More than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of the most worrying side effects of this disease is the risk of the development and spread of ulcers and infections on patients’ feet. In the US each year, around 70,000 people lose their legs because of diabetic foot amputation.
Linh Le, Founder and CEO of Bonbouton began tackling the problem of undetected diabetic foot issues using his background in chemical engineering. Bonbouton is a NYC-based technology platform for preventative diabetic health care. Le has an MS in chemical engineering from Columbia University and a PhD from the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Previous research has shown that skin temperature monitoring reduces the risk of developing diabetic ulcers in high-risk patients. Skin infrared thermometers and scales with temperature sensing elements are available in the market, but they’re impractical methods for monitoring foot health status.
Drawing on his education, Le began working with graphene, a very strong, thin, and flexible material. Graphene is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel. It conducts heat and electricity very efficiently and is nearly transparent. Le and his advisor devised a way to print graphene metal onto virtually any surface, reports glu.
Using graphene, Le’s company Bonbouton developed smart insoles and companion mobile application that allow patients, caregivers and providers to monitor foot health status in real-time, enabling earlier preventive treatment.
“We can print on this table, we can print on the wall, we can print on everything,” Le said. “Due to the fact that the graphene metal material is very flexible, it would print on insoles.”
The technology is simple. Graphene can be used to make chips and sensors that detect changes in heat, like the heat generated by a foot injury. Le’s graphene-laced insoles can detect this heat, measure changes in body temperature against a reference point and provide early warning for the development of diabetic foot ulcers.