Every year more than 500,000 coronary artery bypass surgeries are performed worldwide. While autografting (taking tissue from one part of the body and moving it to another) is the preferred technique, there are limitations: autografts cannot be obtained multiple times from one patient, and they fail when the patient lacks healthy blood vessels. Synthetic polymers are used in cases of weak blood vessels, but not when making small diameter vascular grafts (less than five mm) due to risks of stenosis (abnormal narrowing of a bodily canal or passageway), and thrombosis (a clot of coagulated blood attached at the site of formation in a blood vessel).
To fill the need for small diameter vascular grafts for people with weak blood vessels, this E-Team is developing the Hydrogel Microfiber, a hollow, polymeric cylinder in which living endothelial cells can be encapsulated. Concentric layers can be added to this fiber, each containing its own cell population. Once implanted in the patient, the cells in the fiber grow over time and eventually become fully integrated with the vessel wall.
Rotavirus, a disease affecting children age five and younger, kills 600,000 people every year in the developing world. The virus infects the villi of the small intestines, leading to severe diarrhea, vomiting, high fever and dehydration. While rotavirus vaccines exist, they are currently delivered only in liquid form in a syringe, making the vaccine difficult to administer to infants and requiring expensive refrigeration to maintain. Building on thin film technology such as the popular Listerine Breath Strips, this E-Team is developing a method of delivering a rotavirus vaccine orally, on thin film. The team believes this design will have many advantages over current syringe-based methods, including simplifying storage and distribution due to the film's light weight and ability to be stored without refrigeration, and easier delivery to infants.
Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure in which two or more vertebrae are fused together to relieve pain stemming from degenerative disc disease, spinal fractures, and other sources of back pain. The preferred surgical method is Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF), where the disc is removed through an incision over the lumbar spine and a structural titanium cage and bone graft are inserted in its place. While this approach is less invasive than others and leads to lower trauma and complication rates, the small space in which to work and the vulnerability of local nerves make the surgery time-consuming and difficult to perform. Further, traditional cages have fixed dimensions and must be coaxed into the spine, possibly causing nerve damage.
This E-Team is developing a new approach to the procedure with an expandable fusion cage. The flexible titanium cage will be compressed during insertion and expanded during the positioning phase of the procedure. When the device is fit into the spine, a balloon will be inflated, expanding the cage to the exact size necessary and filling in all available space.
Central Venous Pressure (CVP) is the pressure of blood in the thoracic vena cava, near the right atrium of the heart. CVP reflects the amount of blood returning to the heart and the ability of the heart to pump the blood into the arterial system, and is a key parameter used in diagnosing serious conditions like heart failure and monitoring patient fluid levels. Currently the only method of accurately measuring CVP involves surgically inserting a catheter through a major vein, which is costly, highly invasive, and can lead to complications. For these reasons, CVP measurements are usually only taken for critical patients, even though early detection could help treat conditions like congestive heart failure.
This E-Team is developing a small handheld device, called cVein, that provides a noninvasive and accurate method of measuring CVP. Using an ultrasound machine to visualize the internal jugular (IJ) vein, the operator applies pressure to the vein with cVein. The device records the pressure required to collapse the IJ and displays the reading to the operator. This quick and noninvasive measurement method could be used in emergency or primary care settings, allowing for earlier diagnosis of problems.
Negative Pressure Ventilation (NPV) is the mechanism by which bodies breath naturally; air passively flows into the lungs due to the negative pressure of the diaphragm movement. This team's idea is to address the problem of increased mortality due to the detrimental effects of Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV), when paramedics manually force air into the lungs using a bag valve mask. PPV can lead to longer hospital discharge times.
The team developed a prototype that electronically stimulates the phrenic nerve in the neck, forcing the diaphragm to take in air. Their prototype includes a neck electrode patch to deliver pulses to the phrenic nerve, a feedback system to determine if the patient is breathing, a stimulation unit that is battery powered and rechargeable, and software for a tablet PC to control the stimulation and the breathing rate.
This E-Team is developing a motorized head-moving device that effectively diagnoses dizziness. Dizziness is the number one medical complaint among the elderly and the third most frequent complaint that brings people to primary care and emergency rooms. Dizziness often leads to falls, which can be fatal or cause serious bodily injury, and result in billions of dollars in health care fees. While many causes of dizziness are treatable, current diagnostic techniques are complicated, costly, and uncomfortable for patients.
The team's device, D3, is simple, user-friendly, and reliable. The patient wears a helmet and places a "bite bar" in their mouth that has been molded to their dentition. A video camera monitors eye rotation responses while head is rotated.
The Negative X-ray Rapid System is a device that utilizes software to detect retained foreign bodies (RFBs) in post-surgical x-rays. RFBs--surgical instruments left inside the patient's body after surgery--can cause medical complications, result in death in up to 35% of cases, and almost always require a second operation to remove the forgotten item. Right now, the process of obtaining and analyzing post-surgical x-rays is laborious and expensive. The Negative X-ray Rapid System will dramatically reduce the resources needed to obtain a negative x-ray without compromising accuracy.
Despite a number of advances in cancer detection technologies, the development of clinically validated, blood-based cancer biomarkers remains an unmet challenge for many common cancers. Better markers would lead to earlier detection, saving lives and cutting down on hospital costs. A new method, the DNA Integrity Assay (DIA) has the potential to accurately discriminate cancerous cells from normal cells for a wide range of cancers, but its clinical acceptance has been limited due to the complexity of the test, sampling errors, and the high cost of the materials, instruments and highly trained personnel needed to run it.
This E-Team is developing a new DIA testing method called smDIA (single molecule assessment of DNA integrity), which has the potential to eliminate errors and reduce the costs associated with the traditional DIA approach. In this method, a patient’s DNA sample (blood, stool, etc.) is transported by a microfluidic device through a sheet of laser beams (Cylindrical Illumination Confocal Spectroscopy), enabling direct analysis of the patient's DNA integrity in a rapid, uniform manner.