In collaboration with startup IcosaMed, EPFL students have developed smart clothing that can be used to diagnose cancer at the earliest stages.
The technology emits ultrasound waves – like those employed in high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) and low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPU) – to perform echography scans for potentially cancerous cells. Piezoelectric sensors were used to generate ultrasound waves.
Hugo Vuillet, one of the students on the development team, said, “This technology is what allows us to miniaturize the SmartBra’s detection system so that it’s still comfortable to wear and nearly imperceptible. If the system detects a suspicious mass of cells, it will alert the wearer so that she can schedule an appointment with a specialist.”
Max Boysset, IcosaMed Founder and CEO, said, “This smart-clothing technology could lead to a completely revolutionary approach to cancer prevention. It could also be an alternative to conventional treatments, which are expensive and have major side effects that significantly impact patients’ quality of life. Our system could do more than detect cancer. In essence, we hope that one day it could also act preventively and emit nearly continuous, low-dose ultrasound waves in a controlled manner to stimulate apoptosis in the cancerous mass.”
Students have decided to sell the SmartBra to women who have already been diagnosed with cancer at first. This will help them monitor their condition daily. Their next target will be to make it available to women with a genetic predisposition to developing cancer. Eventually, the SmartBra will be marketed to all women.
Boysset said, “Our partnership showed that students could offer concrete solutions to even highly technical problems.”
Vuillet added, “I intend to keep working on this project. We had already spoken with Turck Duotech about supplying them with functional piezoelectric components. Now we are in talks about supplying new piezoelectric components and working together to develop piezoelectric transducers and on image processing.”
The SmartBra is expected to pave the way for other high-potential products using smart textiles – like underwear and bodysuits – to detect and prevent different types of cancers.