Prescribing a medication plan for a patient with Parkinson’s disease is a big challenge for doctors, but now a University of Rhode Island biomedical engineering professor and his students are making great strides in solving that problem with their groundbreaking research.
Kunal Mankodiya, director of URI’s Wearable Biosensing Laboratory, says he’s researching how to transform gloves, socks, clothing and even shoes into high-tech items that will make people healthier – and improve their lives.
“We are in the era of game-changing technology, especially in health care,” says Mankodiya. “URI’s College of Engineering is pioneering new medical devices that will change the way people receive medical care. It’s an exciting time for the University — and Rhode Islanders.”
Mankodiya’s research focuses on smart textiles – wearable items embedded with sensors, electronics and software that can collect data from patients, even though they are at home, and deliver it to doctors. The benefit is that doctors will be able to make more informed decisions remotely, and patients will be more involved with their care.
The professor and his team of students have been working on “smart wearables” for years as part of their research on the “Internet of Things,” a framework to automate human interactions with Cloud computing. One creation that made headlines last year was a wristband that monitors the tremors of Parkinson’s patients and sends that information to doctors over an Internet connection.
This year, the team is turning its attention to textiles, designing items for patients with neurological illnesses. The gloves are the latest project. They are embedded with sensors on the fingers and thumb that measure tremors and rigidity — common symptoms of Parkinson’s.
The gloves, in turn, are connected to cell phones, which process the data and deliver it to neurologists in their offices. This way, doctors can manage the treatment plan of the patient day-to-day, ensuring that medication is working properly and eliminating the need for patients to make stressful clinical visits.
“Patients with Parkinson’s face many mobility issues – driving and even walking long distances,” Mankodiya says. “The glove will give patients the option of receiving health care while remaining at home, and it also reduces the risk of falls and other accidents.”