Carlos Sánchez Mendoza
2016, Spain
His smart orthopedic brace guides scoliosis treatments with objective data
Medicine

In order to correct scoliosis, there are normally two options: an operation or wearing an orthopedic brace approximately 23 hours a day. This condition, signaled by a curved spine, most commonly affects adolescent girls, and the available treatments can have a negative impact on their lives, especially in younger patients. To improve this situation, Carlos Sánchez is developing a brace with smart textiles that analyze the patient´s posture to help them to correct it. His proposal, which is less invasive than a traditional orthopedic brace, has led to Sánchez´s inclusion in MIT Technology Review, Spanish Edition'Innovators Under 35 Spain 2016 awards. 

A telecommunications engineer with a doctorate in medical image processing, Sánchez founded his company, Asana Weartech in September of 2015. Through his company, he has created a Lycra bodysuit with strain gauge sensors which measure the deformation of the spine. Now, the young engineer is focusing on developing algorithms which analyze the data from the sensors and the app which gathers this data to help track patients. Sánchez hopes to have a prototype ready by February of 2017, which he will test with 10 patients to generate the first set of results by September of next year. 

Although the bodysuit is intelligent, its sensors only measure posture, instead of physically forcing the patient to change it. In Sánchez´s opinion, the advantage of his system is that through this information it generates "an active correction, whose effects are better than those obtained through the forced mechanical correction" of traditional braces. According to the preliminary estimates, it would be sufficient to wear the bodysuit 15 hours a day, as opposed to 23. Although he does not yet have a commercial version, he estimates that the unit price of each bodysuit would be between 500 and 1,000 euros.   

Sánchez´s objective is for physical therapists to order custom-made braces and track their use as part of the treatments they supervise. "Currently, they can only try to encourage good posture and cross their fingers", the young innovator laments. He believes that the data registered by his smart bodysuit could demonstrate that better posture improves a patient´s range of movement and, accordingly, their health. Sánchez adds: "We could convert physical therapy into medicine based solely on evidence." 

In the opinion of the telecommunications professor from the European University of Madrid (Spain) and jury member for the Innovators Under 25 Spain 2016 awards, Víctor Padrón, "this is an interesting device which will be attractive to people both young and old." He considers it to be "a novel application of current technology with the potential for further corporal applications like sports, dance and even virtual reality."