Rhode Island University Research To Help Parkinson’s, Heart Patients And Mentally Ill With Smart Textiles

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Smart textiles are at the doorstep to help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. In the near future,  a marked improvement in the lives of patients suffering from Parkinson’s is expected to take place with endeavors by a professor in biomedical engineering and his team of students at the University of Rhode Island (URI) actively exploring techniques of alleviation of suffering for those suffering from this ailment.

Professor Kunal Mankodiya, a US citizen of Indian origin is the professor who along with his team is working tirelessly to make life better for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.  The research is going on in the Bio-sensing laboratory of the URI. The professor and his team are busy researching methods to transform gloves, socks, clothing and also shoes into high-tech devices to facilitate a marked improvement in the quality of life for patients suffering from Parkinson’s.

The focus of Professor Kunal’s research is on items of dress that are wearable which can be embedded with sensors. These sensors comprise both electronic and software components that will collect patient data regardless of where they are situated. It implies, even if the patient is at home or outside at a beach resort, the sensors will collect the data and deliver them to his physician or doctor. This ensures that doctors can remotely treat their patients and come out with well informed decisions to alleviate their suffering, eliminating the need for the patients to be physically present at the doctor’s clinic braving the inconvenience posed by commuting.

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The professor along with his team has tuned their focus to smart textiles for quite some time now. This is a part of the team’s research in the Internet of Things (IoT). Just two years back, in 2015, Kunal and his team came out with a model wristband, which monitors the tremors of the Parkinson’s patients. The data collected by this wristband is sent to the doctor via an internet connection. In the subsequent year, the team stepped up its efforts and focused on the design of smart textiles dedicated to patients suffering from neurological ailments.

The latest they are working on is the concept of smart gloves. The smart gloves besides being a current project also opens up new avenues of comfort level for the patients as they have sensors embedded in them that can relay from the fingers and the thumb.  They effectively relay the tremors and rigidity after measuring the same. It must be noted that tremors and rigidity are common symptoms of the Parkinson’s disease.

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The technique is simple to use. These gloves are linked to mobile phones, which process the information and deliver it to the neurologist’s clinic. This in turn, helps the neurologists plan a treatment for the patient that can be monitored on a day-to-day basis. This enhances the efficacy of treatment as it provides feedback on whether or not the medication is working properly. Needless to say, this saves the patients the stress of having to turn up at the clinic at the appointed hour.

At present, Professor Kunal and his team have taken upon themselves the onus of coming up with high-tech socks for patients who have suffered from strokes. This enables the doctors to give heart patients a tailor made therapy from their clinics remotely. The sensors implanted in the socks along with the software relay data about the heart patient’s gait. This helps the doctors in a big way to work out an appropriate rehabilitation therapy.

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In addition to the above measures, Kunal is actively partnering Lifespan hospitals to come out with smart wrist watches too. The development of the smartwatch technology will serve patients with psychiatric problems and autism. The research for mentally handicapped children and adults is yet in the early stage. It focuses on collecting data and measuring the patient’s daily behavioral aspects and actions. 

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