It looks a lot like a costume from the movie Tron, but it’s actually the prototype for a new sock that is designed to prevent injuries to the feet of diabetic patients. Diabetes can lead to circulation problems and loss of sensation in the feet, and patients can’t always feel the pain that comes from prolonged pressure on one spot. This can lead to ulcers that have a difficult time healing, and can ultimately lead to amputation.
Researchers at Fraunhofer in Germany have developed a sock that is designed to take the place of damaged nerves. Thin, flexible sensors made of graphite are distributed around the sole, heel, and top of the sock, and are protected by layers of fabric on both sides. (The outside layer has been removed in the photo above.) Data is sent wirelessly to a smartphone, which analyzes the information and alerts the user or caregivers if too much pressure has been applied for too long in one spot, and the patient should change position.
This technology could also be used by runners to analyze their gait. The same technology could be used for hospital gowns to help prevent bed sores in patients who are bed-ridden for prolonged periods. Other clothing could help prevent sores for individuals who are confined to a wheelchair. This is just one more example of how a relatively simple wearable Health Tech solution could lead to substantial healthcare cost savings while improving the quality of life for patients with a range of conditions.