UCSD Electronic Wireless Tattoo Receives Grant from the Gates Foundation

UCSD Electronic Wireless Tattoo Receives Grant from the Gates Foundation

The University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering announced today that it is a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bioengineering Professor Todd Coleman, in collaboration with Materials Science and Engineering Professor John A. Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will pursue an innovative global health and development research project, titled “Epidermal Electronics for Continuous Pregnancy Monitoring.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how we solve persistent global health and development challenges. Coleman’s project is one of over 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Grand Challenges Explorations encourages individuals worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas where creative, unorthodox thinking is most urgently needed,” said Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re excited to provide additional funding for select grantees so that they can continue to advance their idea towards global impact.”

To receive funding, Coleman and Rogers along with other Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 winners demonstrated in a two-page online application a bold idea in one of five critical global heath and development topic areas that included agriculture development, immunization and nutrition. Applications for the current open round, Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9, will be accepted through May 15, 2012.

Coleman’s project will advance the epidemiology of pre-term birth by using flexible tattoo-like devices to continuously monitor uterine contractions, fetal heart rate and oxygen, and maternal heart rate and body temperature. In addition, their technology has the potential to enable non-invasive, wireless and continuous pregnancy monitoring of at-risk patients. The project uses a skin-mounted electronics system developed in collaboration with Rogers at the University of Illinois. The wearable patch of tiny circuits, sensors, and wireless transmitters sticks to the skin like a temporary tattoo, stretching and flexing with the skin while maintaining high performance. This approach builds upon a class of flexible electronics technologies that Rogers has pioneered.

“These systems provide fundamentally new and powerful ways to integrate electronics with the skin, in a manner that blurs the distinction between the two. The ideas are sufficiently simple that they open up new, exciting opportunities to address, cost effectively, important problems in global health,” said Rogers.

In the first phase of the project, Coleman and Rogers will partner with Dr. Gladys Ramos and her colleagues from the Department of Reproductive Medicine, UC San Diego Health System, to monitor patients in labor and determine how well the device’s sensors perform compared to standard clinical technology.

The wearable patch of tiny circuits, sensors, and wireless transmitters sticks to the skin like a temporary tattoo, stretching and flexing with the skin while maintaining high performance. Photo Courtesy of Materials Science and Engineering Professor John A. Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Our goal is that we will accurately be able to detect the signs and symptoms of preterm labor in a reliable and non-invasive manner,” said Ramos.

Coleman’s lab at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering is extending the robustness and capabilities of these devices to match relevant clinical applications, while maintaining accuracy and sensitivity. For example, Coleman is using his expertise in signal processing and neuroscience to design novel sensors and wireless radios that can effectively acquire, process, and transmit bodily signals during natural skin deformations.

“We see this as a compelling opportunity to move these prototypes from the bench top to the bedside, where our capabilities uniquely match an unmet need,” said Coleman. “First, the form factor and accuracy of our device will uniquely be able to monitor the pregnant mother in a multi-modal, continuous, and most importantly, unobtrusive manner. Secondly, there is tremendous potential for developing countries, where healthcare access is limited but mobile phone usage is high. Our goal is for the electronic tattoo to transmit bodily signals to the mobile phone, which then uploads to the cloud, so that a doctor thousands of miles away can securely access the information and provide clinically actionable advice. We envision the phrase, ‘Take two of these and call me in the morning,’ being replaced with, ‘Wear this tattoo and I’ll call you when there’s a problem,’” said Coleman.

MC10, the leader in commercializing thin, conformal, epidermal electronics systems, will work closely with Coleman, Rogers, and their partners to speedily develop, test, and deploy this revolutionary approach to advancing the quality of pregnancy monitoring in underserved populations.

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 600 people in 45 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organization. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online applications and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

A skin-like electronic device has been engineered by a team of scientists led by professor John A Rogers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. They have introduced to the world an “ultrathin, low-modulus, lightweight, stretchable skin-like membrane”, inside which they embedded various electronic sensors. It can be applied directly to the skin like a temporary tattoo and the sensors will move along with the skin.

go23i4nvgj Sticky News: Electronic Skin Patch Promises Simpler MonitoringThe researchers describe in their article, published in the latest issue of Science, the importance of the mechanophysiology of the skin for this project and how they engineered their device. It contained several kinds of sensors and matched the physical properties of the epidermis. After application on the skin they successfully tested their sensor by measuring electrical activity produced by the heart, brain and skeletal muscles.

The device could be used for many purposes, like patient monitoring in clinical settings and human-machine interfaces. Using this thin material, mobile monitoring could become better and the devices used could become less bulky. For future use, the materials should be able to overcome the problems of sweating and continuous cell turnover in the skin. The researchers will also be working on a way to integrate various devices into a working system.

Rogers, professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the founder of MC10, the company which is trying to develop commercial uses for the device, sadly couldn’t estimate how long it will take for the patch to become commercially available.

Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced its latest round of grant winners for its Grand Challenges Explorations initiative. Among the recipients is a team from the University of California, San Diego and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that is developing a tiny, flexible fetal monitor. We wrote about the technology behind the device back in August and were able to hear from David Icke, CEO of MC10, the company helping to commercialize it, at both FutureMed in February and at last month’s TEDMED conference.

Described as an electronic “tattoo”, the device is a wearable patch of circuits, sensors, and wireless transmitters that sticks to the skin like a temporary tattoo and is able to stretch and flex with the skin. The researchers hope that the final product will continuously measure and monitor uterine contractions, fetal heart rate and oxygen, and maternal heart rate and body temperature.

grand challenges arm tattoo UCSD Electronic Wireless Tattoo Receives Grant from the Gates FoundationAccording to Todd Coleman, professor of bioengineering and head of the project, the device is unique because of its ability to continuously check a number of different measurements in an unobtrusive manner. Moreover, the device will work well in developing countries that lack sufficient healthcare access, but have high mobile phone usage, as it will transmit data wirelessly to a cellphone and on to the cloud to be viewed by physicians far away.

Be sure to read about some of the other grant winners here. There’s a lot of neat research being done in the areas of vaccines, synthetic biology, and global health.

Source : http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressreleases/grand_challenges_explorations_grant_funds_groundbreaking_health_research/

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