Wireless wearable sensor created for deep tissue monitoring

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A team led by Wubin Bai has developed a new wearable sensor patch that provides a safe, real-time, less invasive and inexpensive way to track a patient’s recovery.

When Wubin Bai formed his lab, he was determined to integrate and cultivate a culture of collaboration. An assistant professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences, Bai imbues this approach throughout his work. His team of multidisciplinary graduate and undergraduate students — from APS and UNC School of Medicine — is drawing attention to their new wireless sensor patch that reduces tissue damage after surgery, while improving user comfort compared to implantable deep tissue monitors.

“Working with researchers from different backgrounds adds more possibilities along the research journey,” Bai said in a press release. “Having different backgrounds can provide a source of ideas from different perspectives, which can trigger important moments.”

The Sensing Patch is a wearable, wireless patch for deep tissue monitoring of biometric indicators, including heartbeat and respiration, blood oxygen level (pulse oximetry), and oxygen in body tissues (tissue oximetry). With its wireless capabilities, the Sensing Patch allows clinicians to monitor patients remotely and in real time, which can lead to better health outcomes.

And because it is wearable, the sensing patch reduces tissue damage and improves patient comfort over implantable monitors when it comes to the need for deep tissue monitoring. In addition, the patch can simultaneously provide local and global physiological information.

“We believe the sensing patch we developed can open up a new opportunity for muscle monitoring,” Bai said. “Traditional wearable electronics can capture pulse oxygenation or track walking distance or exercise intensity. But we wanted to create a device that could capture the local tissue region, particularly deep within the skin. , as opposed to just the skin interface.The Sensing Patch may be beneficial for patients who may have had a complicated procedure or who may be at higher risk for infection and inflammation.

Portable microneedles

So how does it work? For example, patients who have suffered tragic incidents sometimes require muscle flap transfers. In these cases, the reconstructed flaps require close monitoring by clinicians to ensure that the newly transferred tissue will integrate into surrounding tissue. Existing strategies for post-operative care rely solely on physical examination and external Doppler testing – both of which are limiting as they depend on the skill of bedside staff who must continuously check the transferred flap. However, the skin interface patch developed by the Bai lab uses micro-needle waveguides that overcome light scattering and absorption associated with skin and fatty tissue, allowing medical providers to assess the health and healing deep within the tissues.

“The detection patch and its wireless synchronization capability allows for continuous monitoring and can immediately alert clinical staff to any issues. This allows recovery to become more automated, reducing the burden of post-operative monitoring or post-operative care,” Bai said. “The Wireless Sensing Patch provides a safe, real-time, less invasive, and inexpensive way to monitor recovery for flap transfer surgery.”

This research is published in Advanced Materials Technology.

“This is my first paper as a senior corresponding author and senior researcher, so it means a lot to me personally,” Bai said. “As teachers, it’s motivating to be able to form a team to make something publishable. It gives us confidence that we can put our passion into action and demonstrate our ideas to have an impact.

The collaboration with the UNC School of Medicine provided Wubin and his team with the information they needed to determine whether they could use current lab techniques to create the solution, or whether they should explore additional techniques to solve the challenges they faced.

“Connecting with different research areas outside of APS has benefited the team and the work tremendously,” Bai said. “The collaboration with the clinicians at the medical school has been enormous. The collaboration was very smooth and easy, and I was amazed by the passion of the team.

Left: Schematic illustration showing a cross-sectional view of the skin-interface wireless sensing patch for muscle monitoring. Right: Envisioned smart healthcare enabled by the wearable sensing patch, which tightly connects users to clinical professionals via cloud-based computing systems. Adapted from Adv. Mater. Technology. 2022, seven2200468.

As an undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral researcher, Bai has had great experiences working in a collaborative environment with multidisciplinary teams. Today, he integrates this same approach in his laboratory with his students.

“Sometimes even a small, unintended suggestion from a researcher in a totally different field can save months of time trying to find a way around a technical obstacle,” Bai said. “Collaborating with medical experts at UNC, especially frontline physicians, helped us learn more about their personal experiences with existing medical devices as well as potential challenges we might face.”

Bai is working with Innovate Carolina’s technology commercialization office to advance the technology, and the team has filed a provisional patent associated with the item. OTC helps accelerate the translation of big ideas into meaningful products and services to benefit North Carolina, the world, and the University. Bai hopes the technology can be made available in the near future to address unmet medical needs and challenges.

Text adapted from a press release.

Reference: Wubin Bai et al., ‘Skin-Interfaced Deep-Tissue Sensing Patch via Microneedle Waveguides’ Advanced Materials Technologies (2022) DOI: 10.1002/admt.202200468

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