NIH Recognizes UCI Researchers’ Hemodynamic Monitoring Smart Sock to Improve Maternal Health

Michelle Khine (left) and Bernard Choi combine their technologies to create the maternal obstetrics monitoring sock, a low-cost, point-of-care system to monitor pregnant women for preeclampsia, anemia and hemorrhage.

Aug. 8, 2022 - A UC Irvine team of biomedical engineering and medicine researchers won second place and a $300,000 cash prize from the National Institutes of Health for their innovation of a sock equipped with a hemodynamic monitoring system for pregnant women.

The team had entered the maternal obstetrics monitoring sock (MOMS) in the NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge (NTAC) for Maternal Health. According to the NIH, pregnancy and childbirth complications are a major global health problem and result in the deaths of more than 800 women and 7,000 newborns each day. Low-cost diagnostics that operate at the point-of-care and can detect and differentiate among common conditions associated with pregnancy are needed to help reduce the high rates of maternal morbidity and mortality in low-resource settings. In addition, Black women are three times as likely to die from maternal complications than white women. The NTAC recently awarded $1 million in prizes for the successful design and development of diagnostic tests and platform technologies to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.

Biomedical engineering professors Bernard Choi and Michelle Khine and school of medicine professors Drs. Judith Chung and Rami Khayat collaborated on the development of the low-cost, portable, point-of-care system to monitor pregnant women for preeclampsia, anemia and hemorrhage. The sock can be used during and after delivery in low-resource settings to continuously track blood pressure and heart rate and monitor blood flow.

The smart sock works by integrating the soft beat-to-beat blood pressure sensor that Khine has been developing in her lab with the photonic anemia and hemorrhage sensor that Choi’s lab has been working on. The health data is wirelessly transmitted to a smartphone, which can alert patients if their heart rate, blood pressure, hemoglobin levels or tissue oxygenation saturation levels are abnormal. Unlike similar commercially available pulse oximetry devices, this technology is not significantly affected by skin pigmentation or motion artifacts. The entire system can be manufactured for under $100, enabling an easily deployable, scalable solution.

“I am so excited to integrate our technologies so that we can comprehensively monitor expectant mothers,” said Khine. “I feel truly lucky to be here at UC Irvine, to be able to work closely with such incredible collaborators to further develop and clinically validate this smart sock. Because our respective technologies have been shown to be so accurate and are both extremely low cost, I am really optimistic that combining them into this sock could be a real game changer for maternal health.” 

The maternal health diagnostics challenge is managed by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and with support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.

­– Lori Brandt