Football Shirt Goes High-Tech

Footballers around the world could soon benefit from a new high-tech shirt that alerts managers to a player's heart rate and hydration levels. The invention is particularly relevant now that, following the advent of multi-national leagues and the increasing number of international competitions, many teams have to play in semi-tropical or tropical conditions on a regular basis.

Although originally designed with football in mind, the technology involved can easily be adapted for almost any sport. The shirt was designed by Northumbria University student David Evans. It uses electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors to record the electrical activity of the heart. Continuous signals sent to a computer on the team bench alert managers, coaches and - most importantly -physios to the player's heart rate, highlighting the onset of any abnormal rhythms.

Performance also suffers when players become dehydrated. It is well known that loss of fluid is one of the major causes of fatigue in any prolonged exercise. The body temperature increases the more we exercise and we sweat to help cool down. To counteract this, silicon gel-based strips are connected to the top of the players' backs and react to sweat loss, thus monitoring hydration levels.

The physios can accurately predict when a player needs to up his fluid intake to boost his performance. When this happens they send a radio wave signal - more sophisticated than existing paging methods - to the sensor on the shirtsleeve which vibrates, letting the player know that someone on the bench wants to communicate with him.

Information is processed on a laptop or electronic hand-held equipment in the dug-out via a small radio-frequency communication panel at the bottom of the shirt. Because the shirt and a11 the technology are made from electro-textile materials it can be washed as a traditional shirt. The revolutionary design has already received considerable interest from international sports manufacturers and David is confident that his novel idea will be picked up commercially and go into extensive production ready for the 2006 World Cup.

Its first public outing won't be on a football pitch but as an exhibit at the forthcoming prestigious New Designers exhibition in London. An avid fan of Manchester City for many years, 23-year-old David, from nearby Woodley in Cheshire, wants to change the face of the UK's national game in other ways.

He has now turned his fertile mind to transforming the football boot by devising a version that boasts a pressure-sensitive insole that highlights when the pitch conditions are too hard or too soft for the studs which could cause unnecessary injury to the players. David, who is studying for a Desion for Industry degree, took advice from several sports scientists from both his own university and Liverpool John Moores University and pays tribute to the enthusiastic support he received.

"For some time I have harboured a great desire to look at the possibility of monitoring players out on the pitch and find out when they are at their peak performance levels," he says. "If the coach can see that a player's heart rate is escalating, it could alert them to making a substitution and protect the player when they are most vulnerable. I am delighted that my work here at Northumbria has enabled me to do something practical about it.

"I was already interested theoretically in designing something along these lines but the final push to do something practical came when Marc Vivien-Foe had a heart attack on the pitch last year.

"It hit me that this was something which could have a real impact on the game and most importantly something that I could contribute, both as a designer and a fan."

Northumbria University's School of Design has been widely acknowledged by the design industry as one of the most productive and progressive schools of its kind. The UK's Financial Times recently described it as a "hothouse for productive ideas."

Courses are run in fashion, graphic design, fashion marketing, transportation design, design for industry, complementary design practice, three-dimensional design and multimedia design.

World-famous designer Bruce Oldfield is not only an honorary graduate of the university but has also given a number of masterclasses to students.

Other graduates have gone on to work as creative directors and designers for some of the world's top fashion houses including Louis Vuitton, DKNY and Ralph Lauren.

Scott Henshall recently launched his own label with dresses worn by Jodie Kidd, Denise Van Outen, Darcy Bussell and Lady Victoria Hervey. Jonathan Ive has been recognised as one of the most innovative designers in his field. Now vice president of Industrial Design with Apple, he was responsible for designing one of the most recognisable products of the late 20`h century: the 1-Mac.

Pakistani Health Team Seeks HIV/AIDS Training in India

A team of Pakistani health workers will travel to archrival India this month to be trained in treating people infected with HIV/AIDS, an official said Thursday. The group comprising five doctors and five nurses will receive training at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in the western city of Bombay, said Asma Bukhari, a manager at the National AIDS Control Program.

"After a careful study, Pakistan selected India to train its health professionals because New Delhi had a very high quality surveillance system and good experience in managing HIV/AIDS patients," Bukhari said. She said some countries had been too slow to take precautions, allowing HIV/AIDS to infect a large number of people before taking action, but that Pakistan was taking no chances.

An estimated 3.1 million people worldwide died of AIDS in 2004, and about 40 million people are infected with HIV, the virus that causes the disease, according to the United Nations. "So far, we have only 2,612 reported cases of HIV/AIDS infected people" in Pakistan, Bukhari said, adding that health officials estimate that probably as many as 70,000 to 80,000 Pakistanis were living with the virus in 2002-2003.

"There has been no change in these figures as far as we know," she said of the earlier estimates. It is likely that social stigma and fear prevent many HIV/AIDS sufferers in Pakistan from seeking treatment, meaning the number of reported cases in Pakistan is unrealistically small. Nevertheless, the rate of infection in this country of 150 million people is still relatively low.

"It is mainly because of awareness and our better social and Islamic values," she said. Nevertheless, Bukhari named Pakistan a "high-risk country." "We cannot rule out the possibility of an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the near future," she said. Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, but have recently taken steps to start to resolve their differences and increase contact between the two nations.

More than 5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in India, the world's second-highest number of infections after South Africa. Almost one-fourth of them are children and young people under the age of 25.

How Cells Repair Broken DNA

Crucial elements necessary for repairing damaged DNA - the biological code for all living cells - have been identified by scientists in the United Kingdom and the United States. The findings will improve understanding of how diseases that are associated with DNA instability, such as cancer, arise. They also point to how new drug therapies could be developed for treating cancer.

Dr Aidan Doherty, a reader in biochemistry at Sussex University's Genome Damage & Stability Centre, led a collaboration of scientists at Sussex and in the US and found that the process of repairing DNA breaks was much simpler than previously thought.

By manipulating synthetic DNA breaks, his team showed that two proteins, ku and ligase, commonly found in bacteria, acted together to identify and repair these breaks.

Close relatives of these proteins are found in the cells of other living organisms, including humans and yeast. When researchers experimented on yeast cells lacking these proteins, they found that the bacterial proteins alone could repair the yeast cells' DNA. This discovery suggests that there is a common repair process that has been conserved throughout evolution from bacteria to humans.

"These findings have important implications for our understanding of repair mechanisms in human cells." said Dr Doherty. "Our DNA can be damaged by any number of things, from sunlight to oxygen. This happens continuously and most of the time our cells repair themselves correctly. But, occasionally. inaccurate repair of these breaks occurs and this has the potential to contribute to cell mutation, allowing genetic material to be lost and which can lead to DNA instability and ultimately cancer.

"Now that we have identified the essential protein activities necessary for this repair process, we can beuin to understand how cells repair DNA breaks. There is a great deal of interest in designing drugs that target related repair systems in human cells to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and we are likely to see new cancer therapies, based on these inhibitors, appearing in the next five to ten years."

The work has recently been patented and is being developed as a research tool for the research and biotechnology communities.

Dr Dohertv's team carried out the research with scientists at the Michigan Medical School and University of Maryland School of Medicine. Financial support came from the UK's Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the Royal Society.

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