Research may greatly support health care system

The combination of 3D-textiles and electronics does sound cool indeed. However, for researcher Siw Eriksson it is all about soft values. Together with her colleagues Li Guo and Leif Sandsjö from the School of Engineering, she has set out to improve conditions for people who suffer from pressure ulcers.

Siw-Eriksson

– Our goal is to create something which is useful to society either by generating new knowledge, which may be turned into new products, or by creating new methods with which to develop the products in the future, Siw Eriksson says.

Electronics and 3D

The working title of the project is “Pressure Ulcer Management” and involves 3D-textiles embedded with electrodes. The goal is to make the treatment of pressure ulcers more efficient and to decrease the risk of them occurring.

– The 3D-textile reduces the pressure and thus makes it possible to avoid serious forms of pressure ulcers. The embedded electrodes are used to stimulate the cells, which speeds up the healing process.

Widespread problem

Pressure ulcers are associated with great suffering and huge costs for the health care system annually. A study involving Jönköping County estimated the cost at 53 million SEK for the year of 2005. Pressure on the skin affects the circulation of blood, which may lead to necrosis and ulceration due to the tissue of the skin suffering from lack of nourishment and oxygen.

The research project “Pressure Ulcer Management” has been founded on Siw Eriksson’s research in 3D-textiles and at present it is only in its initial stages.

Collaboration

– In my research, I investigate possible uses of 3D-textiles in medical technological applications and how the development process can be carried out in multidisciplinary groups, for example together with doctors. I study collaborations between different forms of expertise, possibilities and barriers in the early stages of the innovation process and how textile prototypes may facilitate understanding and illustrate the textile possibilities in the development of complex textile systems, she says.

In order to accomplish this, a power loom has been rebuilt to be able to weave structures which, so far, it has only been possible to create manually. The project is funded by among others the Smart Textiles Intitiative.

Several voices

The next step for Siw Eriksson and her colleagues is to continue their work, both at the theoretical and practical level, to develop textile solutions to the pressure ulcer problem in collaboration with a newly formed multidisciplinary team. They are very keen on including knowledge of and experience from both users within the health care system and the patients themselves early on in the process.

When do you expect to see the end of this project?
– It may be a little difficult to define “the end”. Is it at the completion of the development of the technology or when the first product has reached the market?

 

Text and photo: Rebecca Lindholm