A revolutionary new tampon might be on the way that will be able to test for STIs and cancer.
A startup called NextGen Jane, focused on helping women to take their health into their own hands, is developing a so-called “smart tampon”. The startup’s founders Ridhi Tariyal and Stephen Gire met while working at Harvard University in an infectious disease lab and one day realised that blood and cells collected by menstrual products could potentially be utilised to diagnose health problems.
The researchers hope to develop a tampon that will test for biomarkers that can diagnose medical conditions such as cervical cancer, endometriosis and fertility issues. They are also hoping women using it will be empowered to take control of their own health instead of relying on doctors.
In an interview with Fast Company, Ridhi Tariyal said:
“We had to come up with something that would allow women to find out about these conditions sooner than every year. You can pick up a disease any time, and letting it sit there for a year until your next visit can have consequences downstream that you don’t want. The system has to change.”
“I was thinking about how to get a large enough volume of blood to do this,” she said.
“Until I realized that we actually bleed quite a bit every month.”
Tariyal then came up with the idea of using a tampon as a tool that doubles for collecting women’s blood.
If the technology is right, it may even test the blood for a range of biomarkers and send the information to a database allowing a woman to track her reproductive health over time – it would be wearable tech, but for your vaginal and reproductive health.
The product is still in the research and development phase and the pair aren’t giving too much away at this stage.
“We have to get to a place where we have working, high-quality tests for enough conditions that it actually makes it worthwhile for women to test themselves every month,” Tariyal said.