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Wearable, cloth-based nanotechnology is set to revolutionize healthcare with its applicability in connected-care technology. Wearable sensors (defined by the FDA as companion diagnostics devices) can support a wide variety of medical functions, and ultimately save lives.
Nanowear is a US-based startup at the forefront of this revolution. Their pioneering work includes the clinical launch of NanoSENSE in 2019. The companion diagnostic platform senses multiple biological inputs and sends alerts to help doctors and patients prevent congestive heart failure – a leading cause of death in the US.
This article shows how nanotechnology monitoring solutions such as Nanowear’s are important, and explores wider innovations and challenges in the fields of wearable cloth-based nanotechnology, remote monitoring solutions, and companion diagnostics in health applications.
A Big Problem: Chronic Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure (CHF) is one of the most pressing concerns in health services around the world. The US alone sees approximately 700,000 new cases of CHF each year, with 6.5 million people in the US suffering from heart failure.
The problem is not only big but very costly. Heart failure contributed to one in every eight deaths in the US in 2017, and costs the US an estimated $40 billion per year in health care services, medicines and missed days of work.
Almost a quarter of CHF patients are readmitted to hospital with heart problems within their first month after discharge. The likelihood of CHF can also be reliably predicted by doctors equipped with biometric data and knowledge of the patients’ behaviors and lifestyle.
Using Cloth-Based Nanotechnology to Prevent Heart Failure
SimpleSENSE is the flagship product of Nanowear, which was founded in 2014. Nanowear is a nanotechnology company that is innovating in cloth-based nanotechnology for remote monitoring solutions and connected-care technology.
Nanowear has responded to the big and costly problem of CHF by launching the NanoSENSE study in 2019. The study is using SimpleSENSE – the first (and currently only) FDA-cleared cloth-based nanosensor – in an undergarment application.
Nanowear’s cloth-based nanotechnology captures big datasets of patients’ phonocardiography, impedance cardiography, multi-channel electrocardiography (ECG), respiratory rate, thoracic impedance, activity, and posture.
Proprietary, machine-learning-based algorithms are used to score these large datasets and alert medical professionals of worsening heart failure weeks before the patient would otherwise present at the hospital.
Like other remote monitoring solutions in the broader field of connected-care technology, the program under study in NanoSENSE has the potential to save on costs significantly – not only financial resources for individuals, the wider economy and the state but also the cost of human life.
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Nanowear: Pioneering Nanotechnology Monitoring Solutions
Nanowear is on a mission “to improve the quality of preventive medicine, practitioner productivity, patient care and physical performance through nanotechnology – and machine learning-enabled diagnostic monitoring”.
They are well-positioned to significantly disrupt the connected-care technology market, with the first and only FDA approval for cloth-based nanotechnology monitoring solutions.
As an industry pioneer, Nanowear has already received notable awards and been invited to prestigious and competitive accelerator and incubator programs. Key highlights of their short six-year history include winning the Accenture HealthTech Challenge Global Champion award at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in 2018, selection for Google Launchpad Studio, and winning the Best in Show and Best Health and Wearable Company prizes at SXSW Pitch in 2018.
Wearable Cloth-Based Nanotechnology and Connected-Care Technology Today
Wearables – the name given for smart devices designed to be worn non-invasively by users – has been a critical focus of expansion for various technological applications in the last decade.
A notable example of wearable technology is the Fitbit watch. The device is aimed at a consumer market and provides health and fitness information to help users better manage their health and personal athletic goals. A key indicator of wearables’ potential for profit and disruption is the current acquisition of Fitbit by Google’s parent company Alphabet for $2.1 billion.
Wearables are divided into two broad categories: actuators and sensors. Actuators are devices that respond to input from a remote smart device or integrated sensors, and deliver an automatic process. For example, innovative companies and researchers are exploring automated drug delivery devices that can be worn like a clothing garment or watch.
Sensors record various points of biometric data for health applications as diverse as blood alcohol content detection, rapid diagnosis, and remote monitoring of outpatients. SimpleSENSE and the Fitbit watch are examples of wearable sensors.
While wearable technology includes more solutions than nanotechnology, advances in the field of nanotechnology have contributed significantly to the recent development of usable wearables.
Challenges and Opportunities for Cloth-Based Nanotechnology
There are two critical challenges in wearables: the need for greater integration of wearables with smart devices as part of the Internet-of-Things (IoT), and the need for smart wearable technology which is flexible, elastic and hard-wearing enough to be practical for users.
Another challenge for wearable technology – especially the remote monitoring solutions that Nanowear is focusing on – is the vast amount of data that is generated by applying smart sensors in a pervasive environment. This poses ethical concerns relating to private information and its ability to be misused, as well as practical challenges relating to quality data management that ensures data is correct and useful.
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Nanowear is also a pioneer in this area. The NanoSENSE study includes an in-depth exploration of Nanowear’s proprietary machine-learning algorithm, which makes sense of the large and varied data acquired by the SimpleSENES cloth-based nanotechnology. Nanowear is also signed up to the AdvaMed Code of Ethics for medical technology producers.
Strategically focused on these challenges and opportunities, it is clear that Nanowear’s innovations will be hotly anticipated by all players in the medical technology, nanotechnology and wearables industries now and in the future.
References and Further Reading
Banaee, Hadi, Mobyen Ahmed, and Amy Loutfi (2013). “Data Mining for Wearable Sensors in Health Monitoring Systems: A Review of Recent Trends and Challenges.” Sensors. https://doi.org/10.3390/s131217472.
Benjamin, Emelia J., et al. (2019). “Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2019 Update: A Report From the American Heart Association.” Circulation. https://doi.org/10.1161/cir.0000000000000659.
Harito, Christian, et al. (2020). “Review—The Development of Wearable Polymer-Based Sensors: Perspectives.” Journal of The Electrochemical Society. https://doi.org/10.1149/1945-7111/ab697c.
Jayathilaka, Wanasinghe Arachchige Dumith Madush, et al. (2018). “Significance of Nanomaterials in Wearables: A Review on Wearable Actuators and Sensors.” Advanced Materials. https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.201805921.
Lovell, N. H., et al. (2014). “What Does Big Data Mean for Wearable Sensor Systems?” Yearbook of Medical Informatics. https://doi.org/10.15265/iy-2014-0019.
Nanowear (2020). Nanowear Announces Clinical Launch of NanoSENSE, a Heart Failure Management and Alert Diagnostic Validation Study. Nanowear. https://www.nanowearinc.com/press/clinical-trial.html.
O’Donoghue, John and John Herbert (2012). “Data Management within mHealth Environments: Patient Sensors, Mobile Devices, and Databases.” Journal of Data and Information Quality. https://doi.org/10.1145/2378016.2378021.
Thierer, Adam D. (2014). “The Internet of Things & Wearable Technology: Addressing Privacy & Security Concerns Without Derailing Innovation.” SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2494382.