Researchers at Western Michigan University (Western) have developed a boot that is designed to accelerate the healing of diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs). The boot, called SenLore, offloads pressure on DFUs and also delivers a combination of heat and electrical stimulation to increase blood flow and dramatically speed up the healing process. Initial research at Western shows SenLore’s combination of heat and electrical stimulation increased blood perfusion at the foot in people with diabetes more than 186%.
Daryl Lawson, PT, DSc, associate professor of physical therapy at Western, worked with Christopher Arena, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech, to develop the boot. “The purpose was to combine both of those elements [heat and electrical stimulation] to treat people at home or an assisted nursing facility and be able to monitor people to make sure they never get to the point of amputation,” said Lawson. A product like this, could be transformative, he said. “[I]f you can prevent an amputation and heal the wound, a person can return to their normal functional activity.”
Future advances to the boot will include work by Massood Atashbar, PhD, a professor in Western’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Center for Advanced Smart Sensors and Structures (CASSS), and doctoral student Simin Masihi. Atashbar and his graduate students are engineering technology to monitor blood flow and other cardiovascular metrics and integrate the data with a smartphone application. It involves creating flexible, screen-printed sensors and electrodes that will be integrated in the boot’s insole. Masihi is exploring how to expand the boot’s capabilities by designing a resonant sensor for low-cost, contact-free monitoring of the wound to measure tissue changes without interrupting the wound’s healing process.
Lawson and his physical therapy students have completed a pilot project confirming the boot’s healing properties. Clinical trials will follow. The technology could become available to patients next year. While the technology currently focuses on foot ulcers, Lawson said there is potential to expand its use such as to other pressure ulcers and muscle tears.