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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Smart clothes to monitor health
The clothes should pick up changes in sweat
European scientists are developing clothing which they say will be able to monitor your health.

The "intelligent textiles" contain embedded sensors designed to monitor body fluids such as blood and sweat.

The aim is to use the clothes to check on groups such as recovering hospital patients, people with chronic illnesses and injured athletes.

The Biotex programme, funded in part by the European Union, involves researchers from eight institutions.

A prototype multi-sensor test patch is already near completion.

The next step will be to try out the experimental fabric on volunteers.

Project co-ordinator Jean Luprano, from the Swiss technology company CSEM, told The Engineer magazine: "Sensors have been built and have been tested in the lab.

"We have started their integration into textile patches.

"We will soon have a multi-sensor patch which will allow us to sense several elements in parallel."

Test of fibres
Fibres in the material collect moisture and bring it to the sensors

The first version will be able to monitor sweat by measuring acidity, salinity and perspiration rate.

It is hoped the technology will eventually be able to monitor the body's vital signs, assess the progress of wound healing, and spot illnesses and infections at a very early stage by pinpointing abnormalities in metabolism.

Mr Luprano stressed the technology was not meant to replace traditional medical diagnostic methods.

However, he said that away from a clinic it was often not practical to collect data.

"In these cases, wearable monitoring systems, even if less accurate, can help the physicians get additional information they would not have without them if the patients are away from the hospital."

Mark Outhwaite, chairman of a specialist group of the British Computer Society dealing with informatics and telemedicine, said sensors would only be useful to doctors if they provided highly accurate and reliable information.

He said lower grade information which identified trends, rather than absolutes, was likely to be useful in areas such as monitoring sporting performance, but could not necessarily be used to inform important medical decisions.

Mr Outhwaite said the idea of smart clothing was mooted by the US authorities in the late 1900s as a potential way to keep track of battlefield injuries.


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