The simple act of swallowing isn’t actually quite so simple. Swallowing requires that a human coordinate more than 30 pairs of muscles, six nerves, and multiple regions of the brain and brainstem. Any complications with any of those can make it difficult to swallow successfully. Swallowing disorders are very dangerous, and affect more than 9 million adults and 500,000 children every year in the United States alone. To help facilitate treatment, researchers from Purdue University have a developed a wearable patch that gives doctors the ability to monitor patients as they swallow.
Georgia A. Malandraki, an associate professor in Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences, and Chi Hwan Lee, an assistant professor in Purdue University’s College of Engineering, developed this wearable monitor. It’s worn on the top of the patient’s neck, just below their chin. The patch can detect muscle activity, and then send it wirelessly to the doctor for analysis via a module that is worn on the patient’s shirt. The patch itself is disposable, and can be worn for extended periods of time in order to collect more comprehensive data.
To get this technology into use as soon as possible, Malandraki and Lee formed a company called Curasis LLC and are serving as CEO and CTO, respectively. The goal is to “provide a reliable, patient-friendly and affordable way to treat the millions of people with swallowing disorders." The wearable sensor stickers are inexpensive and disposable, while the wireless unit can be reused and is still more affordable than other devices. This could help further research into swallowing disorders and also help evaluate the efficacy of the treatments that are being used today. Curasis LLC is currently seeking additional partners that can help bring this technology to market.