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These smart threads could save lives – Science Nation

These smart threads could save lives – Science Nation


♪MUSIC♪ MILES O’BRIEN: Sometimes it
takes a village to save lives. Try these BioMedical Textiles on
for size. KAPIL DANDEKAR: We are looking
at making antennas out of knitted conductive materials and
as those antennas stretch due to say uterine contraction in a
pregnant woman or infant respiration, we can detect
changes in signal characteristics that come off of
that antenna and process that to infer what’s happening
biologically. MILES O’BRIEN: With support
from the National Science Foundation, a team including
electrical and computer engineer, Kapil Dandekar;
industrial and fashion designer, Genevieve Dion; and OBGYN Owen
Montgomery is creating this new generation of wearable medical
sensors. DR. OWEN MONTGOMERY: This is
a network analyzer. MILES O’BRIEN: Wireless RFID
technology is the heart of the design. KAPIL DANDEKAR: So when people
use EZPass in their car, well that’s an example of an RFID
system. Using that notion of RFID, we’re using that to
develop BioMedical smart textile sensors. MILES O’BRIEN: Such sensors
could be life savers for women with high-risk pregnancies. DR. OWEN MONTGOMERY: If we had
a tool that would help us identify women at risk of
pre-term birth and we had a tool that could then intervene, we
could reduce the number of babies that die simply from
prematurity. MILES O’BRIEN: This belly band
is designed to do just that. An in-home device similar to a baby
monitor would constantly track data from the RFID tag and alert
her doctor’s office over the Internet should she start
contractions. But what if the band were uncomfortable or even
just ugly? That’s where design and fabrication expertise comes
in. GENEVIEVE DION: If it doesn’t
fit well, you’ll be tugging on it and you won’t want to wear it
and then it’s useless. But also if it doesn’t interact well,
then it’s a gadget because you have to fuss with it. So I think
it has to be well designed so that we can be comfortable in
them but it also has to be well engineered in many ways so that
it functions properly. MILES O’BRIEN: Newborns at risk
of sleep apnea could wear a smaller version which would
monitor their breathing and immediately alert caregivers if
there were a problem. DR. OWEN MONTGOMERY: So you
have to know that whatever garment you’re going to put on,
if it’s a baby, it’s going to get wet. MILES O’BRIEN: They’re
experimenting with different fibers for the textiles and
testing low power antennas designed to transmit a constant
stream of health data remotely. TIM KURZWEG: We’re talking
about the electrical signal, or the ECG from the heart, and
actually turn that into a signal that can be transmitted from the
body without a battery. KAPIL DANDEKAR: I think it
really has the potential to revolutionize the way that we
look at healthcare. Instead of having to go to specialized
testing facilities, we’d be able to monitor people without having
them come into the hospital. MILES O’BRIEN: It’s human
centered service. BioMedical Textiles developed at the
intersection of engineering, medicine and design. Teamwork
like that is always in fashion. For Science Nation,
I’m Miles O’Brien.

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