Another month, another UT News recap. The Horn is here to provide up-to-date coverage on university news each and every month. In this iteration of the monthly coverage, UT researchers extend their findings in monitoring blood pressure with E-tattoos, a newly engineered mattress aims to stimulate better sleep, a recent poll finds the majority of Texans opposing the banning of abortion, and an overview of the federal government’s lack of response in the infant formula crisis.
Four Months into Infant Formula Crisis, We Are Still Putting a Band-Aid on a Big Bleed
Since mid-january of this year, a massive anount of infant formula has been recalled as a result of post-COVID-19 supply chain issues and contamination concerns. With production factories closing nationwide, millions of families have essentially no way of feeding their infants safely. Furthermore, more problems arose when inadequate oversight of the WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) severely limited formula choices with rules that prevent online purchases. Response from the federal government so far has been “Unhelpful and inaccurate political blaming of both sides for the shortages, rather than understanding the decades-long systematic causes of it, has not put formula back on the shelves,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, professor of pediatrics in the Dell Medical School at UT Austin and author of the piece. “…importation of formulas using special Food and Drug Administration temporary rules has not led to any meaningful long-term solutions.” The need for a long-term reevaluation of WIC programs, increased support for lactation counseling, and permanent changes to the FDA rules to allow international guidance and supervision of overseas factories, must be made quickly. To read more about the article op-ed here and here.
UT/Texas Politics Project Poll: Majority of Texans Oppose Banning Abortion; Texans Saying State Is on the Wrong Track Reaches Historic High
A recent poll conducted by UT Austin/Texas Politics Project Poll reveals that only 15% of Texans support a complete ban on abortion access. Although 37% of Texas voters that support the law in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision, compromises will have to be made for Texans to foreclose all legal access to abortion. The results were derived from a survey conducted on 1,200 registered voters in Texas primarily during the week prior to overturning of Roe v. Wade. Furthermore, the poll also reveals Texans’ attitudes towards gun control measures as prior to Uvalde remained relatively unchanged with 78% supported expanded background checks on all gun purchases while 16% opposed. Texans were also surveyed on their opinion on causes of mass shootings. Partisan lines continued to show divided attitudes with half of Democrats saying that current gun laws are the factor most to blame for mass shootings while the factors most Texas Republicans include the “failure of the mental health system to identify dangerous individuals” (25%) and “unstable family situations” (21%). In terms of recent economic issues, the majority of Texas (59%) expressed negative responses in current economic conditions while 31% opposed. Furthermore, 53% Texans said their personal economic situation is worse than it was a year ago; 58% said the Texas economy is worse than it was a year ago; and 73% said the national economy is worse than it was a year ago. While Republican candidates continued to lead in Texas’ high-profile 2022 election contests, there is nothing in the data that suggests Democratic candidates are slowing down. For more information about Texas Politics Project Poll, go to their website here.
Blood Pressure E-Tattoo Promises Continuous, Mobile Monitoring
A team of scientists and engineers at UT and A&M have developed an electric tattoo capable of being worn on the wrist for hours while delivering continuous blood pressure measurements at record high accuracy. This new discovery delivers a practical solution to counteract the limitations of traditional blood checks, capturing thousands of measurements in all situations. While the mobile health monitoring industry has taken a giant leap in recent years, leading smart watches aren’t yet capable of delivering medical assistance due to their lack of contact with arteries. Furthermore, it’s the reason why E-tattos make sense as a vehicle for mobile blood pressure monitoring because they reside in a sticky, stretchy material called Graphene which encases the sensors for comfortable wear in long periods of time. The censor themselves takes its measurements by shooting an electrical current into the skin and then analyzing the body’s response, in a process called bioimpedance. Since there is a correlation between bioimpedance and changes in blood pressure, the device analyzes the connection through a machine learning model to get accurate results as the blood volume changes. “All this data can help create a digital twin to model the human body, to predict and show how it might react and respond to treatments over time,” said Deji Akinwande, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UT Austin and one of the co-leaders of the project. For more information about the project, check out their Nature Nanotechnology article here.
Engineered Mattress Tricks Your Body to Fall Asleep Faster
UT Bioengineers have developed a unique mattress and pillow system that uses heating and cooling to tell the body it is time to go to sleep. By integrating sensors in the pillow and the mattress, it can target certain areas of the body and simultaneously cool the central areas of the body while heating up the neck, hands and feet, thereby increasing blood flow to dissipate body heat. The researchers have published a proof-of-concept study about the combination of a warming pillow and a cooling-warming, dual zone mattress system to test the impact of internalized temperature control during sleep. Eleven test subjects participated and results showed their test subjects fell asleep approximately 58% faster than conventional mattresses, suggesting that lowering internal body temperature significantly shortens the amount of time required to fall asleep, and significantly improves the quality of sleep. “It is remarkable how effective gentle warming along the cervical spine is in sending a signal to the body to increase blood flow to the hands and feet to lower the core temperature and precipitate sleep onset,” said Kenneth Diller, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering and an expert in heat and temperature regulation for therapeutic devices. “This same effect also enables the blood pressure to fall slightly overnight, with the benefit of allowing the cardiovascular system to recover from the stress of maintaining blood flow during daily activities, which is highly important for long-term health.” To read more about their journal in sleep research here.