A device using a form of electrical acupuncture to help patients with a dangerous sleep disorder has won a Hong Kong research team the top prize at an international fair. The device uses electrodes to stimulate acupuncture points to restart breathing in people with sleep apnoea, a condition that causes sufferers to stop breathing temporarily while asleep. Developed by experts and students from the Polytechnic University's School of Nursing, Department of Health Technology and Informatics and Institute of Textiles and Clothing, it won a gold medal at the International Trade Fair in Nuremberg, Germany. The device comprises an abdomen belt and a wristband, which patients wear when they sleep. When breathing stops the belt detects a difference in the circumference of the abdomen and sends a wireless signal to the wristband. The wristband has two electrodes that release electric pulses to the acupuncture points. Putting pressure on these points helps resume breathing, according to acupuncture theories. Principal investigator Thomas Wong Kwok-shing, also the dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, said the device could reduce the severity of sleep apnoea by 30 per cent. A Chinese University study last year indicated that about 4 per cent of Hong Kong men between 30 and 60 suffer from the condition. Sufferers often use breathing machines at night that deliver slightly pressurised air through a mask to keep the throat open, but Professor Wong said this system was inconvenient. Surgery was also used but the condition could recur, he said. Professor Wong said the team would work with its industrial partners and hoped the device, costing about HK$10,000, could go on sale by the end of next year. The university's Institute of Textiles and Clothing also won a bronze medal at the fair for clothing made with a 'smart' fabric that prevents moisture condensing on the skin and regulates temperature, enabling the wearer to keep warm in sub-zero conditions. The clothing, made with nanotechnology, also incorporates a sensor using Bluetooth wireless equipment that allows the wearer to make individual adjustments using a mobile phone or personal digital assistant.