Smart patch tracks body's response to diet

Friday, 08 May, 2020

Smart patch tracks body's response to diet

A personalised nutrition wearable is being developed by Melbourne-based start-up Nutromics to measure key dietary biomarkers and help wearers track how their bodies respond to different foods.

The wearable smart patch will deliver precision data to an app to help people personalise their diets and reduce their risk of developing lifestyle-related chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

A collaborative team led by Nutromics, RMIT University, Griffith University and manufacturer Romar Engineering — with support from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) — is now researching and developing the required manufacturing capabilities to pilot manufacture the device.

Nutromics Co-CEO Peter Vranes said the smart patch leverages emerging technologies to empower people to take greater control of their health.

“We’ve brought together a multidisciplinary team of partners who are leaders in their fields to deliver Australian-made health technology that’s personalised and powerful,” Vranes said.

“Research has shown that what we eat affects us all differently; two people might have the same meal but their post-meal response can vary wildly.

“People want to make healthy food choices but with so much conflicting nutrition advice, many of us are confused about what that looks like.”

Vranes explained that the ability to easily monitor key dietary biomarkers will give users the knowledge to personalise their diet to suit their own body and improve their health.

Diabetes is one of the largest chronic health challenges globally. Without action, up to 70% of people with pre-diabetes can go on to develop type 2 diabetes within the next four years, but with early interventions and lifestyle changes, the condition is largely preventable.

Integrated smart patch

Professor Sharath Sriram, Research Co-Director of RMIT’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, said the smart patch combines a complex sensing platform and stretchable electronics for improved conformity to skin.

Griffith University and Romar Engineering will work to fabricate a sample collection, with sensor integration and stretchable electronics fabrication undertaken at RMIT’s Micro Nano Research Facility.

With the end user at front of mind, Professor Sriram said RMIT researchers would integrate the technologies in a prototype smart patch that could be cost-efficiently manufactured via roll-to-roll (R2R) printing.

“This smart patch is a significant evolution in wearable health monitoring technology,” he said.

“Current wearable technologies can track your heart rate and steps, but they can’t monitor your health at a molecular level.

“This new technology goes deeper, targeting the precise biomarkers that drive lifestyle-related diseases like type 2 diabetes.”

Additive manufacturing challenge

IMCRC funding is enabling a $6.9 million total project investment to address the challenge of additive manufacturing and large-scale production of the smart patches.

IMCRC CEO and Managing Director David Chuter said the project would build Australia’s capability in medical technologies manufacturing and improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of the advanced manufacturing sector.

“The manufacturing challenges addressed by this project will not only help deliver a low-cost, high-tech smart patch, but will also create technologies that are transferable to other Australian companies in the consumer and medical tech space,” Chuter said.

Professor Nam-Trung Nguyen, Director of the Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre at Griffith University, said the project was underpinned by the centre’s past and ongoing fundamental research in microfluidics and wearable, implantable microsystems.

“It is one of the research pillars at the Queensland Micro- and Nanotechnology Centre towards the commercialisation and translation of our discoveries for the benefit of end users,” he said.

“The project will benefit significantly from the recent addition of a femtosecond laser machining system funded by the ARC.”

Romar Engineering CEO Alan Lipman added that collaboration was the way forward for Australian manufacturing.

“Working with entrepreneurs, academics and researchers to develop new medical technologies is essential to maintain Australia’s international competitiveness and to build a strong domestic manufacturing skills base.”

Image caption: A proof-of-concept Nutromics smart patch. Image credit: Nutromics.

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