A team of researchers from Poland’s Lodz University of Technology (LUT) is working to develop innovative textile clothing for premature infants that is to protect them against dehydration and ensure thermal stability through special layered textile systems. Jaroslaw Adamowski from Innovation in Textiles reports
Izabella Krucińska, a professor at the university’s Department of Material and Commodity Sciences and Textile Metrology Activity and the project’s coordinator, told Innovation in Textiles that the project has secured funding from the European Union funds, transferred to the project team by the state-run National Centre for Research and Development (NCRD).
“The overall objective of the project is to develop innovative solutions for the construction of clothing products for prematurely born infants. These new products should reduce dehydration due to evaporation, and, at the same time, provide thermal comfort,” Krucińska said.
According to a study by Rachel S. Meyers from the State University of New Jersey, published in the Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics, dehydration can exert a major impact on newborns.
“Total body water content changes drastically from before birth until one year of age. At 24 weeks gestational age, a baby’s total body water content is close to 80% of total body weight. This slowly decreases until the child is around one year of age, when total body water content is about 60% of total body weight,” the study says. “After birth, infants are expected to lose approximately 5%-15% of their body weight, with more being lost in low birth weight infants.”
This said, according to Krucińska, there are no textile products that would be designed for premature infants and available on the Polish market.
“The cotton knitwear that is currently used [to protect such infants] causes thermal discomfort because the water that is absorbed from an infant’s body and its surrounding evaporates, and, as a result, it reduces its body temperature,” Krucińska said.
Asked about the potential for the solution’s further commercialisation in cooperation with an industry partner, the professor confirms that, once the prototype is developed and undergoes tests, the researchers plan to launch production of the solution to introduce it to the market.
It is noteworthy that Lodz, where the university is based, is also the centre of Poland’s textile industry. Before Poland’s transformation into a market economy and the fall of Communism in 1989, Lodz served as the powerhouse of the country’s textile industry, but since then, numerous textile producers have been forced to close their operations due to increased market pressure from more price-competitive foreign manufacturers.
On a brighter note, over the past few years, the Polish authorities have taken steps to stimulate the industry’s growth with the use of EU funds. Among others, about PLN 400 million (EUR 94.5 million) is to be provided fund research and development activities by Lodz-based textile industry players under the Innotextile programme in the financial framework for the years 2014 to 2020. The funds are to be allocated to various research and development (R&D) activities on innovative textiles, such as hydrotextiles, geotextiles and agritextiles, and their production by local companies.
However, regarding its potential export sales, Krucińska said that for now, the team behind the project is focusing on implementing its textile products in the Polish market.
“Under the agreement signed with the NCBR, we must first implement this solution on the Polish market in cooperation with a Polish company,” according to the professor.
To fund the first phase of the necessary R&D work on the project, an allocation of more than PLN 617,000 (EUR 146,000) was provided to the research team.
It is noteworthy that Krucińska and some other researchers from the Lodz-based university are part of a consortium that is developing innovative bioactive textiles enabled with healing capacities and intended for dermatological patients. The new textiles will allow to produce clothing that has the capacity to treat dermatoses with the use of microspheres containing active herbal extracts. The consortium was set up by Poland’s research unit Institute of Natural Fibres and Medicinal Plants (IWNiRZ), and includes the LUT, Poznan University of Medical Sciences and local textile industry player Marko-Kolor sp. J.
Similarly to the latest project on clothing for premature infants, the R&D work on these textiles, implemented under the Bioakod project, was also supported by funds obtained from the NCRD.