UNLV to Collaborate With Nellis Air Force Base on Research of Technology Designed to Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcerations

May. 9, 2016

UNLV and the U.S. Air Force are partnering to conduct research on a new technology that could help prevent dangerous foot ulcers that plague diabetic patients.

Approximately 100 Nellis Air Force Base personnel will participate in a study of the effectiveness of a new invention: shoe insoles that measure the pressure people place on their feet when walking. The goal is to help predict the possible onset of diabetic foot ulcers.

UNLV researchers Janet Dufek and Mohamed Trabia are leading the study. They envisioned technology that could help diabetic patients and their health care providers become more aware of problematic pressure points on the feet.

UNLV approached the Air Force about a potential partnership to support the research effort, and the two entities recently signed an agreement to formalize the collaboration.  

The Air Force will recruit about 100 of its prediabetic and diabetic personnel who meet the requirements for inclusion into the study. The UNLV investigators will then perform the research procedures defined in an approved protocol and will evaluate the results of the study.

“The collaboration with the team from Nellis Air Force Base provides our UNLV research team a rich study sample,” said Janet Dufek, a UNLV kinesiology professor. “But, more importantly, this project provides us, as researchers, with the opportunity to give back to the diabetic community.”

Dufek said that study participants will learn more about how they apply pressure to their feet as they move around. “This can be important information for diabetics who may say, ‘My right foot hurts.’ Our study might be able to lend insight into why this is the case.”

Trabia, a mechanical engineering professor and associate dean of the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering, hopes that the project will help researchers better understand how to accurately measure changes in foot tissue stiffness during walking.

“This can be useful in helping patients suffering from problems other than diabetes as well,” Trabia said.

“We are so pleased to partner with Nellis Air Force Base on this study,” said Tom Piechota, vice president for the UNLV Division of Research and Economic Development. “UNLV researchers are dedicated to addressing quality-of-life issues for members of our community. Through this project, we hope to help those with diabetes diminish or even eliminate a serious complication from this chronic disease.”

“This collaboration with UNLV will benefit both parties,” said Lt. Colonel Paul Crawford, director of the Family Medicine Residency/Clinical Investigation Program. “UNLV will benefit because they will be able to develop an important method to determine who will get diabetic foot ulcers. The Nellis Air Force Base will benefit from integrating technology into our daily medical practices. Ultimately, the most important beneficiary will be patients who will receive better medical care in the future as this technology is developed.”       

Ongoing research on this technology is being conducted through a UNLV startup company, Moveomedics. The startup was formed by a team, including Dufek and Trabia, who are working to advance and commercialize this technology.