Detect heart disease through a simple t-shirt. That is the development that a young student has achieved. “I never imagined that in the third year of my degree I would be able to create something like this.” She looks so surprised Natalia Guzman Rodriguez, student of the Degree in Biomedical Engineering at CEU San Pablo University who has developed a T-shirt capable of measuring electrocardiograms; an important advance that can be used to monitor cardiovascular disorders such as arrhythmias and even for their diagnosis. The shirt is as comfortable as possible since it does not have the rigid devices that are usually used in this type of measurement and allows continuous telemonitoring. In addition, it is only made with textile. A project developed within the challenges that the professor and director of the Degree in Biomedical Engineering, Abraham Otero, pose to your students.
At the age of 21, Natalia has made this T-shirt that “It started as a job for my Projects subject. This initiative had already been carried out, but they did it with dry electrodes and with a lot of wiring. So my challenge was to make it much more functional, much more comfortable for its real application”.The most advanced technology hand in hand with the most traditional One of the requirements for this project was to have basic sewing skills. “My grandmother taught me when I was little, so, with a conductive thread and a needle, I made the necessary stitches to incorporate the conductive fabric into the textile of the shirt”, the student points out. This steel thread has a feel and behavior similar to a normal thread, woven into the shirt itself. The final result is a garment completely made up of textile components, flexible and comfortable, like any other. “The idea is that it be so comfortable and easy to use that the patient can wear it as an undershirt”, Natalia clarifies.
Innovating towards a more proactive medicine
When the director of Biomedical Engineering at CEU USP, Abraham Otero, proposed the project to his students, he suggested that “The current model of medicine is very reactive. That is, the patient goes to the hospital when there are symptoms and they are persistent. There tests are done, they are analyzed and based on the diagnosis the most appropriate treatment is started “. However, the ideal would be for medicine to be more proactive and this “It is the purpose of the project that I present to my students.”
The shirt can be used to monitor heart disease such as arrhythmias and even for diagnosis.
The idea is to have continuous monitoring of the patient’s physiological parameters. In such a way that, even before the patient’s state of health is symptomatic, we can, through these measurements of physiological parameters, identify that underlying problem, which is beginning to worsen, and propose corrective therapeutic actions or changes in lifestyle. This can be something very interesting in the follow-up of chronic patients to help them manage the disease.
The objective of the shirt is to measure a fundamental parameter for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases: the electrocardiogram. “The information that can be extracted from this parameter will result in a better quality of life for the patient as well as lower costs by reducing the number of hospitalizations”points out the teacher.
To achieve this purpose, acceptance of the technological solution by the patient is essential. Metal electrodes are often used in such projects to record physiological signals, and wires to drive the signal to an electronic unit. This makes the garments uncomfortable and the patient tends to abandon them. In this design, the electrodes are constructed of “patches” of a fabric containing a conductive polymer (PEDOT: PSS Poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene).
The teacher continues to challenge his students, the idea is not to stay at this point, a new improved version is already underway “We are going to replace the threads and the conductive fabric with a polymer, which is a liquid chemical compound that would be applied to the shirt and would do the work of the textile electrodes to obtain the electrocardiogram that would later be sent to a mobile phone or PC”, explains the future biomedical engineer. They are also working on the data acquisition part “in such a way that a mobile application keeps the patient informed about their metrics and shows them to what extent their quality of life is improving as they introduce healthy elements such as sports, for example”concludes the tutor.