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Funding for tech to detect infant breathing problems

Published: 25 April 2019 at 11:00

Baby in a refugee camp

Wearable technology will monitor respiratory rate among new-born babies

An innovative wearable sensor to monitor new-born babies in poor areas is being developed by Anglia Ruskin University, in collaboration with experts in Jordan.

Academics will create wearable technology to accurately measure the respiratory rate in new-born babies, specifically for areas where access to healthcare is poor.

Researchers were alerted to the scale of the issue through their work in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, where they saw the effect that limited access to respiratory monitoring impacted access to appropriate healthcare.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 60% of neo-natal deaths in the camp were associated with preterm birth and its associated complication of respiratory stress syndrome.

This international collaborative project will develop a wearable sensor that makes use of wireless communication to provide continuous remote monitoring of an infant’s breathing. This in turn will support faster, more accurate identification of health conditions in new-borns.

Inkjet-printing technology will create stretchable and biocompatible sensors for the monitor, and the project team will work closely with industry to ensure the designs conform to medical standards and can be easily commercialised.

Professor Dingchang Zheng, of Anglia Ruskin University, said:

“The first week of life is crucial for new-born babies, and in low income areas, access to appropriate healthcare is often limited. If a baby develops a problem, it can sometimes be too late before the issue is diagnosed.

“As a result, there is an increasing need for remote, low-cost, reliable, and comfortable respiratory rate sensors that provide physicians with accurate readings and to assess the health condition of new-borns.

“We are developing a sensor which will be made of flexible and biocompatible materials with an attachment mechanism that avoids skin infection caused by traditional adhesive electrodes. 

“We’re delighted to be working with our partners in Jordan to create this vital piece of technology. We believe it will have a real tangible benefit which can save the lives of vulnerable babies.”

Professor Zheng of Anglia Ruskin is working with Professor Ala’aldeen Al-Halhouli of the German Jordanian University as part of the UK-Jordan Industry-Academia Partnership Programme being funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, through the Newton Fund.