A smart shirt, developed by Canadian startup Hexoskin, can accurately measure lung function when compared to traditional testing equipment, according to a research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress. The smart shirt measures lung function by sensing movements in the chest and abdomen. The researchers at the Radboud University Medical Centre in Netherlands used this shirt together with a mobile app, to reliably measure breathing in healthy people while carrying out a range of everyday activities.
“COPD is a growing problem with around 64 million people suffering with the condition worldwide. When patients suffer an increase in their symptoms, such as coughing and breathlessness, they need to be monitored more closely,” said lead researcher Denise Mannée, a technical physician and PhD candidate at Radboud University Medical Centre in The Netherlands.
For their study, the researchers recruited 15 healthy volunteers and had them wear the shirt while doing everyday activities including lying down, sitting, standing, climbing stairs and vacuuming, reports European Lung Foundation.
At the same time, the participants also wore the equipment traditionally used to measure breathing that includes a face mask and bulky backpack. They repeated the tasks again wearing both pieces of equipment, to generate a second set of data.
The team then compared the measurements recorded using the two techniques for each person doing each activity on the two occasions. In general, they found that the measurements were very similar.
“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,” explained Mrs Mannee.
The participants found the smart shirts comfortable enough to be worn underneath their normal clothes.
The researchers now plan to repeat tests on the smart shirts with COPD patients, but they believe the technology might also help in other respiratory conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or after transplantation.