Dec. 1 (UPI) — New research suggests it won’t be long before socks or a wristband are tracking a variety of vital signs, from a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to their cholesterol levels and circadian rhythms.
According to a paper published Tuesday in the journal Applied Physics Reviews, microfibers and nanofibers will make it possible for pieces of clothing to keep tabs on common ailments, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity and high blood pressure.
Wearable fibers are both sensitive and flexible, capable of being woven into a variety of garments, or even woven directly into a person’s skin — like a tattoo.
These fibers can measure blood pressure, heart rate, sleep quality, cholesterol levels, oxygen levels and other vital signs.
As a population ages, health problems become more prevalent, increasing the burden on a country’s healthcare system. Wearable monitors could help healthcare providers manage these problems more efficiently, researchers say.
“You could have watches. You could have tattoos. It is usable in almost any form,” lead study author Rituparna Ghosh said in a news release.
“You could have something like a face mask. It could be a handkerchief which you put on your wrist and it starts giving data,” said Ghosh, a mechanical engineer at the National University of Singapore.
According to study co-author Seeram Ramakrishna, also with the National University of Singapore, nanofiber sensors with piezoelectric properties — meaning they can derive energy from motion — could be ready for market in two to three years.
In the meantime, more work must be done to make vitals-sensing microfibers more durable. Researchers must also develop new ways to power microfiber sensors, they said.
On top of this, wearable technologies must undergo robust, real-world tests to ensure they’re accurate and useful to both health professionals and patients.
“The medical community is always skeptical, while the wellness industry already is using these concepts,” Ramakrishna said.
“We need a lot more cause-and-effect studies. We need to amass information so doctors will really accept that this is information they can rely on,” Ramakrishna said.