24 May 2018

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New wearable electronic device to revolutionize stroke rehabilitation

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — A new stretchable bandage-like electronic sensor, designed to be worn on the throat, will be a game-changer in the treatment of stroke recovery, said a U.S. study released Saturday.

The sensor, developed by engineering professor John Rogers at the Northwestern University in the midwestern U.S. state of Illinois, can stick directly to patients’ skin, moving with their body and providing detailed health information about heart function, muscle activity and quality of sleep.

The stretchable electronics are precise enough to be used in advanced medical care and portable enough to be worn outside the hospital, even during extreme exercise, according to Rogers’s study.

“Stretchable electronics allow us to see what is going on inside patients’ bodies at a level traditional wearables simply cannot achieve,” Rogers said.

He explained that the top priority is to make them as integrated as possible with the human body.

The throat sensor measures patients’ swallowing ability and patterns of speech, which makes it possible to diagnose aphasia, a communication disorder associated with stroke.

The sensor can distinguish between patients’ voices and ambient noise by measuring vibrations of the vocal chords in a way totally different from traditional methods adopted to monitor patients’ speech function.

Throat is a very sensitive area of the skin, and Rogers’s team developed novel materials for this sensor that bend and stretch with the body, minimizing discomfort to patients.

The wireless sensors removed barriers of traditional health monitoring devices in clinical settings. Patients can wear them even out of hospital so that doctors are able to understand how their patients function in the real world.

This helps doctors “develop better strategies with our patients to improve their speaking skills and speed up their recovery process,” said Leora Cherney, a scientist at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a Chicago-based research hospital in Illinois, which is a research partner with Rogers’s lab in developing the throat sensor.

The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab is “helping us move our technology from the research lab to the real world, where it already is making a positive impact on the lives of patients,” Rogers said.

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