The vast majority of hospitalizations related to heart failure in the US are due to symptoms of volume overload, which occurs when cardiac pumping function declines and excess fluid builds up in the body. Patients become bloated due to the fluid accumulation, and in the lungs, where interstitial space is limited, fluid overflows into the airways and causes shortness of breath common to heart patients.
Volume overload is currently managed by two treatments: medications and dialysis. Medications remove fluid from the body by increasing kidney function and increasing urine output, but this reversal can take hours to days and is often incomplete. Dialysis mechanically filters fluid from blood in patients with poor kidney function, but is complex and expensive.
LymphAxis is developing a novel catheter system to drain excess fluid directly from the thoracic duct. Instead of manipulating kidney function to increase urine output, the team’s device accesses the interstitial fluid compartment (in the patient’s neck) directly. The device’s double-armed catheter is advanced through the central venous system to the thoracic duct. The catheter tip seals against the duct to draw fluid directly from the lymphatic system and into a vacuum container outside the body.
This team is developing the BioHydrogenator (BHR), a device that could reduce wastewater treatment costs for food and beverage makers and produce hydrogen gas in the process. Currently, food and beverage makers in the US use a conventional aerobic (oxygen-rich) process that is effective at eliminating pollutants from wastewater but is extremely energy-intensive and costly.
The BHR uses a fundamentally different type of bacterial ecology and reactor design that offers the ability to treat wastewater without aeration. The main idea is to use the energy released through the breakdown of organic pollutants in the wastewater by microorganisms to create hydrogen gas as a useful byproduct. This transfer of protons and electrons is facilitated by electrodes (an anode and cathode) suspended in a reaction chamber.
Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a condition in which a patient’s salivary glands fail to work properly, resulting in pain, mucosal sores, dental bills, loss of taste, trouble speaking and depression. This condition affects seven million people in the US and can stem from a variety of reasons, including radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, as well as autoimmune disorders, chronic illnesses and poly-pharmaceuticals. For xerostomia sufferers, current solutions are primarily limited to salivary substitutes that require active application several times a day but do provide limited and temporary relief. At night, patients tend to wake every few hours and therefore suffer from sleep deprivation.
XeroTray is a passive device that provides relief from xerostomia by the timely release of moisture stored in a mouth guard, freeing patients from frequent application of salivary substitutes and protecting the teeth and gums.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011 - $20,000
According to the EPA, as many as 5-17 million people in the US may currently be exposed to dangerously high levels of a toxic rocket fuel component, perchlorate, through public drinking water supplies. Perchlorate disturbs proper function of the thyroid and has an adverse affect on prenatal and neonatal development. On account of the risk posed to the public, in February 2011 the EPA issued a decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water; a regulation will be in place within approximately 36 months.
Currently, however, there are no economical or efficient options for removing perchlorate from water in point-of-use (POU) treatment units such as pitcher or faucet filters. To fill the need, the Serionix team has developed a low-cost filtration medium capable of rapid and efficient POU removal of perchlorate from water. While other perchlorate-removing technologies exist, the team believes its ultra-fast uptake of the chemical will separate it from the competition.
A major challenge to improving maternal healthcare worldwide is the lack of blood available for transfusions during open abdominal surgeries, especially in cases of ruptured ectopic pregnancy. However, 80% of patients in sub-Saharan Africa do not receive a transfusion without providing a replacement donor, generally a close family member. If the patient doesn’t have access to the necessary blood because a family member is unavailable or unwilling to donate, her prognosis may worsen, eventually leading to death.
To address this problem, physicians in resouce-limited settings have developed a procedure for salvaging the patient’s own blood lost in internal hemorrhaging. In this widely used procedure, called “soup ladle autotransfusion,” the patient’s blood is physically scooped out of the abdomen with a ladle and poured through a nurse’s hands into a bowl, where it is mixed with anticoagulant, filtered through a few layers of gauze, and transferred to a blood bag. The blood bag is then hung on an IV stand and the blood is transfused back into the patient. While the end goal of giving the patient a transfusion is achieved, the procedure is labor-intensive and there’s a high chance of complications resulting from contamination.
This team has developed a novel blood transfusion device that allows a clinician to extract blood from the woman’s abdomen, quickly filter the blood of any clots or impurities, and safely transfuse it back into the patient’s body via a standard blood bag. The device, estimated to cost approximately $300, was developed in collaboration with healthcare professionals in Ghana.
AIDS is a devastating global epidemic responsible for more than 25 million deaths since 1981. Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be the region most heavily affected by HIV, accounting for 67% of HIV cases and 72% of AIDS deaths in 2007. Among a number of interventions that have been attempted to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, the World Health Organization has found that adult male circumcision is the only biomedical intervention proven effective—removal of the foreskin greatly reduces the number of target cells available for uptake of HIV and other STDs. It is estimated that three million lives could be saved in sub-Saharan Africa alone if safe male circumcision were to become common practice.
To make that a reality, this E-Team is developing the CircoGel, a culturally acceptable, low-cost, simple-to-use, disposable device to perform circumcisions in sub-Saharan Africa. CircoGel is comprised of two parts, a strong solid shell that provides protection against the cut and a latex sleeve that covers the shell. The device was designed based on feedback gathered from several focus groups with ethnic leaders, traditional cutters, and public health officials in Uganda.
Anemia is a chronic disability caused by a reduction in healthy red blood cells and affects an estimated 1.62 billion people worldwide, or about a third of the world’s population. Current means of anemia diagnosis are not well suited to rural areas of the developing world: standard electric centrifuges are dependent on sporadic power, and, should they need to be repaired, require specialized parts and mechanical expertise. Other solutions, such as rapid diagnostic strips and blood smears, frequently come solely from donations and are single-use.
This team is looking to fill the need for long-term, sustainable anemia diagnosis with CentriCycle, a hand-powered centrifuge made out of bicycle parts. The team has developed a prototype and business plan and is currently working to complete proof-of-concept testing and on-location field testing in India, its initial target market.
Electrical stimulation of the retina to treat blindness is an effective method to provide vision while parallel research progresses on providing a cure. However, this therapy is restricted since current electrode technology doesn’t conform to the back of the eye; gaps between the electrodes and the retina require greater stimulation potentials that can actually cause reduced visual acuity.
This team is developing SynapTech, a neural interface technology that will enable precise integration of the electrode with the retina, allowing minimal stimulating potentials, greater electrode density and enhanced vision. The team’s novel design consists of an array of moveable electrodes with micron-level precision.
Ascites is a condition in which fluid builds up in the abdominal cavity, most commonly from cirrhosis of the liver and cancer. Patients suffering from ascites can initially be managed with diuretics and by restricting salt in their diet, but over time they need increasing doses of medication and eventually become non-responsive to treatment. Only a few patients with end-stage liver disease receive liver transplants; the vast majority of patients have to live with a significant amount of fluid in their abdomen, requiring a trip to the hospital for drainage every 2-4 weeks which clearly affects a patient’s quality of life. This E-Team is developing a novel technology aimed at managing patients with ascites at home in order to prevent frequent hospital visits.