New pyjamas could prevent cot deaths
A new type of baby pyjamas, developed by a Belgian company and the University of Brussels (ULB), could help in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), commonly known as cot death.
SIDS is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby for no obvious reason. In the United Kingdom, cot death affects around four out of every 10 000 healthy babies, 86% of whom are less than six months old, while in the United States, more than 2500 babies die each year within the first 12 months of life from deaths attributable to SIDS.
From space to babies
Mamagoose pyjamas draw on technology used in two space applications: the analogue biomechanics recorder experiment and the respiratory inductive plethysmograph suit. This transfer of technology designed for space to Earth application is part of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme. The Mamagoose project is also partially financed by the German Space Agency and IWT, the Belgian institute for the promotion of scientific and technological research in industry.
Stefaan Devolder, responsible for Mamagoose production recalls that the initial idea to create a babysuit to prevent cot deaths came from Professor Paiva of ULB. In 1993, ULB and a Belgium company developed the respiratory inductive plethysmograph suit to study the respiration of astronauts during space missions.
Prof. Paiva then had the idea of adapting this concept to create a babysuit to continuously monitor infants during sleep and to sound an alarm at the first symptoms of a possible unexpected death. In collaboration with the German Space Agency, numerous models were produced and tested leading to the development of the Mamagoose prototype.
Devolder reports that since then several improvements have been made both to the pyjamas as well as to the small computer system to which they are connected.
“We have performed several studies from the trials carried out and the efficiency of this new application has now been demonstrated. Together with Professor Paiva we are now in the phase of completing the prototype development and finalising the last details. In the near future plans will be drawn up to bring this product to market”.
The Mamagoose pyjamas have five special sensors positioned over the breast and stomach: three to monitor the infant’s heart beat and two to monitor respiration. This double sensor system guarantees a high level of measuring precision. The special sensors are actually built into the cloth and have no direct contact with the body, thus creating no discomfort for the baby.
Mamagoose pyjamas are made of two parts: the first, which comes into direct contact with the baby, can be machine-washed and the second, which contains the sensor system, can be washed by hand. The pyjamas come in three sizes, are made of non-allergic material and have been especially designed to keep the sensors in place during use.
The control unit with alarm system is connected to the pyjamas and continuously monitors and processes the signals received from the five sensors. It is programmed with an alarm algorithm which scans the respiration pattern to detect unexpected and possibly dangerous situations. If found, an alarm system is activated. In addition, the selective memory records data for a certain period before and after the alarm to assist physicians to make a diagnosis.
Mamagoose prototypes have been tested on many babies in different hospitals, environments and conditions. These include babies of various weights and sizes, when they are in different ‘moods’ such as calm, nervous or upset, and when they are sleeping in different positions. To date, the results have been extremely promising.
The Belgium company will be responsible for producing Mamagoose once the tests currently being carried out in Germany have been completed while the biomedical physics laboratory of ULB will be responsible for improving the processing algorithm and for providing paediatricians with feedback on the research results
Mamagoose pyjamas are specifically designed to be easy to use and require no special training. The system can also be connected to a PC, which further analyses and stores the data. As more data are collected more situations can be programmed, more precise monitoring can be carried out and the system will generate fewer false alarms. This data will also enable paediatricians and the ULB Research Institute to carry out further research into the cause of cot deaths.
According to Stefaan Devolder, the plan is to have the first Mamagoose products on the market within the next 18 months and negotiations have already begun with potential distributors interested in commercialising the product. Once in production, Mamagoose will be an important tool in increasing understanding into the cause of cot deaths and in preventing them.