Preventing Amputation Could Be Just a Step Away

When Jann Butler's aunt suffered an amputation due to diabetic ulcers, he knew he didn't want other people to suffer the same fate.

So Butler, a senior computer engineering student at Jackson State University, went and did something about it.

Stepping Up To Create

“Upon research, we realized that a lot of [diabetics] suffer foot ulcers,” Butler said in a press release from the university. “So, we developed a mat that diabetic patients could stand on to register the temperature of their feet. If there’s a four-degree difference between the two over a period of time, the lower one would be at greater risk of ulceration.”

The mat – designed and built by Butler and his fellow engineering students Chevan Baker, Jordan Barber and Frederick Harris – is a simple enough device. A group of eight sensors, four for each foot, measure the temperature of the user and report that information to the user's Android device. But as Butler explains:

“A diabetic patient has abnormal (high) glucose levels in the blood, affecting its flow to the lower extremities. This causes the foot to be colder than average. By outputting temperature values, the patient can see which foot is more affected."

The “smart mat” has potential to greatly affect the diabetes community. Ulcers often go unnoticed, according to the American Diabetes Association, because as the body loses circulation, it also loses sensation. “The idea behind the smart mat was to realistically see if there was some means of collecting data for a doctor or caregiver as an early warning,” says Dr. Gordon Skelton, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the graduate program for CDS&E (Computational Data-Enabled Sciences and Engineering). “Products such as these have real value.”

While the students admit that their device will not prevent ulcers, it could provide necessary information that can lead to early treatment. Currently, they are working to make their system compatible with other operating systems (such as iOS). They hope to be able to bring the “smart mat” to market soon – where they expect the device will retail for around $500.

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