Illuminated pajamas treat jaundice in mommy's arms
Illuminated pajamas treat jaundice in mommy's arms
Interview with Dr. Luciano Boesel, Team Leader "Adaptive Textiles & Hydrogels", Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt), Empa
Sixty percent of newborns are affected by jaundice during their first days of life. In most cases, the condition is harmless. The ailment is more pronounced in premature babies, whose treatment involves irradiation with blue light in a special incubator – naked and alone. The materials scientists at Empa now want to customize this method to the needs of babies and thus significantly improve the treatment.
Dr. Luciano Boesel, Group Leader "Adaptive Textiles & Hydrogels", Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa)
In this interview with MEDICA-tradefair.com, Dr. Luciano Boesel talks about the risks of jaundice and the newly developed pajamas with LEDs, which make it possible to treat a newborn outside the hospital.
Dr. Boesel, what is jaundice?
Dr. Luciano Boesel: Jaundice is a common condition among premature babies. Breakdown products of the protein molecule in red blood cells called hemoglobin frequently accumulate in the blood of premature infants. Once the levels of this so-called bilirubin are too high, things get dangerous. The main risk is that bilirubin might cross the blood-brain barrier and cause damage to the brain. To prevent this from happening, the levels of bilirubin in the blood must be continuously monitored to initiate the corresponding treatment.
You have now developed illuminated pajamas to treat jaundice. How do they work?
Boesel: It works similarly to a conventional phototherapy device. Nowadays, these devices are typically used in inpatient care. These are incubators where the premature babies lie naked and are being treated with blue light. The blue light turns the bilirubin into a soluble product that in turn can be metabolized by the newborn. The pajamas also use blue light.
Model of the illuminated pajama on a doll.
What are these pajamas made of?
Boesel: Our pajamas are made of so-called polymer optical fibers. They are interwoven with conventional polyester yarn and connected to blue LEDs. The optical fibers subsequently radiate the blue light onto the baby's skin. To achieve homogeneous radiation, the fibers have to be bent at just the right angle during the weaving process. That’s why we initially had to carefully analyze and define the number of bends per centimeter.
What are the advantages of the pajamas over the conventional treatment?
Boesel: The conventional treatment process calls for the premature baby to stay in the hospital. The drawback is that the baby is unable to be with his/her mother during a critical phase. Since the blue light might damage the eyes, they are covered for protection during the treatment. Meanwhile, the pajamas treatment would no longer necessitate protective goggles for the baby because the light is only radiated inwards and directed right at the skin. What’s more, there is no need for the premature baby to stay in the hospital during the entire and possibly extended treatment process and the infant could instead be treated at home by the parents. The inpatient treatment becomes portable.
Close-up of material and LEDs of the pajama.
In what way is your research interdisciplinary?
Bergler: An interdisciplinary approach is extremely important in this concept and we have deliberately opted in favor of it. Patients who face a major minimum four-hour visceral surgical procedure with an additive risk factor for renal insufficiency are treated by surgeons and anesthesiologists. As nephrologists, we enter the scene in the immediate postoperative setting once the result of the biomarker testing is available to make the necessary recommendations based on the KDIGO guidelines. When it comes to complex clinical pictures such as these, I believe it is vitally important to simply team up the involved disciplines of nephrology, surgery, and anesthesia. We consider the care of patients to be an interdisciplinary task intended to achieve the maximum benefit and prevent them from going through the severe stages of renal failure.
What are your future goals?
Bergler: Together with our colleagues in anesthesia and surgery, we want be able to offer this biomarker test outside of the clinical trial setting and have it become a part of routine intensive care. We also want to combine it with an electronic alert system. Once the biomarker responds, all involved parties can communicate and be aware that they are dealing with a patient at increased risk for acute kidney injury. This ensures optical care for the patient. In other words, this is not supposed to be a purely academic pilot project but is intended to be applied in the general patient care process early next year, thus making the test also available to patients outside the clinical trial.
The interview was conducted by Elena Blume and translated from German by Elena O'Meara. MEDICA-tradefair.com