Students develop shirt to monitor breathing, heart

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Members of the research team at Nara Women’s University sit beside a person, left, wearing the shirt they developed to monitor health.

The Yomiuri ShimbunA research team at Nara Women’s University in Nara has developed a new “wearable device” — a shirt to monitor a user’s respiration and heart rate. While the research is still in the experimental stages, being able to see personal health data on a screen is expected to reduce the workload of staff at hospitals and care facilities.

Electronic sensors, woven into the chest and abdomen parts of the shirt, monitor heart rate and other internal activities at all times. The data is sent in real time to a monitor connected to the circuit by an electric cord. Because no device needs to be attached directly to the bodies of care recipients, who could be bedridden or have dementia, users will feel much less stress.

In 2007, the team made a trial maternity belt to measure the heart rates of pregnant women and their unborn babies at the same time. One of the reasons the team decided to develop such a belt is a 2006 incident in which a woman in the prefecture became unconscious during delivery and died after several hospitals refused to take her in.

The new shirt was developed as an applied version of the belt. Kokoro Kurosawa — a 22-year-old former student who graduated in March and who had been in the university’s faculty of human life and environment — proposed making such shirts to the team. Based on her experience with childhood asthma, she had said, “I wonder if we can make clothes that could easily monitor breathing.”

The team will continue further research to improve the shirt, such as removing the cord, with the goal of having users feel no stress at all when wearing it.

“If we can develop a shirt that can detect signs of abnormal respiration, it will help hospitals and care facilities,” Kurosawa said.

The team hopes to put the shirt into practical use while sticking to a comfortable design.

The university’s Prof. Naoki Saiwaki, 52, who is instructing the team, said: “The female students’ desires to help people has been the motivation for this research. We want to contribute to helping workers in severe work environments at care facilities.”Speech

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