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Futuristic Clothing May Be Medical Lifesaver

High-tech clothing may one day monitor your health and deliver medicine through the skin.

By Denise Mann
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

Most of us can relate to clothing that can make you look sexy or how "skinny" jeans can make you feel slim, but in the future clothing may do a whole lot more. It may even save our lives.

But the days when you will visit your doctor for "prescription" jeans may still be pretty far off, experts tell WebMD.

Based on the same technology used for nicotine and oral contraceptive patches, the medicine in the clothing will be absorbed directly through the skin. Such medicated clothing can be hand-washed repeatedly without affecting its technology.

Besides clothing that slowly releases medicine, other smart garments will monitor vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure via computerized chips and or electrodes. This may allow some chronically ill or elderly people to live independently at home for longer periods of time.

"This is an outgrowth of the fact that some of the patches being used today are so effective and as a result, I think people are accepting the idea that the skin is a really a good way to deliver some drugs," says Stephen Webster, MD, a staff dermatologist at Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis. Webster is also a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

"Eons ago, syphilis was treated by applying mercury ointment to the skin and getting absorption, so it's not a new idea, but it's being perfected," he says.