for people with almost any illness, not just COVID, for which Abbott Labs developed BinaxNOW, one of the most popular at-home tests. What if a child wakes up in the middle of a night, feeling ill, asked Ford? What if you could test them immediately right there at home and know what is wrong? Abbott Labs is working to achieve that goal.

Dr. Hakim Bouzamondo, who leads research into nutrition for Abbott Labs, described another direction the company is actively exploring — the microbiome. “Nutrition powers the health of your entire body, he shared.” Hakim asked attendees to imagine foods engineered to react well with the trillions of microorganisms living inside a patient's gut. These foods would be specifically perfect for whatever ails you, fine-tuning your health. Understanding the secrets inside the gut can lead technology there.

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