Why Flex is betting on stretchtronics for medtech

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FlexThe wearable lab at Flex (formerly Flextronics) reports it’s making strides when it comes to creating devices that are transparent and seamless.

“Usually when you think about healthcare, you picture a person in a bed with wires running all around. We think healthcare should be as easy as putting on a T-shirt,” said John Carlson, president of health solutions at Flex. (Check out Flex at booth No. 102 at DeviceTalks Boston)

In Flex’s San Jose innovation and early technology labs, Anwar Mohammed shared one of the most intriguing technologies with medical applications. Mohammed is senior director at the advanced engineering group at Flex and provided some insight into the technology during a press tour this week. (Note: None of the devices MDO was shown are FDA cleared or approved. They were strictly proof of concept.)

Stretchtronics is flexible circuitry that could be implanted into clothing and could offer both worn or implanted opportunities for body monitoring. The value has already been realized in sweat monitoring cuffs in the NFL. In terms of medical applications, Carlson said that the sweat cuffs monitor glucose levels, as well as lactate and electrolyte levels. Those data could be practical for a therapeutic or diagnostic.

Another use of the technology mentioned by Mohammad was wound care. Sensors that measure O2 levels play a role in monitoring the progress of a wound. The team also mentioned a theoretical ability to predict pressure ulcers based on the types of sensors that could be input.

Mohammad noted that the material has significant applications in implantables, because of its flexibility. Devices that use the technology are designed to function alongside tissue, rather than be isolated from it.

“When the bodies’ cells identify foreign objects and start to reject them, one of the first indications [is that they push on them],” Mohammad said. “Thanks to work being done at MIT and Johns Hopkins, they’ve been able to show that it can take up to 19 days for the body to recognize stretchable electronics as a foreign object. That is 19 days in which you can monitor and treat severe trauma.”

(Check out Flex at booth No. 102 at DeviceTalks Boston)

How do you know your technology is disruptive enough to break conventional wisdom?

textadimage Stan Rowe knows a little something about bringing disruptive technology to market. The current Edwards Lifesciences CSO was in on the ground floor of two of medtech's most disruptive treatments, stents and transcatheter aortic valve replacement.

On December 12th, Rowe will sit down with MassDevice editor Brad Perriello for a long ranging discussion about the inside story on how these technologies came to market and what Rowe learned along the way.


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