KSU team develops heat-sensitive fabric to help diabetics

KENT, Ohio -- Nearly ten percent of the U.S. population has diabetes and many more people are undiagnosed. One of the risks of diabetes is foot sores that can lead to amputation.

Three unlikely academic partners at Kent State University got together and created a sock that may one day save the feet of diabetics.

Fashion, liquid crystal science and podiatry don't seem like three areas of study that would work together, until now. They've partnered to develop a fabric that may provide an early warning sign to one of the biggest risks of diabetes.

Remember the mood ring? It was made of liquid crystal that changed colors depending on your mood. The gimmick is now being used as a medical tool.

"We're using this same technology where the color of the liquid crystal according to the background temperature to pick up changes in temperature in the body," KSU Trustee Professor of Chemistry, John West said.

A Kent State team from the Liquid Crystal Institute, the Fashion School and the College of Podiatric Medicine developed a fabric that can be turned into a sensor sock for diabetics.

"Any inflammation, any infection will cause an increase in temperature, swelling will cause an increase in temperature, poor circulation will cause a decrease in temperature and all of these things can be detected by this sock we're developing," said Jill Kawalec, Ph.D Research director at the KSU College of Podiatric Medicine.

Patients would put the socks on in the morning and if they notice a change in color, most likely blue or green which would indicate heat, they would know to call their doctor. The fabric could also be used for much more.

"I think there's a lot of potential commercial application for this work not only in the biomedical space but also as a fashion product," said Grand McGimpsey, KSU VP for Research.

Margarita Benitez is the KSU Fashion Technologist and her next assignment is finding a fabric that has the proper stretch for a sock and will work well with the liquid crystal that is sprayed onto the fabric.

"It's pretty mind blowing especially when you put it in the sunlight and all of a sudden the temperature colors start changing there's so much potential for design," Benitez said.

If all goes well they hope to have the sock on the market in two to three years at a reasonable price.

Follow WKYC's Senior Health Correspondent Monica Robins on Twitter: @MonicaRobins


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