Using 3D body scanning to design clothes that offer patients a better life

Evaluation of body geometry and symmetry for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis with 3D body scanning system. Research Journal of Textile and Apparel. Highly Commended Award. 

In a fashionably designed faculty office, I presented the 2018 Emerald Literati Award to Associate Professor Kit-lun Yick and Assistant professor Y. W. Yip from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Institute of Textiles & Clothing.

Associate Professor Kit-lun Yick (right) and Assistant professor Y. W.Yip (left)

The winning paper ‘Evaluation of body geometry and symmetry for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis with 3D body scanning system’ was conducted by experts from different fields. By using 3D body scanning system, they measured the changes in the torso geometry and profile symmetry of 5 patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis for 6 months.

The results show that 3D scanning tracks and evaluates changes of body shape and lowers the risk of X-ray exposure. As a result, with this safer means to track the disease, the pilot research has been chosen as the Highly Commended Paper in 2018 by the journal Research Journal of Textile and Apparel.

Idiopathic scoliosis cannot be cured but evaluating changes of body shape frequently and intervening with the orthotic brace can play a crucial part in adolescents, because they grow fast before their condition stabilises at the age of 18.

However, this winning paper is only part of the main project, the story behind the research dates back to 2011.  

2011 was the year when Yick found out her friend’s daughter suffered from this disease. The little girl had to wear (or suffer) the orthotic brace in hot and humid weather and tried hard to avoid people’s eye contact. Watching her suffer was when Yick decided to start the research. They were determined to find better ways to evaluate the disease and to improve the material of the brace.

The little girl has now turned 18, her condition has been stabilised, but the project did not end here.

“We want to utilize textiles to replace the hard orthotic brace in the future,” said Yip. In order to control the disease so it doesn’t rapidly worsen during adolescence, proper intervention is necessary. ‘But we do know that kids aren’t willing to wear the hard brace in summer, it presses against their skin and causes pain. But what if we try some comfortable material instead? It won’t look so much like medical wear, it would be similar to comfortable underwear but with function.’ To achieve this, the team continuously tested the brace, improved it and re design it, in the hope that one day it will reduce the pain suffered by the patients.

In the very beginning, it was difficult to find volunteers to participate in the research. Yick and Yip even had to ask their friend’s daughter to help. But now, more and more people including doctors/physicians have noticed their research and are willing to participate.

“In the past, we were considered as people who make clothes, but the doctors realized that our research is interesting and practical, because the change of material does make the patients feel more comfortable. Gradually they are willing to work with us. So we have doctors, nurses, physicists…we have experts in textile, engineering and math, all interdisciplinarily working together, just like this article, every expert plays a role.”

The next focus will be the idiopathic scoliosis on elderly people, which is more challenging since the condition of spinal deformation might be more irreversible. But the team will make it because you can tell from their glistening eyes when they explain all the equipment they have created in the lab, that their final goal is to help all patients live a better daily life.

Read the full article here

Article Details

Kit-lun Yick & Y.W.Yip

Date Published:

November 28th, 2018

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