Each year, approximately 550,000 osteoporotic patients in the US suffer from compression fractures that require pedicle screws in order to reconstruct the spine. These patients are currently given pain management treatments instead of pedicle screws, however, because osteoporotic bone isn't strong enough to hold the screws in, or prevent them from falling out. This E-Team plans to solve the problem by developing a pull-out resistant pedicle screw. The novel design, based on a vertebral compression fracture treatment known as kyphoplasty, consists of a two-part screw involving a hollow capture chamber and a threaded inner screw. The hollow chamber is inserted into the vertebral body, then the inner screw is brought through the chamber into a wet cement adhesive. As the cement cures, the stickiness of the screw is enhanced, providing greater pull-out resistance.
Two and a half billion people worldwide use traditional stoves for cooking, heating and lighting, resulting in severe indoor air pollution, overuse of natural resources and numerous health problems and deaths caused by smoke. There have been attempts to introduce improved stoves that minimize air pollution and reduce biomass consumption, but commercial success has been limited due to flawed designs: the stoves have robbed users of a source of light that would otherwise be obtained from an open fire. To solve the problem, this E-Team is developing the Starlight Stove, an improved stove that increases the efficiency of burning biomass while eliminating air pollution and acting as a source of light.
The stove consists of a cast-iron plate heated by an efficiency-increasing ceramic combustion chamber. Hot gas produced by the combustion of biomass is taken out of the room through a chimney. The light source, a five-watt device located above the stove and connected by a wire, is produced by a thermoelectric generator that creates a small amount of electricity when a temperature potential exists between its hot and cold sinks. The generator also has a fan to circulate warm air throughout the room.
This E-Team is addressing the problem of agricultural water shortages in Malawi, in sub-Saharan Africa. Without irrigation, local farmers produce 200g of maize per capita, while baseline nutrition calls for 600g per person. This grant aims to further develop and refine the team's existing water pump, conceived, produced and tested between September '04 and March '06, in part with NCIIA funding. Following a visit to Malawi to test their prototype, the team optimized the design and investigated local manufacturing and distribution possibilities. They also distinguished their product from competitors by sourcing locally available parts, thereby ensuring that when pumps fail they can be repaired on-site, cheaply and quickly.
Although anemia is a highly preventable disease, it often goes undetected in the developing world due to a lack of labs for testing and the high cost of equipment. To combat the problem, this E-Team is developing AnemiCAM, a rapid, inexpensive, non-invasive method of measuring blood hemoglobin levels. The device, which can be manufactured for under $30, examines the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane lining the inner surface of the eyelid and the exposed surface of the eyeball) and allows measurements to be made in less than ten seconds and with 95% accuracy.
The team founded Corum Medical in 2006, an early stage medical instrument company focused on AnemiCAM (now called LumenI). In 2007 the company signed a license agreement with Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital that gives Corum exclusive worldwide rights to the noninvasive method of measuring hemoglobin.
This E-Team is developing a safer, more controlled method of performing an epidural. The current technique involves the advancement of a needle into the epidural space, relying heavily on a steady hand and the ability to halt needle advancement once loss of resistance is detected. Since this is a time-consuming process with a complication rate of 5-20%, epidurals are not used as often as they could be; less than half of epidural-eligible patients actually receive one.
The team's device consists of a rotating blunt-tipped syringe attached to a flexible shaft and operated by a pump actuator equipped with a safety alert button. This design has four advantages over the traditional model: 1) the blunt tip allows the physician to dissect, instead of cut, through to the epidural space, making the procedure easier and safer; 2) the device uses rotation to create controlled advancement of the needle, relying less on a steady hand; 3) the flexible shaft minimizes the torque encountered with a rigid one-piece system; and 4) the design maintains the familiar and reliable loss-of-resistance method to detect the epidural space.
Congestive heart failure is a lethal disease characterized by the inability of the heart to pump enough blood to meet the body's demands. Up to two-thirds of cases of CHF are initially caused by a heart attack, putting the cardiac wall under significant stress and triggering a series of changes that can cause the heart to enlarge. Currently there are no effective treatments for CHF, as drugs slow down but do not prevent the progression of the disease, and passive restraints to support the heart and prevent dilation are highly invasive and aimed only at individuals with end-stage CHF.
To combat these problems, this E-Team is developing a minimally invasive, polymer-based approach to physically support the heart of recent heart attack victims, preventing the heart from enlarging. The device involves the delivery of a primer and polymer that crosslink in the pericardial space around the heart. First, the heart is coated with the primer, which bonds to the heart surface. Next, the polymer is delivered to the same space and crosslinks with the primer, forming a thin elastic structure that provides physical support for the heart. The polymer will have enough elasticity to allow for proper filling and emptying of the heart, and will be biodegradable in order to provide support to the heart only during the vulnerable period immediately following a heart attack.
Two chronic problems currently affect hospital administration in the US: 1) monitoring patients' vital signs to ensure their safety, and 2) managing staff workload. This E-Team is looking to solve both problems by developing the Aid Network (AID-N), a wireless patient monitoring system for hospitals. AID-N consists of patent-pending low-cost wireless medical sensors, called eTags, that automate the process of monitoring vital signs. The eTags continuously transmit patient vital signs to the provider's computer (a handheld PDA style device), and generates an alarm when a patient's condition deteriorates. Beyond improving patient safety, this technology could relieve some of the workload of the medical team.
In partnership with the US Army, this E-Team developed an environmentally friendly alternative to styrene. Styrene is a potentially carcinogenic petroleum derivative that has harmful effects on the environment and is highly regulated by the EPA. The team's product is a soybean oil derivative that can replace styrene in thermoset resins (raw materials used in the fiber-reinforced products industry). The soybean oil is environmentally friendly (safe and renewable), performs better than styrene, and costs less.
People with ankle problems such as arthritis often wear supportive devices to help them walk. Traditionally ankle braces have been custom manufactured to meet specific patient needs, but in recent years there has been a movement toward prefabricated devices. While current prefabricated devices are capable of completely supporting the ankle, they often suffer from a lack of durability: the junction between the footplate and the upper support fails. Due to the high failure rates of existing products, physicians have voiced a need for a structurally sound and supportive ankle brace.
This E-Team is hoping to fill the need by designing a brace that incorporates the idea of recoil energy. The design includes a one-piece "sock" structure to allow for a greater fitting range, a resilient carbon-fiber foot-shin plate to provide the lever action that alleviates pressure at the ankle during walking, and stress distribution, particularly around the foot-plate strut joint that typically fails.
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.