About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 31, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 20
APL Licenses Heart Sound Analysis Technology Developed with SOM

By Paulette Campbell
Applied Physics Laboratory

The Applied Physics Laboratory has signed an exclusive agreement with Zargis Medical Corp., of Princeton, N.J., to license computer-assisted heart sound analysis technology developed jointly by Johns Hopkins researchers at APL and the School of Medicine.

The technology — a pathologic murmur screening system — was developed over the last six years as part of the Lab's work in signal processing techniques and algorithms originally created for detecting and classifying submarines.

"Just as the Navy has been listening to ocean sounds for years to distinguish a whale from a submarine, so have cardiologists been listening to distinguish between normal heart sounds and pathological ones," said APL physicist Scott Hayek. "Signal processing technology can be used for both tasks."

APL's involvement in this area began in the mid-1990s, when the National Security Technology Department's Joe Lombardo set about applying time-frequency analysis to the detection of pathologic heart conditions with a stethoscope. Hayek extended this work, joining forces with cardiologist Reid Thompson and his large and growing set of comprehensive heart sound files collected at the School of Medicine. Together, Hayek and Thompson developed a wavelet-based, time-frequency murmur diagnostic instrument.

Studies have shown that primary care physicians often refer patients to cardiologists at the first sign of a suspicious heart sound, and often many of these patients don't have a pathological condition. These needless referrals result in wasted money, needless worry and administrative burdens.

According to Hayek, an automated analysis of digitized clinical information, such as heart sounds, could have major implications for healthcare delivery systems using telemedicine, for primary care physicians and for settings where a trained health professional is not always available, i.e., pre-sports participation physicals and exams performed in remote areas.

The license with the Lab will give Zargis exclusive commercial rights to APL's signal processing algorithms and other intellectual property, including an extensive cardiac research database of some 6,500 recordings from more than 1,200 individuals. Under the agreement, Zargis also will support further research at APL and the School of Medicine to continue development of the technology.


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |