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AUS medical invention wins international awards
A medical mobile application to detect sleep apnea developed by engineering students at American University of Sharjah (AUS) is being recognized with numerous awards from both local and international organizations.
Shamma Al Qassim, Mahdumeta Ganesh, Shaheen Khoja and Meher Zaidi, computer engineering students at the AUS College of Engineering, have designed a phone application that they named Sleep Apnea Monitor (SAM) which helps diagnose and monitor sleep apnea patients by utilizing some of the phone's built-in features, in a cost-effective and comfortable manner. The application is designed to run on both Windows and Android mobile phones.
Since its unveiling in March 2012, SAM has won numerous awards including the du Mobile Development Award; second place in the Microsoft Imagine Cup UAE competition; second place in the 7th National Mobile Contest organized by Khalifa University and Khalifa Fund; third place in the IEEE Competition as well as first place in the AUS College of Engineering Senior Design Competition.
"The idea is to use the built-in phone features such as the microphone and the accelerometer to detect snoring levels and movement patterns during sleeping and then deduce whether the user suffers from sleep apnea or not," said Dr. Fadi Aloul, Associate Professor of Computer Engineering at AUS, who was the team's faculty advisor alongside Dr. Assim Sagahyroon, Associate Professor and Head of the Computer Engineering Department. "Users suffering from sleep apnea tend to snore and turn while sleeping as less oxygen is passed to their lungs. The application uses intelligent algorithms to analyze the collected data and deduce whether he/she suffers from mild or severe sleep apnea. The application can be used as a preliminary diagnosis tool that is easily and freely used from home. In case the user is suspected of having sleep apnea, he can then visit a specialized physician for advanced checkup. Note that hospital tests are usually expensive and require the user to spend a night at the hospital with wires and sensors connected to various parts of his body which might not be very comfortable," he added.
Characterized by the repetitive reduction of airflow during sleep, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder which requires regular monitoring. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 100 million people worldwide have OSA. In the Middle East, OSA research has been receiving greater interest from experts in the field over the years and a number of studies have been conducted in the area. A recent sleep study which began in September 2011 at Rashid Hospital in Dubai suggested that around 10 percent of the population in the UAE suffer from OSA.
The activation of the body's sympathetic nervous system that occurs as a result of this disease may also trigger a number of harmful health effects and cause dilatation of the pupils, stimulation of the sweat glands, dilation of blood vessels in large muscles and constriction of the vessels in other parts of the body. Moreover, it may cause increased heart rate and inhibit secretions in the digestive system. As a result, sleep apnea has proven to be associated with a number of serious medical conditions including hypertension, heart failure, coronary artery disease (CAD), arrhythmias, strokes, increased blood pressure and reduced neurocognitive functions caused by lack of sleep. In addition, sleep apnea increases the risks of road and traffic accidents, reduced work performance, and overall reduction of quality of life.
Some of the symptoms that sleep apnea patients commonly display include snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, choking or gasping for air following breathing disturbances, daytime sleepiness while carrying out routine tasks, headaches, dryness of throat in the morning, lack of concentration ability, urination at night, depression and irritability and obesity.
The Sleep Apnea Monitor project focusses on the development of a mobile application that uses voice recording software and the mobile's built-in accelerometer, where it records the users' breathing pattern and movement while they sleep as well as their geographic coordinates. The recorded data is then sent using WiFi or 3G to a server, which has statistical analysis software to analyze the signals. Results are then sent back to the user's phone and are also posted on a web interface which has a summary of the users' records. This allows specialists and authorized doctors to monitor the analyzed sleeping patterns and diagnose sleep apnea, if it exists. The system also has the capability to send text messages to patients to update them on their condition. Moreover, the analyzed data is stored on a database.
"In this project, we have designed and developed an easy-to-use and free smart phone application developed on multiple platforms (Windows and Android) to monitor and detect some of the symptoms of sleep apnea efficiently through the utilization of the phone's built-in features," said the students in a joint statement. "The purpose of our application, Sleep Apnea Monitor (SAM), is to allow users to get a sense of whether or not they are likely to have sleep apnea, before continuing with more expensive and specific sleep tests. In addition, SAM gives doctors and sleep specialists remote access to observe patients' conditions and locations and confirm their initial diagnosis. The quantities measured through this application are breathing patterns, movement patterns and geographical coordinates, which are recorded using the built-in microphone, accelerometer and GPS of the phone. The recorded data is then sent to a server for analyzing the results, diagnosing patients and maintaining geographical studies of areas with sleep apnea patterns."
"The team has worked very hard on this project for the past six months. They also have been in touch with two expert physicians in Tawam Hospital in Al Ain and Rashid Hospital in Dubai for testing the application on real patients and validating the results. We hope it will make a global impact soon," said Dr. Aloul. "I am very happy with the team's performance. The students worked for months on changing a simple idea into an actual product. And they were successful. I hope to see this product make an impact around the world and solve a common health problem. They made all of us at AUS proud!" he added.