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Addison firm puts 'smart' in sensor shirt

Dallas Morning News

By Alan Goldstein

An Addison start-up is developing standards that would enable diagnostic medical information to be transmitted wirelessly from sensors embedded in a "smart shirt."

Sensatex/Lifelink Inc. says the shirt, which can be made from any fabric, could be used to monitor vital signs such as a patient's heart or respiration rate. The information would then be transmitted to a doctor over cellular or satellite networks.

Although lots of companies have been working on technology to "make physicians wireless, we're making patients wireless," said Jeffrey Wolf, chief executive of Sensatex/Lifelink.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology developed the shirt for a project funded by the military, which was looking for ways to monitor the physical condition of soldiers during battle. Sensatex/Lifelink said it has the exclusive worldwide rights to commercialize the research.

"It's exciting to see this type of technology," said Jeffrey Kagan, an Atlanta telecommunications analyst. "Distance medicine, along with distance learning, is a wave of the future. This is a piece of the puzzle."

Conceivably, the garments could be worn during any activity. The company says that pilots, hikers, scuba divers or firefighters eventually could wear them. But mostly, the technology is aimed at patients in hospitals and at home. Shorter hospital stays have led to more home care, which has led to a growing need for remote diagnostic technology, Mr. Wolf said. Wired devices now in use by bedridden elderly patients or by infants who were born prematurely are cumbersome, he said. Moreover, such devices transmit data only periodically, using conventional phone lines. The wireless service using Sensatex/Lifelink technology would be capable of transmitting information in real time.

The shirts must be worn against the body to produce results and can be customized, with sensors placed in various positions for different functions. Each shirt, which would have its own battery, is woven without seams. Copper strands in the fabric allow for a continuous flow of current.

Sensatex is backed by Seed-One Ventures LLC, an incubator with an unusual strategy of investing in only one company at a time. Seed-One seeks opportunities that involve cutting-edge science, strong patents and vast potential commercial uses, said Mr. Wolf, who is also chief executive of the New York venture firm. Mr. Wolf declined to offer specific financial information about the company.

Newest coronary 'clothing' used in monitoring, surgery


By Don Long, Medical Device Week Managing Editor

"The Human Genome Project is a great advance, there's no doubt about that," says Sundareyan Jayaraman, PhD, a professor in the School of Textile and Fiber Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech; Atlanta, Georgia). But a more immediate and achievable advance in health care could be derived from "a rich source of data, acquired continuously, concerning how the body acts in real situations," he told Medical Device Week.

While experts say it may take from 10 to more than 20 years to turn the benefits of gene mapping into commercialized products, achieving the rich data stream envisioned by Jayaraman may be just around the corner - or, more precisely, produced by the shirts on our backs. Jayaraman has just released information on a fabric interwoven with plastic polymer optical sensors and then made into a basic T-shirt. Dubbed the Smart Shirt, the special optical fibers in the material can provide an ongoing stream of vital sign information while a person goes about his or her day-to-day activities - that is, truly at the point of care. The challenge to develop a type of monitoring clothing first came from a U.S. Navy grant, but Jayaraman says he soon realized that the concept's greatest benefit would be in a variety of potential health care applications. These could range from shirts worn by congestive heart failure patients to pajamas for infants feared at risk for sudden infant death syndrome.

These and other broad applications for the material will now be developed through an agreement between Georgia Tech Research Corp. and Sensatex (New York), a start-up company funded by Seed One Ventures (New York). Jeffrey Wolf, chief executive officer of Sensatex, said that in essence, the shirt is a "wearable motherboard, providing information from a wearable environment." He said an additional key to the system is its wireless technology: "You can monitor patients, for instance, with a Holter monitor, without wires down through the patient's body," Wolf told Medical Device Week. "What it also means," he said, "is that you can integrate additional sensors to get even more information than you can get now because of reducing the need for wires, and you can have these [sensors] speak to one another."

Sensatex will seek FDA clearance through a 510(k) application because the shirt and its optical wiring will be developed as a platform, offered to other companies whose specific sensors and applications already have been approved. He sees the technology's commercialization coming as early as 1Q01.

Besides monitoring heart patients and others at risk, the next-most-usable application will be in monitoring subjects participating in clinical trials, to continuously read their reactions to drugs or devices; for measuring sports performance; and in geriatrics. These can then be expanded to a wealth of uses in the military, police and fire protection sectors. Smart Shirt's ability to produce accurate, real-time results, says Wolf, "represents a quantum leap in health care monitoring, The potential applications for the technology are enormous and SensaTex is well poised to pursue them all."

Georgia Tech Research Corp. has received an equity stake in Sensatex, and a portion of the revenue generated by sales of the Smart Shirt will support other research projects at Georgia Tech.

The heart that wears a jacket

In another development in medical "clothing," the heart of a 41-year-old woman was recently fitted with a kind of jacket to provide it greater support. Performed at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the procedure involved implanting a special mesh-like polyester material around her heart to give it support and constraint, the surgeons also repairing a leaking mitral valve in the process. The woman was suffering cardiomyopathy, a balloon-like expansion of the heart muscle resulting in a gradual loss of pumping function. Known as the Cardiac Support Device (CSD) and made by Acorn Cardiovascular (St. Paul, Minnesota), the jacket was slipped around the heart and then stitched in place. It is designed to prevent further enlargement of the heart muscle and boost its compromised efficiency. The jacket is placed around the heart through open-chest surgery similar to that required during coronary-artery bypass grafts.

Michael Acker, MD, led the first U.S. implantation. He had previously participated in an implant procedure at a hospital in Berlin, Germany, where a clinical trial is showing positive results, according to Acorn. Five million Americans are diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and 400,000 new cases are discovered every year, according to the American Heart Association (Dallas, Texas). The CSD "may offer a new approach for treating heart failure," said Donald Rohrbaugh, president and CEO of Acorn. He called the first U.S. implant "an important step in our clinical investigation and is supported by the broad-based research we have conducted." The continuing U.S. trials will involve two randomized patient groups: those treated with the CSD and those without. "It is our belief, based on extensive studies, that those patients in whom the jacket is implanted will have improved heart function," said Acker, the co-principle investigator in the trials and surgical director of the Heart Transplantation & Mechanical Assist Program at the Philadelphia hospital. "If we can sustain the clinical improvement for an appropriate length of time, the heart 'jacket' may prevent the need for transplantation in some patients.

Licensing pact landed for 'smart shirt'


Reprinted with permission from The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. Further reproduction, retransmission or distribution of these materials without the prior written consent of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, and any copyright holder identified in the material's copyright notice, is prohibited.

By Ernest Holsendolph/Staff

The Georgia Tech "smart shirt," which can measure human body characteristics and functions continuously, may be headed for new uses through a new licensing agreement with a New York firm.

The company, SensaTex Inc., will treat the ''smart shirt'' as a platform for performing a variety of applications or uses, said Jeffrey Wolf, chief executive of the Manhattan-based firm.

"Our first products will likely be in the medical monitoring area," said Wolf in an interview on Tuesday. "But other uses could range anywhere from athletic or sports monitoring, surveillance on scuba divers or various forms of wearable computing."

The ''smart shirt'' was developed in 1996 by a team at Georgia Tech, headed by Sundaresan Jayaraman, a professor in the School of Textile and Fiber Engineering, working under a contract with the Navy Department.

The shirt, composed of fabric with imbedded optical and conductive circuitry, would be worn as a foundation garment such as a T-shirt, and would be attached to the body.

Among the first applications that could have commercial use, said Wolf, include plans to use the shirt technology to produce garments that medical patients can wear. It could discreetly relay information to physicians or other medical staff about heart function, respiration, temperature and other indicators of well-being.

The shirt, which was originally developed mostly with military use in mind, could soon produce revenue from a variety of sources, said Wolf. Jayaraman said he plans to channel the school's share of revenue into further research at the university.

"It is extremely gratifying to know that the results of our research will indeed make a positive impact on the quality of life for individuals in the real world," Jayaraman said.

A specialist in the relationship between textile engineering and computing, Jayaraman said he was passing along the work of commercial product development while concentrating on further research.

On the research front, just a few weeks ago Jayaraman and his team signed on to participate in Tech's new "Digital House" project. It is a research project located in a frame house adjacent to campus, where teams of researchers in digital communication will be exploring ways technology can help families in their homes.

Among the assignments in the house, the ''smart shirt'' specialists will be examining the use of the garment to monitor infants and ward off sudden infant death syndrome and watch for other medical problems.

That application, as well as commercial uses devised by SensaTex, could feature remote monitoring of body functions, such as on different floors in a house or even across town.

"The 'smart shirt' represents a quantum leap in health care monitoring, producing accurate, real-time results," said Wolf. "The potential applications for the technology are enormous, and SensaTex is well-poised to pursue them all."

The company, as an early priority, will seek FDA approval for the ''smart shirt'' after conducting human testing of the garment in a clinical setting.

Wolf said the company has had valuable experience with regulators in previous work with a Virginia-based company that produced medical technology.

A key to the commercial advantage of the ''smart shirt'' is that it will be less costly than current monitoring systems. He said he is confident the shirt will be available to consumers in the first quarter of 2001.

SensaTex has obtained its front-end capitalization from a venture capital group called Seed-One Ventures, which Wolf heads as president.

In the SensaTex deal, Tech takes partial equity in exchange for the license and plans to channel proceeds from sales back to campus projects.

In the Virginia project, SensaTex's founders, Wolf and Jeff Himawan, vice president and chief science officer, worked with academic research from the University of Virginia.

Wolf said one of their recent ventures, Elusys Therapeutics, successfully developed novel pharmaceutical products to clear the blood of a wide range of invading pathogens.

Tech 2010: #15 Well Dressed; The Suit That Makes You Feel as Good As Prozac

By Natasha Singer

In laboratories at the Imperial College of London, surrounded by perfume vials and surgical microtubes, researchers are designing the must-have outfit of the fashion future: the aroma shirt. Once it is equipped with electronic sensors that react to changes in the body's vital signs, the garment will know when to deliver scents to the cuffs and neckline from a perfume reservoir hidden in its lining. Aromatherapy enthusiasts will, no doubt, embrace a shirt that can respond to stress signals by circulating calming vanilla scents or emit energy-boosting geranium spritzes during interminable afternoon meetings.

''Pulsing liquid through clothes is not new -- look at NASA's spacesuit-cooling system,'' explains Jenny Tillotson, a self-described ''sensory designer'' who invented the idea of cologne clothing for her dissertation at the Royal College of Art in London. She is now experimenting with fragrance-conductive fabrics for Charmed Technology, a Los Angeles-based company that manufactures wearable devices, and hopes to complete an early prototype for the smell shirt next spring. A primitive version, designed like a circulatory system, with tiny, hollow fiber veins woven into the fabric, may go on sale within the next five years at British department stores.

''We can engineer the delivery system to release a whole range of smells for different times of the day or the month, from your favorite Thierry Mugler perfume while you're at work, to your partner's pheromones to turn you on when you're on your way home at night,'' she explains.

''A garment that senses your moods and, if you're getting too aroused, squirts out a smell to calm you down, opens up a whole new way of life,'' Tillotson continues. ''Just imagine, you put on your pajamas and they monitor you and kick out smell molecules to give you a natural, uninterrupted, even deeper sleep than usual.''

Its gimmicky allure might make the aromatherapy shirt the first commercial success of digital dressing, but it represents only one of the many ''smart''-garment options that information-processing fabrics and data-conductive fibers make possible. The research into these clothes -- at universities, defense facilities and industrial labs like DuPont's -- indicate an anatomical shift from passive apparel that simply looks good and protects us from the elements to active multitasking attire equipped with data sensors and chips that allow it to ''think'' and act autonomously. The promise of such ''intelligent'' fashion lies in consumers' ability to customize it to their lifestyles, health and even meteorological environment.

The first smart garment due to go on sale next year is a T-shirt that monitors vital signs, based on a prototype developed at Georgia Tech's School of Textile and Fiber Engineering and financed by the Navy. The conductive filaments woven into the light-weight white shirt, officially called the Georgia Tech Wearable Motherboard, will wirelessly communicate data to a computer feedback mechanism the size of a pager and attached to the hip. The medical T-shirt measures heart rate, temperature and pulse rate and is initially intended for use by soldiers (because the shirt can pinpoint bullet wounds and relay information to remote triage teams) and babies (because the shirt can monitor breathing and safeguard against sudden infant death syndrome). Its breakthrough, like the novelty of the aromatherapy shirt, lies in having unobtrusive mechanisms. The sensors and communication apparatus are woven or knitted directly into the fabric, eliminating the need for attaching electrodes or thick cables to clothing.

But wearing self-regulating technology also can make us vulnerable. Those concerned about privacy issues might worry that employers or health insurers could hack into the T-shirt's medical data. Still, its low manufacturing cost, easy maintenance (it's washable because the conductive fibers are plastic-coated like telephone wires) and promise of long-distance medical care outweigh the security risks. Homebound senior citizens could wirelessly hook up their heart-rate garments to doctors' monitors in faraway hospitals, the way burglar alarms connect to police stations. Because it responds to the body's vital signs, the T-shirt also could be modified as a training garment for athletes or as a chameleonic fashion statement that changes colors when its wearer's pulse quickens. More significant, the smart fabric has wider implications as a database from which information can be sent or retrieved. Sundaresan Jayaraman, a professor at Georgia Tech, calls the T-shirt he invented a motherboard because, like its namesake, its infrastructure contains all the circuitry necessary for a computer and monitor, along with slots for a central processing unit, but not the processor itself. Within 5 to 10 years, Jayaraman predicts, people will no longer carry cell phones or electronic organizers. Instead they'll dial or type on wireless fabric keyboards knitted into or embroidered on their clothes -- or even talk into voice-recognition shirt collars -- and send the messages via a small electronic device, akin to a pager, attached to a belt or contained in a watch face.

Other smart clothing may work without chips. Climate-sensitive textiles that emit or hoard heat as their internal components change from liquid to solid eventually will allow the creation of thermal suits that maintain climbers' body temperatures on Mount Everest and keep them cool on camel rides through the Sahara. NASA has financed research with implications for the fashion industry: for example, sweaters due out this fall -- made with outlast, a microencapsulated paraffin -- respond to body temperature and store and release heat in an endless cycle.

''In a normal sweater, you overheat,'' says Jonathan Erb, the triathelete who runs Outlast Technologies, and who uses the smart textile in his gloves, socks and bike helmet. ''With outlast, the sweater keeps you warm outside in the winter so you don't need a coat. It keeps you comfortable indoors so you're not getting hot, taking it off, getting cold and putting it back on again every five minutes.''

Sporting-goods manufacturers are experimenting with other smart performance fabrics that may eventually surface, like Gore-Tex, in suburban malls. In the meantime, the idea of clothes that think, or react at least, already is mobilizing ready-to-wear designers, making cybercouture look like an inevitability. Neil Barrett, whose latest models for Samsonite Blacklabel Travel Wear center on ''fashion functions,'' is one of the early high-fashion adopters of smart clothing. There are ''reading jackets'' in the spring-summer 2000 collection that conceal tiny pop-up lamps; ''voice jackets'' with built-in cell phone earpieces; and ergonomically designed ''antistress car coats'' with high-tech fabric that adjusts to a car seat and allows a driver to sit comfortably. These utility-chic styles are analog designs outfitted with simple devices -- but they presage digital suits woven with data-conductive fibers -- and they're already smart in both senses of the word.

Smart Shirt

Medical Miracles for the Next Millennium, Fall 1998 That basic T-shirt isnāt only the most comfortable thing in your closet. Soon it will be the smartest. Using plastic optical fibers woven into a T-shirt, engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with a "wearable motherboard" which can monitor heart rate, temperature, respiration and other bodily functions. Some vital signs can be monitored directly by sensors woven into the shirt; for other functions, a person fastens sensors to his or her body - the kind used in electrocardiograms, for example - and attaches them to the T-shirt with snaps. The signals can be transmitted to a receiver in a watch or bounced to a satellite and then back down to anywhere on earth.

The smart shirt was developed for the armed services as a way of tracking the health of soldiers on the battlefield. Medics miles away can find out immediately when a soldier goes down and how bad his injury is. Sensors can locate a gunshot wound and monitor vital signs while the medics travel to the scene. Tiny microphones in the shirt can instantly put caregivers in contact with the injured.

Dr. Sundaresan Jayaraman, head of the research team at Georgia Tech, hopes to infiltrate civilian society with this technology within five years. A postoperative patient could continuously be monitored as he recovers at home. Attendants in nursing homes could keep a closer watch on multiple patients. And law enforcement officers could wear the T-shirts while on their beats and be monitored back at headquarters.

"I can plug into any kind of sensor to monitor anything," says Jayaraman, suggesting applications for athletes concerned about stress or for parents concerned about sudden infant death syndrome,"This could be as ubiquitous as a home-alarm system."

The cost of the shirt? Astonishingly, Jayaraman says, it wonāt be more that $35 (sensors not included). For those with a taste for something more expensive, thereās the Harry Winston "Heartthrob" broach. Sensors in the rubies make the gems glow with every heartbeat. Price tag: a cool $500,000.