WPI’s App Enters Clinical Testing

An advanced smart phone application has been developed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) www.wpi.edu to help people with diabetes better manage their weight and blood sugar level, track exercise, and assess the status of chronic foot ulcers. This application will enter a pilot study at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) www.umassmed.edu

The app named “Sugar” runs on Android smart phones, integrates wirelessly, and was built by an interdisciplinary engineering and technology team at WPI in partnership with diabetes, behavioral, and wound care specialists at UMMS. The study is being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation www.nsf.gov.

The app was first tested on a model foot with simulated wounds used in medical education and then tested on photos of real foot ulcers taken while patients visited the clinic. To help patients, Peder C. Pedersen Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at WPI and his doctoral student, developed a LED-illuminated image capture box that sits on the floor to make it easier for patients with limited mobility to take a photo of the sole of their foot.

With the smart phone clipped onto the box, the patient positions their foot and simply says “take photo”. The voice activated app records an image and then uses advanced, customized algorithms to define the boundaries of the wound and analyzes the color of the tissue within the wound. By tracking color and boundary changes over time, the app assesses whether the wound is stable, healing, or getting worse.

The pilot clinical study at UMMS plans to enroll 30 diabetic patients who are being treated for foot ulcers at the medical center’s wound clinic. Patients will use the app for about six weeks, or the period that spans three visits to the wound clinic. Their progress in wound care and healthful lifestyle measures will be compared to others who do not have the app but receive the current standard of care provided by the clinic.

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