Swiss researchers invent light-diffusing onesies to treat jaundiced newborns

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Swiss researchers invent light-diffusing onesies to treat jaundiced newborns
For demonstration purposes, the illuminated textile was sewn into a traditional romper suit. (Photo: Empa)

Newborn babies born with jaundice are usually treated with phototherapy in an incubator, but now researchers in Switzerland have come up with a nicer way of delivering treatment that allows the infant to remain clothed and warm in a parent’s arms.


Researchers at the Federal laboratory for the testing of materials and research (Empa) have invented a luminous blue fabric containing light-conducting fibres that can diffuse the necessary blue light on to the baby’s skin, the organization said in a statement
Battery-powered LEDs serve as the light source for the fibres, which are mixed with conventional fibres and woven into a satin material that can distribute the light evenly. 
The fabric can be made into a sleepsuit or babygro so that the baby can be clothed, held and breastfed while receiving treatment at the same time.
These pyjamas can be made in such a way that the light conducting fabric only directs light inwards towards the baby’s skin, meaning the child doesn’t need to wear an eye-protecting mask as it would in an incubator, added researchers. 
The fabric is washable, breathable and doesn’t irritate skin, said Maike Quandt, lead author of the study.
“The satin fabric is smooth and matches the wearing comfort of a typical baby onesie,” she said.
Currently the fabric only diffuses a weak blue light, however, and if commercialized this would have to be increased – something which would not be difficult, researchers concluded. 
Jaundice is a common occurrence in newborns and can become dangerous if toxic bilirubin accumulates in high levels, leading to potential brain damage.


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