KITE trainee Dr. Ahmed Elwali named recipient of the 2022 Transform HF Trainee Awards

The award supports master’s, PhD, and postdoctoral trainees researching new technology or models of care that address inequities in the delivery of heart failure care.

KITE postdoctoral fellow Dr. Ahmed Elwali is the recipient of the 2022 Transform Heart Failure (HF) Trainee Award for a potentially groundbreaking smart textile project at FIBRE. 

The award supports master’s, PhD, and postdoctoral trainees engaged in researching new technologies or models of care that address inequities in the delivery of heart failure care. 

Dr. Elwali received the award for his project — and the latest addition to the ever-growing FIBRE universe — which is called SafeSleep. The groundbreaking smart textile will integrate sensors into clothing to monitor biometrics, such as heart activity, breathing rate and oxygen saturation, along with body movements while the user is asleep. 

FIBRE is a multidisciplinary ecosystem dedicated to creating textile-based wearable technologies.

“I’m honored that Transform HF believes in my vision for developing advanced equitable technologies to provide equitable diagnosis and monitoring of sleep apnea in people living with heart failure,” said Dr. Elwali, who is a member of KITE’s SleepdB laboratory.  

“This would not have been possible without the support of KITE and our interdisciplinary team.” 

Dr. Elwali’s research at KITE is focused on developing a smart wearable textile that can diagnoses sleep apnea, investigate the interrelationship with heart failure, and continuously monitor heart performance for long-term at-home use. 

Sleep apnea affects 40 to 80 per cent of people living with heart failure. It is a condition that causes breathing to repeatedly stop and/or reduce during sleep. This leads to interrupted sleep and quadruples the risk of heart failure. Left untreated, sleep apnea doubles the mortality rate of individuals with heart failure. 

“Unfortunately, the vast majority of people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed because the test that detects the disorder is costly, inconvenient and has a long waiting list,” Dr. Elwali said. 

“SafeSleep will make it easier for people to be aware of their condition, which in turn will give us the ability to deliver preventative therapies earlier. This will reduce hospitalizations and allow people living with heart failure to effectively self-manage some of their symptoms at home.”   

Dr. Elwali has already begun working on a prototype for SafeSleep and expects to begin the first stage of clinical trials in September.

In true FIBRE fashion, Dr. Elwali, who specializes in biomedical engineering, will be working with a multi-disciplinary team to create this life-saving device.  Dr. Elwali and his supervisors, Dr. Azadeh Yadollahi, Canada Research Chair Tier II in Cardio-Respiratory Engineering, and Dr. Daniel Franklin, Ted Rogers Chair in Cardiovascular Engineering, will help develop the technology at SleepdB Laboratory. 

The SleepdB laboratory, led by Dr. Yadollahi, is one of the few facilities in the world dedicated to examining the intricate interplay between sleep and cardio-respiratory disorders in a continuous, real-time and non-invasive manner. Dr. Franklin laboratory employs adjacent branches of optics, engineering, and biology to produce the next generation of materials and devices for fundamental medical science and clinical translation.

The team will work closely with clinical experts, Dr. Yasbanoo Moayedi, cardiologist at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC) and Dr. Heather Ross, Head of the Division of Cardiology at PMCC to conduct user experience and clinical trials at UHN to identify the best metrics to monitor sleep apnea in people living with heart failure.  Dr. Kirsten Schaefer, who is an expert in fashion and human-centred apparel design will design the textile. 

“This project is a perfect example of FIBRE’s potential,” Dr. Yadollahi said. “By utilizing expertise from multiple disciplines we have the opportunity to create a device that will transform care for those living with heart failure and sleep apnea.”

TRANSFORM HF is a strategic initiative created in partnership with the University of Toronto and the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.