Student competition to find the most practical test to measure heart failure

Make a biosensor that signals overexertion of the heart in time. This is the task assigned by the SensUs international student competition to be held on 8 and 9 September on the campus of TU Eindhoven. Ten universities from nine countries will be competing in the second edition that is once again being organized by TU/e students with the aim of accelerating the development of biosensors. Thanks to an online platform, people from all over the world can observe the activities of the ten participating teams.

A biosensor is a small instrument that is able to quickly and easily reveal the presence of certain substances in the blood or urine. Examples of biosensors currently in use include a glucose meter for diabetes patients or a pregnancy test. Biosensors are becoming increasingly more important in health care. They can give care providers information faster, for instance, in acute situations where treatment has to be determined on the spot. They can also enable patients to gain more control over their own lives. 

Detecting heart failure in time

The goal of SensUs 2017 is to develop a biosensor that can measure the concentration of the NT-proBNP protein in the blood. This protein is a key indicator of heart failure. The heart produces this protein if it becomes strained or overexerted, for example. Without treatment this can rapidly lead to tiredness, fluid in the lungs or even cardiac arrest. A biosensor should enable doctors or nurses, or even patients themselves, to signal heart failure in time and limit the serious effects.  

Ten teams from nine countries

Ten teams are taking part in SensUs2017, twice as many as the first edition last year. They come from nine different countries including Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, Egypt and the United States. A jury, comprising representatives from industry, academia and the healthcare sector, will select the winners in technical and creative categories as well as present an award to the biosensor considered the most promising for commercial applications. A public prize will go to the team that gains the most votes from the public. 

The Eindhoven team T.E.S.T. has incorporated an innovative concept from research at TU/e in its biosensor. “We have reduced an experiment that requires almost a whole lab to a small device measuring just twenty centimeters by twenty,” says team member Imke van der Schoor. The principle is based on magnetically sensitive particles that bind to the proteins. “Our biosensor is potentially faster, cheaper and more precise than the tests that are available in the market."

Digital platform

The goal of this globally unique student competition is to stimulate education and innovation in the field of biosensors. According to Menno Prins, TU/e professor of molecular biosensors and founder of the competition, students produce highly creative ideas. “And the fact that patient organizations and companies are involved in SensUs increases the chance that promising solutions will become of use for society.” 

The innovation is also inherent in the competition itself says Prins. “Each year there is a different central topic but we also want to experiment with something new each year.” This year that’s a digital platform called SensUs Digital, built entirely by TU/e Software Science students, that will enable people from all over the world to observe the competition. “We have fifteen live streams, the results of the biosensors will be shown live, people can vote online, and students are ready to take any questions that are asked,” explains Eliene Rutten, one of the students organizing this year’s SensUs. 

Program

The competition is spread across two days. On Friday 8 September the biosensors will be tested and Saturday is the general public and award ceremony day. On both days there are lectures, pitches and an information market. The public is most welcome to attend both days and entry is free of charge. The location is the Auditorium on the campus of TU/e. For more information and registration to vote, go to www.sensus.org