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Researchers to develop portable hormone monitoring device

The device is hoped to help women identify symptoms that could be signs of common female health conditions

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Scientists from Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University are working on a new portable device that could help women track and monitor their health and hormones.

The gadget will be smaller than an iPhone and will keep track of the full picture of women’s health, from period symptoms to hormone fluctuations, mood and sleep.

The device is hoped to help women identify symptoms that could be signs of common health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and alert them when they would need to see a doctor.

The researchers hope it will capture data on a variety of fertility-related hormones, like luteinising hormone, which stimulates ovulation, and others like thyroid-stimulating hormone.

The project, led by Dr Sadeque Reza Khan, a specialist in biomedical devices and sensing in Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Sensors, Signals and Systems, is funded by the Scottish Government.

Improving women’s healthcare

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the waiting list for gynaecology appointments, diagnosis and treatment has soared up to 60 per cent recently, affecting more than half a million female patients.

A study conducted by the RCOG in 2022 shows such delays can significantly affect women’s physical and mental health, as well as their quality of life.

“We’re working on building a device that will be about half the size of an iPhone and completely portable. Women will be able to take it everywhere,” explained Dr Khan.

“Women will be able to test both blood and urine, as well as record symptoms, which will provide the most accurate and real-time picture of their health. The device will transfer key data wirelessly to an app, and share it with a gynaecologist.

“At Heriot-Watt we are working on the hardware development and miniaturisation aspect of the device, which is critical as we envision a portable female health monitoring device which women can carry anywhere and reliably use without any hassle.”

Dr Khan is working with viO HealthTech, whose OvuSense device provides continuous general monitoring of the reproductive cycle, and Dr Ruchi Gupta from the University of Birmingham, an expert in developing biosensors.

Rob Milnes, CEO of viO HealthTech, said: “Our users tell us they want access to personalised health information and insights that can help them make informed decisions about their health not only when issues occur, but to avoid those issues in the first place.

“This project offers the exciting prospect of targeted diagnostics added to our existing monitoring system”

Dr Ruchi Gupta from the University of Birmingham, added: “We have been developing our leaky waveguide (LW) biosensor to measure different types of biomarkers; proteins, DNA, hormones, and even cells.

“Our LW biosensor will be at the heart of the gadget for women’s health monitoring. Our partnership with Dr Khan and viO HealthTech will be a key step in the translation of our LW biosensor from bench to bedside. ”

Concept to commercialisation

The team have already started working on the project and, once they have proof of concept, they want to start focusing on making the device commercially available.

“As well as making sure we meet all regulatory requirements, we need to ensure that women can afford the device,” said Khan.

“We’re focused on making sure we are using affordable, sustainable materials that will make this available to a greater number of women.”

Professor Steve McLaughlin, deputy principal of research and impact at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The development of this device demonstrates how our new centre of excellence will support the creation of ground-breaking technologies that have the potential to revolutionise patient care.

“Bringing together academics and industry experts, we want to accelerate the process of bringing these vital developments to market.

“We already have several research projects underway and the next 12 months are going to be a really exciting time as we showcase our developments on the global stage.”

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Start-up launches London Underground campaign to break down period stigma

The two-week campaign seeks to challenge societal taboos surrounding menstrual health

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The Irish women’s health start-up Riley has launched an ad campaign on the London Underground to “take the fear out of periods”.

Riley, an eco-friendly period product subscription service, aims to take action against period poverty and democratise access to period products.

The company seeks to encourage the introduction of menstrual health policies and foster a workplace where discussions around periods are normalised.

Its two-week London Underground campaign, which coincides with the opening of its first office in London, is hoped to help destigmatise periods and normalise conversations around menstrual health.

“The idea behind this campaign comes from the fact that free period care in the office is often seen as an employee perk or a ‘nice to have’, when it should actually be an essential offering in every office,” Meaghan Droney, eCommerce manager at Riley, told Femtech World.

“Our aim with this campaign is to flip those current mindsets and get people to change their attitudes towards period care in the workplace.

“With 79 per cent of menstruators feeling unsupported in relation to their periods at work, this oversight is clearly fundamentally unfair and it’s time for change.

“We’re encouraging any and all businesses to get in touch with us so we can support them in introducing menstrual policies and free period care in their workplace to empower all employees, no matter their gender, to thrive and feel valued at work.”

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that only 12 per cent of UK companies provide support for menstruation and menstrual health, despite 85 per cent of women experiencing stress or anxiety when managing their period at work.

Data suggests that half of the women who take absence because of their menstrual cycle feel unable to tell their manager, underscoring the deep-rooted stigma around periods.

Fiona Parfrey, co-founder of Riley, said: “Access to safe and high-quality sustainable period care products not only demonstrates a commitment to employee welfare but also fosters a culture of empathy, equality, and respect, ultimately contributing to a more engaged and empowered workforce.

“Menstrual policies and free period care are a fundamental necessity for every individual in the workplace. It’s about ensuring that employees have the resources they need to maintain their wellbeing and productivity without interruption.”

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Singapore-based fertility centre sets up grant for couples struggling to conceive

This grant aims to support eligible Singaporean couples facing financial and family planning challenges

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A Singapore-based fertility centre is to set up a grant to support couples struggling to conceive.

Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore (VFCS) announced that it would set up a grant to support aspiring parents on their IVF journey.

The initial grant is set for at $50,000 SGD and, depending on the take-up rate over the next 12 fiscal months, VFCS plans to increase the pool to benefit more couples in the subsequent years.

The grant will cover the main costs associated with IVF treatments and procedures, including embryo retrieval and transfer, laboratory services and embryo prep. It will also be applicable to fresh and frozen egg transfers.

As grant recipients, their samples will similarly be given a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, a service VFCS provides for all its patients. It locks the patient’s identity with the respective sample. The RFID identifies gametes—eggs, sperms, or embryos—at every stage of the IVF treatment.

According to VFCS, the grant will also include access to counselling services and wellness resources.

“I’ve witnessed firsthand the emotional toll and occasional frustration that infertility can take on individuals and couples, especially for some who are still young and healthy,” said Dr Roland Chieng, medical director at VFCS.

“The common deterrent of going for fertility treatment is always associated with the cost, more so in a private care setting where their only source of funds is through Medisave.

“By alleviating their financial concerns, we hope ReadyBaby Fertility Grant empowers patients to approach their IVF journey, focusing on their clinical needs and working towards a healthy pregnancy and less on financials.

“With access to the necessary treatments and support, patients can embark on their path to parenthood with renewed confidence, knowing they have the clinical resources and guidance they need to navigate this journey,” he added.

Tim Kwan, VFCS’s managing director, said: “We believe every couple deserves the opportunity to experience the profound joy of parenthood.

“With the ReadyBaby Fertility Grant, we aim to support aspiring couples on their IVF journey and help them bring new life into the world.”

To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be married Singaporean couples diagnosed with medical infertility by a fertility specialist and first-time parents who have not tried IVF before.

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Canadian insurer launches partnership to support women’s health

Members of the Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross will have access to a dedicated women’s health platform

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Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving

The Canadian insurer Medavie Blue Cross (MBC) has partnered with the virtual health platform sanoLiving to support women on their menopause journey.

Currently, more than 10 million Canadian women are navigating menopause, often with little support and misinformation about treatments.

With sanoMidLife, sanoLiving’s online menopause platform, Medavie Blue Cross members will have access to a national women’s health platform tailored to provide care and services for women going through the menopause.

The service includes personalised assessments, access to clinicians, treatments, educational content, peer support and AI assistance.

“Many women lack support for their menopause transition due to the misunderstandings of what is ‘normal’ and misinformation about treatments,” said Angela Johnson, co-founder and CEO of sanoLiving.

“Women are seeking solutions that allow them to thrive during midlife. We are thrilled about our alliance with Medavie Blue Cross, and our shared commitment to providing access to care that empowers women.”

Anita Swamy, senior vice president operations at Medavie Blue Cross, added: “We’ve heard first-hand from our members about the need for more menopause-related services.

“Our partnership with sanoLiving creates an innovative way to increase access to care for our members as we continue to focus on the support women need to navigate their benefits and provide forward-thinking options to support their health.”

Studies report one in 10 women exit the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms. Early onset of menopause and symptoms before age 45 can elevate the risk of health issues like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis.

With this new service, Medavie Blue Cross and sanoLiving are aiming to open up the conversation around menopause, reduce stigma and work towards giving women the access to the care they need.

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