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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R041776/1
Title: In-shoe sensory systems to assess and avoid diabetic foot disease
Principal Investigator: Culmer, Dr PR
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Mechanical Engineering
Organisation: University of Leeds
Scheme: Standard Research - NR1
Starts: 08 January 2018 Ends: 30 June 2020 Value (£): 253,378
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
This project concerns exploratory research to develop a new type of tactile (touch) sensing technology and investigate its exciting potential to transform treatment of Diabetic Foot Ulcers - a huge clinical challenge worldwide.

Background: The project has been designed to address the UK strategic research ambition to 'Optimise Diagnosis and Treatment' of Diabetic Foot Disease. Diabetes affects over 4.5m of the UK population and the condition acts to affect soft tissues in the body, notably the feet, leading to formation of ulcers. Studies estimate that over 2.5% of those with diabetes will have a diabetic foot ulcer (DFU), a hugely debilitating condition which has a significant impact on personal quality of life and costs the NHS up to 1.13billion each year. For effective diagnosis and treatment of DFU it is important to understand the behaviour of the sole of the patient's foot. This is a challenging task and while modern assessment methods use in-shoe digital measurement systems they are expensive and measure only a small part of the information that would be clinically useful.

The novel idea at the heart of this project is to develop tactile sensing technology based on small electronic coil elements which can be easily printed onto flexible films using mass manufacturing techniques. Sensor films will be composed of a bottom coil layer, a thin middle layer which can be squashed and a top contact layer. Crucially, this concept allows 1) pressures to be measured in different directions (side-to-side, fore-back, up-down) and 2) a grid or 'array' of sensing elements to be placed across a film, so measurements can be obtained at more than one location.

The sensing technology will be applied to develop a prototype 'next-generation' in-shoe assessment system for DFU with the ability to simultaneously measure pressures in different directions. A sensing 'sole' will be developed using a grid of sensing elements placed at key regions of the foot combined with a mobile data logging system. While the idea is ambitious it has the potential to transform assessment and treatment of DFU. It will enable improved measurements to guide diagnosis and treatment at lower cost and with the potential to produce personalised systems for long-term monitoring of 'at-risk' patients.

The project will use of a series of collaborative placements to ensure it is clinically relevant, has a commercial future and to promote the use of engineering science to advance healthcare. We will work with industry partners and manufacturing experts to help develop a future commercial product. We will work closely with clinical partners to understand first-hand DFU treatment and how this technology should be developed accordingly. We will run research internships in which undergraduate students from Leeds and India collaborate on the project, notably exploring how this technology could be adapted to benefit healthcare systems in Low and Middle-Income Countries.

The outcomes from this work will help make a positive impact to society, benefit the research community, and help expand the UK economy. We will work closely to involve the general public with our work to demonstrate how engineering science research is relevant and crucial to society. We will present at public events (e.g. Science Festivals) and produce public demonstration systems to showcase our research.

For society, the in-shoe sensory technology developed by this research will directly help improve diagnosis (through affordable measurement technology) and accelerate treatment (through detailed, personalised assessment).

For the UK, advances in Sensor Technologies are central to UK Government's strategy on Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), defined in the Innovate UK RAS2020 roadmap and linked to needs for international competiveness, productivity and economic growth.

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Organisation Website: http://www.leeds.ac.uk