Saving Lives With Stickers

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Scientists from Purdue University have created a new type of sticker that could dramatically change the medical industry. The sticker is designed to monitor the health and wellness of patients after surgery, so they can keep track of their vitals no matter where they go.

“For the first time, we have created wearable electronic devices that someone can easily attach to their skin and are made out of paper to lower the cost of personalized medicine.”

Ramses Martinez, a Purdue assistant professor of industrial engineering and biomedical engineering, who led the research team

The stickers are constructed from cellulose. Cellulose is breathable as well as biocompatible. Because of this, the technology can easily monitor physical activity in a user. The stickers are shaped in a curved fashion, and designed to be incredibly thin and flexible. This means that users would be virtually unaware that they were wearing the stickers at all. Additionally, the stickers are capable of alerting as user to any medical issues in real time.

The stickers are made of paper to reduce cost and waste. However, they need to be able to survive when pressed against skin, which has a habit of becoming sweaty or dirty — particularly with exertion. To prevent the paper from degrading too quickly, scientists coated it with molecules that keep away bacteria, water, dust, and oil.

These medical stickers cost about a nickel each to manufacture. Because of their makeup, scientists can fabricate them using the same techniques applied to high speed book printing. This means that these sensors are easy, fast, and inexpensive to make.

There are numerous applications that these stickers could potentially be used for. Since the stickers can easily and discreetly conform to internal organs, they would be perfect for monitoring patients in sleep studies. Medical professionals could use them to monitor patients remotely; they could even be used to send an alert in case of an emergency. These sticker sensors also have potential in the rapidly growing wearables field for athletes, as they could be utilized to track health and biometrics while working out.

The next step for Purdue scientists will involve commercialization of their technology. They are working to expand the potential applications for the stickers, and seeking partners for further testing.

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