Recently, a collaboration between a team of students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne with the startup IcosaMed and has shown a ‘smart’ piece of clothing that can potentially help in the prevention of cancer.
More precisely, the students invented a new ‘SmartBra’ that uses a safe and noninvasive way to detect cancer in its early stages in women wearing it.
Hugo Vuillet, who was one of the members that helped in its development, explains the functioning of the SmartBra in the words “Our smart-clothing technology is designed to detect cancer at the earliest stages. It uses a non-invasive, painless method based on frequent ultrasound monitoring,”
The theory and the plan for the SmartBra came during a master’s level class known as the Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Engineering which is a class given collectively by the College of Management of Technology and the School of Engineering.
According to the institutes, the class was introduced and conducted for the first time in the fall semester of 2019. The primary aim of it was to familiarize students with the possible challenges that arise during the development of new products.
Hence, the students taking the class had to not only team up with different companies but also engage with local businesses to understand and identify an unmet need in order to come up with an idea for a new product.
The team behind the idea and creation of the SmartBra which includes Vuillet as well as Jules Pochon, Fatemeh Ghadamieh, and Samet Hana won the highest position and an award from the team of adjudicators who were all professors from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.
The design and working of the SmartBra were so successful that the Neuchâtel-based startup the students worked with decided to extend and continue the partnership.
Currently, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer affects over two million women each year.
In addition, it is also responsible for the highest number of deaths due to cancer among women. Statistically, breast cancer led to approximately 627,000 deaths in women.
The rates of breast cancer are higher in women from developed countries rather than in other regions. However, the cases are rapidly rising each year in all countries around the world.
For successful treatment of breast cancer, health experts state that early detection is fundamental so that best-suited therapy can begin as early as possible.
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The current option for diagnosis for cancer include screenings that use radiation. On the other hand, the technology used in IcosaMed’s designs, as well as the SmartBra, uses ultrasound waves.
These waves are similar to those used in low-intensity pulsed ultrasound and high-intensity focused ultrasound and can detect cancerous cells via echography.
Vuillet explains the technology, saying “This technology is what allows us to miniaturize the SmartBra’s detection system so that it’s still comfortable to wear and nearly imperceptible,”
So, if the technology senses a cluster of cells, it will inform the wearer so that a precautionary appointment can be set up with a cancer specialist.
The introduction of SmartBra and this technology can significantly impact the field of cancer detection and prevention.
The CEO of IcosaMed, Max Boysset states “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—we hope that one day it could also act preventively and emit nearly continuous, low-dose ultrasound waves in a controlled manner so as to stimulate apoptosis in the cancerous mass.”
The SmartBra has been planned to be launched in 2021 starting with women who already have breast cancer so that they can monitor their progress. Eventually, it will also be available in the market for all women.