By Ashley Mackin
At an awards banquet in Colorado on Oct. 12, La Jolla scientist and athlete Jim Matthie received the Adams State University Outstanding Alumnus Award for his development of Bioimpedance Spectroscopy (BIS) technology.
In the early 1990s, Matthie put together Xitron Technologies, Inc. and through it, co-created BIS, which has been employed as an important tool to assist with renal (kidney) dialysis and weight loss.
BIS technology uses a small electronic current to determine how much water is outside the cells of the body and how much is inside the cells. To measure such, small electrodes are placed on the hand and foot, and a safe current at varying frequencies are sent through the body. The higher end ones go straight through the cells and the total impedance is measured. The current at lower frequencies goes around cells and the impedance of the water outside the cells is measured, which is known as hydration status. From the two, one can determine how much water is inside the body’s cells (muscle).
For those with kidney issues, having the right balance of fluids is key, because too much water causes “fluid overload,” Matthie said. “When you’re over-hydrated, it causes severe hypertension and that severe hypertension is a known risk factor for heart failure. Your heart’s left ventricle gets larger and eventually it fails. Within five years, 50 percent of all dialysis patients die from heart failure.”
Peer-reviewed medical journals have reported that fluid overload measured by BIS is the number one predictor of mortality, which is prevalent in 25 percent of kidney dialysis patients. With two million people on dialysis worldwide, the identification and removal of the excess fluid translates into potentially hundreds of thousands of lives being saved each year.
Matthie’s company’s BIS technology was sold to Fresenius Medical Care, the world’s largest renal therapy company, and marketed as the Body Composition Monitor, and used in their facilities.
Matthie’s work has also earned the acclaim and collaboration of Dr. Rob Huizenga, the advisor to the weight-loss show “The Biggest Loser”. Matthie and Huizenga use Xitron’s BIS technology on “The Biggest Loser,” contestants’ to monitor their fat, muscle and hydration status.
“It’s been a great partnership because with his technology we’ve been able to plumb the depths of body composition changes in these obese individuals who lose huge amounts of weight,” Huizenga said.
In weight loss, Huizenga said, BIS technology detects changes in fluids and can give a more accurate reads as to how much muscle is gained or lost. He pointed out that in weight loss , there hasn’t been technology to measure whether it’s fat, water or muscle that is lost.
Huizenga said, “That is a huge thing to know for people who are losing weight because we don’t want them to lose muscle.”
While he said he is excited about the award from Adams University, Matthie added that he has his eyes on another prize. “If you’re going to have the big party in Stockholm, I have to at least be invited,” he joked about the Nobel Prize.
In addition to his achievements in science, Matthie said he believes his accomplishments in business and sports are equally important. “Obviously the impact of the medical technology I co-developed for extending and improving life is the primary interest, but that resulted from who I am,” Matthie said in an e-mail to La Jolla Light. “And who I am is an athlete, scientist and businessman, the three cannot be disconnected.”
Matthie has competed in varying forms of martial arts, including Judo and Russian Sombo, and was an All-American in collegiate Greco-Roman wrestling. In 1987, he won the AAU National Sombo Championship and competed in the Sombo World Championships.