A T-shirt that constantly monitors heart activity and detects abnormalities could help protect people against stroke, and can even help diagnose the cause of fainting.
The high-tech shirt, called Cardioskin, has electrodes sewn into the cotton fabric that perform 24-hour checks of the heart's electrical activity.
Then they connect to a small chip in the garment that sends the results wirelessly to an application on the patient's smartphone.
The application can share the data with a cardiologist, who can evaluate it.
Statistics: It is known that at least one million people in Britain have atrial fibrillation, which causes an irregular heartbeat and increases the risk of stroke.
The shirt, which can be washed up to 35 times before it needs to be replaced, has been developed to improve the detection of dangerous heart conditions, such as atrial fibrillation, which causes an irregular heartbeat and increases the risk of stroke.
At least one million people in Britain have this condition, however, the charity Arrhythmia Alliance estimates that at least another 500,000 have it but have not yet been diagnosed because they have no obvious symptoms.
The cause is unknown, although high blood pressure, chest infections, an overactive thyroid and too much caffeine or alcohol have been cited as possible triggers.
It develops when the electrical activity in the heart goes crazy. One in 25 people over 60 get it.
Some will have symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness and fatigue; but a significant number have no idea that they are sick until they have a stroke.
As the heart no longer beats regularly, the blood begins to "accumulate" and thicken within the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart.
If a clot breaks off and travels through the narrow blood vessels that feed the brain, it can cause a fatal stroke by blocking the oxygen-rich blood supply in the brain.
Improvement? Doctors sometimes give patients a device called a Holter monitor to wear under clothing to try to detect heart problems, but they are uncomfortable.
Common treatments for atrial fibrillation include medications, such as the anticoagulant warfarin, to stop blood clots and cardioversion, in which the heart returns to normal rhythm with electrodes. The detection of atrial fibrillation involves the performance of an electrocardiogram (ECG).
Conventional ECGs are performed in a hospital and include highly trained personnel teams that connect up to 24 separate electrodes to different body parts to measure electrical signals.
But most patients experience abnormal rhythms only intermittently (some may go days or weeks without an episode). This means that the possibility of collecting them during a brief hospital examination is scarce.
Doctors sometimes give patients a device called a Holter monitor to wear under clothing to try to detect heart problems.
This is an electronic box that fits the waistband and connects to a series of electrodes that are worn on the upper body. But the box itself is quite bulky, difficult to conceal under the clothes and can be uncomfortable, since a dozen or more cables are attached to the patient's chest.
As a result, patients often stop using it, especially at night, when it can hinder sleep, reducing the chances of a defective heartbeat being picked up.
The Cardioskin shirt, which is made of a white cotton fabric, could be a much more convenient alternative and can be worn 24 hours a day, which means it is more likely to detect any abnormal rhythm in the patient's heart. It has 15 small electrodes woven into the material that are strategically placed around the chest area to track the electrical signals of the heart as they travel through the torso.
The electrodes work with a battery (which can be easily removed when you need to wash the shirt) and feed the results to a microchip that then transmits them wirelessly to an application.
This converts the data into an easy-to-read graph that shows if the heart rate is abnormal.
The results are shared with the patient's doctor so they can check the patient's heart without having to call them at the clinic to schedule an appointment.
In addition to atrial fibrillation, the T-shirt can detect other problems related to defective heart rhythms, such as syncope, which produces frequent episodes of fainting.
The shirt, developed by the French pharmaceutical company Servier, has been approved for sale in the UK and is expected to be available for doctors to use later this year, although the price has not yet been announced.
Martin Cowie, a professor of cardiology at Imperial College London, said: "It is fantastic to see a new solution to the very real problem of diagnosing intermittent cardiac abnormalities that can explain serious diseases such as syncope. [fainting] or hit ".
He told Good Health: "Cardioskin could be an important development for cardiologists."