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Implementation of new 3D printed & advanced materials sensors for the bio analysis of dysphagia patients


   Department of Materials

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  Dr Alex Casson, Prof Sarah Cartmell, Dr J Blaker  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Working in partnership with industry

To apply for this programme, please visit www.advanced-biomedical-materials-cdt.manchester.ac.uk. Informal enquiries are welcome, to [Email Address Removed].

ABM CDT Dysphagia is difficulty in swallowing. Although classified under "symptoms and signs" in ICD-10, in some contexts it is classified as a condition in its own right. It may be a sensation that suggests difficulty in the passage of solids or liquids from the mouth to the stomach, a lack of pharyngeal sensation or various other inadequacies of the swallowing mechanism. Dysphagia is a common secondary symptom of many diseases, for example, 50-75% of stroke patients suffer from Dysphagia. In 2018, Stroke of the Nation, stated over 100,000 people suffer stroke yearly in the UK, with 1.2 million stroke survivors. This equates to 600,000- 850,000 dysphagia sufferers within the stroke cohort alone (pre-SARS-CoV-2/COVID 19). Viscgo estimates 187,000 UK yearly aspirational pneumonia cases. Adverse outcomes lead to avoidable illness and prolonged hospitalisation. Incorrect intervention can impede treatment, increase cost, length of hospitalisation stays and increase risk of severity or death.

Current state of art to treat dysphagia include video fluoroscopy, a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES) test and diagnostic tools which are prohibitively expensive, inconclusive, and impractical to use regularly. Descriptor categorisations, which are inaccurate, time-consuming and require multiple components and dexterity (which also leads to user conflict), are intended for training only and are not recorded.

Currently, speech and language therapists perform specific assessments when treating patients suffering from dysphagia. These assessments include recording and evaluation using tests (video fluoroscopy and FEES) that are then evaluated via a process of multiple pathways. These pathways are determined from results which are purely observational and therefore open to interpretation and as such are subjective. There are hundreds of different tests (and combination of these tests) currently used. Examples of tests include the turning of the patients head to one side and observing the swallowing function in the throat (eg speed of swallow, coughing or spluttering) or the nurse applying a compression against the patients throat and observing them whilst they swallow. These tests are all crude and without reliable outcome measures.

Viscgo has developed a step change approach to dysphagia. They have developed a sensor capability that can be placed on the patients throat in order to quantitively and reproducibly assess the patients swallowing function.

This PhD project will further develop this wearable technology by investigating the use of smart piezoelectric sensor arrays that have the capability to gain functional data to assist in the determination of physiology against food and drink related dependencies. In addition, this throat sensor technology will have the potential to also actively stimulate local and specific muscles involved in swallowing, thus offering a potential treatment to rehabilitate patients suffering from stroke induced dysphagia.

Main questions to be answered:

This PhD will further develop existing technology in wearable sensors to gain reliable and useful data on local tissue strain and activity in relation to swallowing patterns.

 In particular, the project will:

  1. Develop conductive and adhesive sensors.
  2. Develop a deformable of piezoelectric lattice using additive manufacturing. The piezoelectric arrays will be investigated in relation to varying their aperture sizes and positioning.
  3. Investigate the electrical stimulation of muscle cells investigate using same piezoelectric lattice structure. The aim of this will be to develop muscle and retrain and strengthen local tissue.

The electrostimulation ranges will be determined against different matrices of “wet” biology and “dry” electronics, 3D-printed piezo variants, other additive manufacture and membrane options (variability to failure mode in power/material compatibility versus data received. Noise determination will also be investigated.

The results gained will be applied to the following desired output needs:

  1. Electro-mechanical data piezo analysis: initial analysis of different matrices and data ranges of electro outputs in relation to muscle and swallowing function in parallel to present pathways and assessment techniques and when positioned in optimum and close clinical positioning (in parallel with noise determination sensing devices).
  2. Electro-mechanical data piezo analysis: initial analysis of different matrices and data ranges of electro outputs in relation to food and fluid data targets in parallel to present pathways and assessment techniques and when positioned in Viscgo devices.
  3. Application to simulated materials and protection/safety construction materials necessary and determined in reflection of market output requirements, ISO requirements and next phase deployment activities.

University of Manchester, Department of Materials - 19 PhD Projects Available

University of Sheffield, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, 7 PhD Projects Available

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