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Electronic ‘skin’ developed for patient monitoring

A second skin for patients that provides real-time monitoring is on the horizon.

Researchers at Monash University have patented a stretchable electronic device that can track health signals, from muscle strain and blood pressure to cholesterol and glucose levels.

Health professionals can monitor the information on smartphones using Bluetooth.

Professor Wenlong Cheng said the device is highly durable and portable which allows it to be worn or implanted into any part of the body.

“Current wearables are rigid and bulky, which cause discomfort to the human body, and can cost thousands of dollars,” Cheng said. “If we can design skin-like diagnostic materials that are thin, soft, portable and comfortable we can fundamentally change the way healthcare is managed in Australia.”

The skin-like device is made up of very thin gold nanowires, each with a diameter equal to one thousandth of a human hair, in an elastomeric sheet that can be stretched up to nine times its original size.

Trials have shown that the wearable skin can still provide 93 per cent data accuracy even after 2000 stretches.

The next step in the research is to apply the wearable electronic skin to real-world cases.

Cheng said: “Current healthcare treatment is hospital-centred because of our dependence on expensive, heavy diagnostic tools that are only available in specialised medical practices and require trained personnel to operate.

“Wearable biodiagnostics can overcome this limitation and move towards better patient-centred healthcare.”

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