In a groundbreaking study published in Nature Medicine, Northwestern University scientists have unveiled innovative soft, miniaturized wearable devices designed for continuous monitoring of internal body sounds. Beyond the sporadic measurements taken during routine doctor visits, these devices, gently adhered to the skin, can wirelessly and simultaneously track subtle sounds across various body regions, providing real-time health information. The study included successful pilot tests on premature babies with respiratory and intestinal disorders, as well as adults with chronic lung diseases.

Continuous Monitoring for Enhanced Healthcare

The devices, created by bioelectronics pioneer John A. Rogers, PhD, and his team, offer clinical-grade accuracy, marking a significant advancement over existing methods that rely on periodic examinations. The wearable technology, encapsulated in soft silicone, contains digital microphones and accelerometers, creating a non-invasive sensing network. Each device measures a mere 40mm x 20mm x 8mm, equipped with a flash memory drive, tiny battery, electronic components, and Bluetooth capabilities.

Unprecedented Capabilities

These soft wearables, which include pairs of high-performance microphones and accelerometers, can be placed on various body locations, mapping airflow in the lungs, cardiac rhythm changes, and the movement of food, gas, and fluids through the intestines. Notably, the devices can distinguish between external ambient sounds and internal body sounds, correcting for noise interference common in hospitals.

Targeted Applications for Vulnerable Populations

The study focused on two vulnerable populations: premature babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and post-surgery adults. For premature babies prone to respiratory issues, the devices successfully detected airflow and chest movements, enabling the identification and classification of apnea subtypes. In adults, the devices captured lung sounds and body motions simultaneously, providing insights into lung health and performance across different regions.

Potential Impact on Healthcare Outcomes

The continuous monitoring capabilities extend to gastrointestinal issues in premature babies, offering early warnings of potential complications. For adults with chronic lung diseases, the devices provide a detailed analysis of lung performance, helping clinicians understand the functionality of specific lung regions. The ultimate goal is to guide personalized treatments based on real-time data, improving patient outcomes and potentially reducing healthcare costs.


The introduction of these soft wearables represents a transformative leap in healthcare technology. By seamlessly integrating into patients’ daily lives, these devices have the potential to revolutionize how healthcare professionals monitor and assess vital body functions, providing a dynamic and continuous evaluation of patient health.

By Impact Lab