A wearable sticker, being developed from NASA technology to monitor breathing rates, could “save lives”, according to a university.
Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is helping to create the device, which it said could detect deterioration in sepsis and Covid patients earlier.
Data from the sticker can be read on a smartphone or tablet app.
Researchers said it could be used for routine assessments in hospitals and by healthy people living at home.
After development, there will be a clinical trial with the aim of achieving approval for use by the NHS.
The university says it is hoped the work can ensure “faster, more effective treatment and help to save patients’ lives”.
Dr Yang Wei, from the NTU school of science and technology, said: “Every year thousands of lives are lost due to sepsis and late detection of respiratory disease.
“Changes in breathing rate almost always precede changes in other vital signs and the earlier these changes are detected, the more effective the treatment and the more deaths can be reduced.”
The university said respiratory rate – the number of breaths per minute – is currently the only vital sign that is not routinely measured by a machine.
It is measured in hospitals by nurses manually counting the number of breaths taken per minute.
NTU said other methods available, such as a chest-band or face mask, are used but can be invasive and uncomfortable.
NTU is developing the sticker with the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton.
The device is about the size of a watch face with a thin respiratory sensor and is highly sensitive to expansion and contraction of the lungs, without needing to be in direct contact with the skin, researchers said.
It is based on the principle of a device originally developed by NASA as a proximity sensor for collision detection in robots.
The three-year project has been funded with almost £1m from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
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