Devices & Diagnostics

Smart fabric could be cheap, non-invasive way to monitor complications in pregnancy (video)

A fabric band with an embedded antenna is designed to be a remote monitor that could alert obstetricians to possible complications with a pregnancy. The research project in preclinical development is a collaboration between researchers from the Drexel University College of Engineering and the College of Media Arts and Design. The principal investigator is Dr. […]

A fabric band with an embedded antenna is designed to be a remote monitor that could alert obstetricians to possible complications with a pregnancy.

The research project in preclinical development is a collaboration between researchers from the Drexel University College of Engineering and the College of Media Arts and Design. The principal investigator is Dr. Owen Montgomery, the chair of Drexel Medicine’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Department.

The “Belly Band” contains conductive yarn knit together using a Shima Seiki knitting machine, a machine that can produce technically complex fabrics. An early prototype of the band was shown as part of the university’s innovation technology and talent showcase Wednesday. It is in its first year with the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership program.

Kapil Dandekar, the associate Dean for research at the College of Engineering, is also the director of Drexel’s Wireless Systems Laboratories. He said the fabric band has conductive yarn that transmits radio signals to indicate any changes in the shape of the uterus and can be picked up with ultrasound.  The device has the potential to transform the market as it requires no batteries or electricity and isn’t invasive.

Davood Tashayyod, the entrepreneur-in-residence for Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, said millions of women could one day use the device. It has the potential to reduce healthcare costs because complications with the mother’s or unborn child’s health could be identified earlier.

Although the team has demonstrated basic proof of concept, the device is still in the early stages of development. It has not yet undergone animal testing, for example.

Companies have been striving to develop ultrasound technology for remote monitoring. One group of researchers developed a handheld ultrasound device that can be plugged into a computer’s USB outlet to show pictures of the fetus. Another company developed a mini fetal monitor.

The concept of a fabric antenna is not new. One company developed a fabric antenna to increase the speed of tracking people down in search and rescue missions.

The belly band is one of 20 projects that have received funding from the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership. The goal of the program is to respond to unmet clinical needs to improve healthcare by accelerating the transfer of innovations from the university to the market through a $20 million endowment. The Coulter Foundation provides endowments for technology transfer projects at 14 other universities in the country.

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