Advanced e-textiles for wearable therapeutics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Sch of of Electronics and Computer Sci

Abstract

E-textiles are advanced textiles that include electronic functionality such as conductive tracks to sensing/actuating, communications and microprocessing. The emergence of advanced e-textiles offers opportunities for the self-management of health conditions with tangible benefits for the individual and healthcare providers. E-textiles can be used in many healthcare applications such as health monitoring (e.g. electrocardiogram (ECG) and Electroencephalography (EEG)) and treatment (e.g. pain relief, rehabilitation).

The applicant and her team have developed a novel platform manufacturing method that enables the packaging of electronic components (e.g. microcontrollers, sensors) in ultra-thin die form that can be hidden within textile yarns. The team has also developed a patented dry fabric electrode technology using novel materials and fabrication methods for wearable medical devices offering the competitive advantages of comfort (no gel needed), ease of use, unobtrusive implementation, and being washable. The combination of these two technologies will enable wearable healthcare with improved user experience (e.g. comfort, unobtrusive, independent use) and improved compliance with treatment requirements.

The project will enable the Fellowship applicant to lead a multi-disciplinary team to address the fundamental underlying research challenges of integration and durability to enable the e-textile technology to progress from the research laboratory towards real world applications and improve options for healthcare provision. The application of the advanced e-textile technology will be demonstrated through a wearable therapeutic clothing item for pain relief of osteoarthritis which is an age related disease affecting 8.75 million people in the UK.

The collaboration with industrial partners and the engagement with project advisors (e.g. healthcare professionals and patient and public involvement representatives), end users and other key stakeholders will ensure industry/clinical relevance and establish collaborations for the follow on exploitation of the technology.

Planned Impact

The main beneficiaries of this research lie within the healthcare and manufacturing sectors which benefit from improved health provision (societal impact) and new product lines (economic benefit).

Healthcare
People with osteoarthritis (OA) and other pain related health conditions: the direct beneficiaries are OA patients suffering from knee joint pain. The wearable e-textiles can be adapted to also treat other joint pain (e.g. hip, back, neck) and pain caused by other conditions (e.g. gout, injury, joint replacement).
NHS: E-textiles clothing is comfortable to wear and convenient to use. Patients can use it independently at home to manage their own conditions. It will transfer hospital based professional care to home based self-care, and therefore, will reduce NHS costs by saving healthcare professionals' time and other hospital resources.

Economic
University: the IP developed in this project will be protected, as appropriate, by the University of Southampton. We anticipate that this will create an opportunity for licensing or forming a spin-out company.
Project partners: partners will benefit from the collaboration on the exploitation of technologies. For example, CPI and Designworks will be ideal partners for the scaling up and follow-on product development; Lenzing will be a perfect supplier of the novel textile yarns; OML and Atlantic therapeutics will benefit from using the e-textile technology for their own product development.
Industry: e-textiles technologies will bring business to the whole supply chain. The project will increase demand for wearable therapeutic devices by improving user experience (e.g. comfort, ease of use, flexible control of stimulus). Other industry sectors that could also benefit from the e-textiles platform technologies include sport/fitness, automotive, workwear, interior design and fashion.

People/leadership
Applicant: the project is very timely for the applicant being perfectly aligned with her longer term career aspirations. The Fellowship will provide opportunities for career development transforming the applicant from a leading researcher to an inspiring future leader and ambassador for women in STEM.
Researchers: This multidisciplinary project will provide an excellent opportunity for project researchers to work with other disciplines and engage with industrial partners and healthcare professionals.

Publications

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Description A initial electronic sleeve (E-sleeve) prototype has been developed for knee joint pain relief which includes a knee sleeve with dry fabric electrodes integrated, and a wired control system. Ethical approval has been obtained to test the prototype and positive feedback has been received (e.g. comfortable, easy to use, pain reduced). The electrode material has passed the biocompatibility tests and it is safe to use. Novel materials and fabrication methods has been developed to improve the durability (e.g. washing, bending).
Exploitation Route We are going to collaborate with Hampshire Wellbeing Centre to test the prototype. We will also exploring the commercialization funding opportunities (e.g. Innovate UK) in collaboration with NHS trust and other companies to speed up the commercialisation. The electrodes has also been used by project partner Odstock Medical Ltd to develop application on assistive technology for people with Spinal Cord Injury.
Sectors Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The work has been publicized on websites and newsletters to improve the awareness of the knee joint pain and how technologies might help. We increase the awareness and collect the feedback through patient and public involvement (PPI), such as focus group studies and one to one interview.
Sector Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural,Societal