Future Technology: Diabetic smart socks aim to prevent amputations

A biomedical engineer has created the Siren Diabetic Sock and Foot Monitoring System. They’re smart socks made of Neurofabric™—a smart textile that can be manufactured on standard industrial equipment—and used to help people with diabetes avoid amputations caused by diabetic foot ulcers. 

The Siren team with expertise in the biomedical, garment, and hardware verticals today launched the system that includes the socks and an app which will provide notifications and priority support for diabetics. They say the key to the breakthrough is flexible, discreet, washable “Neurofabric™” embedded with microsensors stitched directly into the cloth, making the electronics virtually invisible and the socks able to instantly tell people when they’re developing the warning signs of ulcers.

Ran Ma, CEO and co-founder of Siren, is a Chinese-American serial entrepreneur with a biomedical engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University. She first worked at Northwestern on the Biomask Project—a mask to regenerate the human face for burn victims and war veterans. “This is where I learned about wound healing, wound treatment, and wound prevention,” Ma said. “This is also where I learned that diabetic foot was a huge problem, and there were no great consumer tools available, which is why I decided to start my own company and focus on solving this problem full-time.”

Ma comes from three generations of doctors, whom she says she’d like to see out of work. “My grandparents, parents and aunts and uncles are all doctors,” she said. “Healthcare is in my blood. Both my parents work in late-stage cancer, and my father is a surgeon. Many of my parents’ patients are very sick. I did not become a doctor, but rather wanted work more upstream in healthcare, on easy to use tools, data and prevention. I always say, if I do my job right, I put my parents out of a jobless emergencies, less surgeries and less late-stage interventions.”

Some 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes and over 25% of all U.S. adults over 65 have the disease. People with diabetes often develop nerve damage, so a small injury can easily go unnoticed and lead to an ulcer, infection, and even amputation due to lost nerve-sensitivity and sores which quickly fester. But, according to Ma and Siren, amputations, which are one of the most expensive and widespread complications from diabetes, is completely avoidable.

Siren Diabetic Socks continuously monitor foot temperature so people can detect signs of inflammation, the precursor to diabetic foot ulcers. According to Siren, monitoring foot temperature is clinically proven to be the most effective way of catching foot injuries and is up to 87 percent more effective at preventing diabetic foot ulcers than standard diabetic foot care.

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