The goal of this project is to develop a low cost, non-invasive system for diagnosis of serious heart rate and rhythm abnormalities in fetus. Postnatally, electrocardiography (ECG) is the gold standard for rhythm assessment. In the fetus, however, the quality of the ECG is too poor for clinical use due to low conductivity of the fetal skin and vernix, which restricts the electrical currents generated by fetal cardiac activity from reaching the maternal surface. In recent years, fetal magnetocardiography (fMCG) has emerged as a promising new tool that overcomes the weaknesses of fetal ECG by detecting magnetic fields instead of electric potentials generated by fetal cardiac activity. Despite its high efficac, fMCG has not been widely adopted due to its reliance on superconductor technology, which is prohibitively expensive and cumbersome. The system that we propose to develop will use latest room-temperate optical magnetometers to drastically reduce the cost of fMCG. Currently, the cost of a fully functional fMCG system is approximately one million dollars. The proposed technology can reduce the price of an fMCG system to $100,000.
The goal of the research is to develop a new magnetic sensor technology for fetal magnetocardiography, a highly promising method of assessing serious fetal heart rate and rhythm disorders. The new sensor technology, which is based on principles of atomic physics, is far more practical and cost-effective than the current technology, which is based on superconductor physics.