Science and technology never cease to surprise us. This time, researchers have worked on developing a “smart shirt” that will help in detecting lung disease. This will be done by keeping a tab of movements in the abdomen and chest. Experts from Radboud University Medical Centre in The Netherlands used a mobile app along with smart shirts to sense breathing patterns of healthy people involved in a variety of everyday activities.
Called “Hexoskin”, the shirt works by sensing the way fabric stretches as the wearer breathes. The measurements obtained from expansion and contractions are used for gauging the volume of air taken in and then exhaled. It can also measure heart rate and movement.
While the shirts are being used by sportspeople, a new study examined if this could be extended for keeping a tab on lung function, and how practical it would be for everyone, according to Denise Mannee, a technical physician from Radboud University.
Researchers might now plan to study if it would also be effective for patients who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With about 64 million people suffering from this condition all over the world, the problem is a growing concern for everyone.
For the study, 15 healthy people volunteered to wear the smart shirt. They performed everyday activities wearing it, like sleeping, vacuuming, sitting, climbing stairs, lying down and standing. The subjects found the shirts to be comfortable and they could be easily worn underneath normal clothes. The participants also wore the equipment that’s traditionally used for measuring breathing, including a face mask and a heavy backpack, according to News 18.
Next, the measurements from both the techniques were compared for everyone. The researchers found that the measurements were extremely similar, with a difference of about 0.2 per cent on an average. This represents just a few millilitres of air.
However, in activities needing more physical effort, the difference was slightly greater. For instance, there was a difference of 3.1 per cent on an average, or close to 40 ml in the readings when it came to vacuuming. "These results are important because they indicate that the smart shirt can be worn by patients while they go about their daily lives to accurately measure their lung function," said Mannee.