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Osteoarthritis smart patch

24 January 2017

Osteoarthritis smart patch

A team from the University’s School of Engineering are hoping to create a smart patch to detect the early onset of osteoarthritis (OA) in patients' knees.

They are exploring the use of damage sensors from aircraft wings to catch subsonic cracking sounds in joints before the disease fully develops.

A smart patch could help save millions of pounds spent on diagnosis via X-ray and MRI scans, as well as improving the lives of patients through targeted, bespoke treatments.

Arthritis Research UK estimates 8.75 million people in the UK have sought treatment for OA.

When human joints develop OA, they can make audible clicking noises during movement due to damage, otherwise known as crepitus.

In the early stages of the disease, these rubbing noises are confined to higher, non-audible frequencies and so the researchers are looking at ways to capture these noises.

Dr Davide Crivelli, of the School of Engineering, told BBC News: "The idea has got huge potential to change the way we diagnose osteoarthritis..."

"If we're able to link the sound signature of a healthy knee and a knee with disease, we will be able to lower the costs on society a lot."

Professor Cathy Holt, Director of the University's musculoskeletal biomechanics research facility, said a cheap means of early diagnosis could be a real boon.

"The key thing is most people, once they have got joint pain, it's too late - they have got the disease already. Whereas, there might be points where we can intervene earlier," she told the BBC.

"So, the holy grail really is some sort of screening tool."

Professor Cathy Holt Professor
Director of Biomechanics Research

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