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Teen Scientist Develops Revolutionary Sepsis Diagnostic Test with HRV Integration

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Teen Scientist Develops Revolutionary Sepsis Diagnostic Test with HRV Integration

Meet Sai Sangeetha Balaji, a high schooler from the Houston area who is making herself known in the world of science! We met Sai through her mother, Malathy Muthu, also a scientist, who is currently working with HeartMath’s research team on various citizen science projects.

When Sai shared her own groundbreaking research project with us, we jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the person behind the innovation. And what we learned about her bright mind and wise heart, we are excited to share.

After suddenly losing a family member last year to complications leading to sepsis shock and quick organ failure, Sai and her family became very interested in what heart rate variability (HRV) could help them understand about sepsis and how it could potentially help others. They purchased an Inner Balance® device and began a deep dive into HeartMath® technology and techniques. Sai also enrolled in the certification course, Building Personal Resilience, and became a HeartMath® Coach/Mentor.

In her project, Improving Machine Learning Based Sepsis Diagnosis Using Heart Rate Variability, which won first place at local and regional science fairs, Sai integrates her knowledge of HRV with an AI program that she invented and coded in order to aid doctors with early detection of Sepsis in patients. Sepsis is currently the third leading cause of death in US hospitals.

Sai recently got accepted to present these findings at the 46th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC) in Orlando, Florida, scheduled for the Summer of 2024.

Sai receiving grand judging award in 2024 SCI://TECH Exposition

Sai receiving grand judging award in 2024 SCI://TECH Exposition from Kevin Brady, ex-Congressmen from Texas (in the center of the picture), sponsored by the Chevron Phillips Chemical Company for the Senior High Science Fair Awards Ceremony.

Sai insists that her invention is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment, but she maintains that her program, which integrates HRV as early detection, could be used in the future to potentially save many lives.

Sai, who is currently a sophomore, has already been recognized for this and other projects in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field. We sat down to interview her to get to know her better and what we found is that her intellectual intelligence is only surpassed by the brilliance of her heart. Sai is passionate about supporting the mental and emotional well-being of fellow teenagers, who she knows first-hand, deal with many pressures from school and the world.

Sai is motivated to bring the self-regulation techniques she has learned with HeartMath to more of her colleagues. Her favorite on-the-go technique is "Quick Coherence®," which she uses regularly during the school day, especially in preparation for tests and assignments. In order to "keep up the strength" of her coherence practice, Sai says she uses simple repeating activities throughout the day as reminders to "get in sync" like each time she walks through a doorway or opens her laptop.

It just takes a few moments, she maintains, to get into a coherent state. Doing this, she says, has helped her manage stress, think more clearly on assignments, and even get excited about new challenges like tests.

Sai's Science Fair poster board on Pioneering Predictions

Sai’s Science Fair poster board on Pioneering Predictions: A Novel AI Approach Using Heart Rate Variability for Sepsis and SIRS Detection.

Sai is passionately interested in neuroscience and cardiology. She believes that deepening her studies and practice in HRV and coherence will allow her to have the best of both worlds in her future research of the nervous system and improving well-being. "The heart sends five times more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart," Sai explained. "I start all conversations about the brain with that."

Sai is hopeful about the future and confident in herself and her peers’ ability to improve the conditions they see.

"We all want the world to be a better place and we’re all in this together … and we [teenagers] bring each other up; lift each other up … We just want you to trust us … that the world is in great and capable hands."

Sai Sangeetha Balaji

Please take a few moments to watch this inspiring interview – through the eyes and heart of a teenager.