Bionic bra may cure breast pain caused by running

Scientists in Australia have created what they are calling a bionic bra, which automatically adjusts to provide optimised support when women are exercising.

A team led by Professor Julia Steele, director of Breast Research Australia at the University of Wollongong (UoW) have been working on dramatically reducing the discomfort suffered by runners, which can lead to long term damage.

Breast Research Australia has been investigating the problems faced by runners, and the potential for long term physical damage. Professor Steele says that without the right breast support, long-term damage can be done, including numbness in the fingers caused by compression of nerves on the shoulders, as well as neck and back pain.

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The key to the bionic bra is the use of ‘smart’ materials that react to movement. “Our ability to make things from advanced materials has been greatly enhanced recently with the advent of new approaches to fabrication. The advent of approaches such as 3D printing has enabled us to assemble structures containing new sensing technologies to more accurately monitor movement and new artificial muscle technologies to control it. These advances have inspired us to (re)confront the challenges involved in creating the Bionic Bra," Professor Gordon Wallace, executive research director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science based at UOW, said.

Although the university’s research has shed important light on the problems faced by runners and other sportspeople, it admits they have not yet created a viable solution.

“We still have a way to go before the bionic bra can be taken from the bench top to the washing machine. However, when finished, the bionic bra will transform bra design,” said Professor Steele.

Team member Dr Sheridan Gho added: “Results indicate that our technologies can sense breast motion and provide additional breast support. The challenge now is to integrate these technologies into a functional, comfortable bra.”

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