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No wires, more cuddles: Sensors are first to monitor babies in the NICU without wires

Soft, flexible sensors provide clinical-grade measurements, allow physical bonding between baby and parent

Chest sensor as seen on a baby in the NICUAn interdisciplinary Northwestern University team has developed a pair of soft, flexible wireless sensors that replace the tangle of wire-based sensors that currently monitor babies in hospitals’ neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and pose a barrier to parent-baby cuddling and physical bonding.

The team recently completed a series of first human studies on premature babies at Prentice Women’s Hospital and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The researchers concluded that the wireless sensors provided data as precise and accurate as that from traditional monitoring systems. The wireless patches also are gentler on a newborn’s fragile skin and allow for more skin-to-skin contact with the parent. Existing sensors must be attached with adhesives that can scar and blister premature newborns’ skin. 

The study, involving materials scientists, engineers, dermatologists and pediatricians will be published March 1 in the journal Science.

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Meet the researchers

John Rogers

John Rogers
jrogers@northwestern.edu

Title: Louis Simpson and Kimberly Querrey Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Neurological Surgery in the McCormick School of Engineering and the Feinberg School of Medicine; E
xecutive Director of the Center for Bio-integrated Electronics in the Simpson Querrey Institute of BioNanotechnology

Amy Paller

Amy Paller
apaller@northwestern.edu

Title: Walter J. Hamlin Professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics in Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and director of Northwestern's Skin Disease Research Center

 

 

 

 

Shuai Xu

Shuai (Steve) Xu
stevexu@northwestern.edu

Title: Instructor of dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine and dermatologist at Northwestern Medicine

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Hamvas

Aaron Hamvas
ahamvas@luriechildrens.org

Title: Chief of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics and Raymond & Hazel Speck Berry Professor of Neonatology at Feinberg School of Medicine

Debra Weese-Mayer

Debra Weese-Mayer
d-weese-mayer@northwestern.edu

Title: Beatrice Cummings Mayer Professor of Pediatric Autonomic Medicine at Feinberg School of Medicine

Yonggang Huang

Yonggang Huang
y-huang@northwestern.edu

Walter P. Murphy Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at McCormick School of Engineering

 

Roozbeh Ghaffari

Roozbeh Ghaffari
rooz@northwestern.edu

Title: Director of Translational Research and Research Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at McCormick School of Engineering

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Images

Lab images

The following images, taken in John Rogers' lab at Northwestern University, depict the research team and sensors modeled on a doll.

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Clinical images

The following images feature researchers working with a family involved in the clinical trial of the sensors.

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Broll

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Animated graphics

Baby with wireless sensors
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Animated gif demonstrates the difference between traditional, wired sensors and the new wireless sensors.

Device bending
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Animation illustrates how the devices bend and stretch with the skin. 

Soundbites

Amy Paller
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Dermatologist Amy Paller describes the genesis of the study and provides an overview of how the patch works.

John Rogers
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Sensor inventor John Rogers explains where current NICU tech is lacking,  prompting parents to seek a better solution.

Hamvas and Weese-Mayer
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Pediatricians Aaron Hamvas and Debra Weese-Mayer discuss the importance of skin-to-skin ‘kangaroo’ care with newborns.

Taschana Taylor
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Taschana Taylor, mother of a baby in the NICU, discusses what these sensors mean for her.

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