_FEATURE

Body by Design
A Drexel education has always been about solutions. Every day inside classrooms and labs, students and faculty work alongside each other in search of a better procedure, a stronger material, a smarter gadget — a continual collaboration in innovation. Perhaps no school within the University epitomizes this more than the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems (BioMED).

In the spring of 2017, in a quiet room filled with posters presented by BioMED seniors, the next generation of solutions was on display. Over the course of two days, students unveiled their final projects, each one answering a specific question that has troubled the medical community: How can clinicians in the field better identify when a traumatic brain injury has occurred? How can doctors apply epidural steroid injections without risking nerve damage? Is there a way to deliver melatonin in tune with nature’s rhythms so patients can sleep through the night and limit the effects of dementia? And so on.

Most of the projects detailed in the following pages are only exciting preliminary concepts — for now. But each is a blueprint for a plausible product or process that addresses some of the trickiest problems in medicine.

Heart

1. Channeling Blood for Pediatric Heart Patients

_Problem

There are 400 pediatric heart transplant surgeries each year, and 10,000 to 20,000 pediatric patients each year would benefit from a long-term blood pump, but there are no total artificial hearts approved for pediatric clinical use.

_Solution

An optimized channel for the blood being moved by a pediatric cardiac pump, allowing the flow from a patient’s pulmonary vein to be distributed uniformly to both the left and right ventricle. A flat profile would allow the pump to fit into a child’s chest, with shunts to redistribute flow to all sides of the pump and peaked edges to help guide the flow.

Team Samantha Cassel, Kelsey Chung, Raymond Dulman, Kelly Fox and Maneesha Sahni / Adviser Associate Professor Amy Throckmorton, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

2. A Pump to Limit Lymphedema After Heart Failure

_Problem

In patients with congestive heart failure (expected to be a population of roughly 3 million by 2020), inadequate blood flow can lead to lymphedema, in which excess fluid in the veins causes swelling in the legs. There is no currently available, minimally invasive treatment device.

_Solution

A roller pump the size of a pacemaker that can be implanted in a patient to overcome pressure in the venous system and return lymphatic fluid into circulation. The acrylic and aluminum roller pump prototype the team designed could advance the development of an implantable device that would be able to alleviate lymphatic congestion and mitigate the potential byproducts of heart failure.

Team Sherika Gordon, Sarah Haynes, Jennifer Patten, Khyati Prasad and Ashley Ramirez / Adviser Associate Professor Amy Throckmorton, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Tissue

3. Building Better Imitations of Biological Tissue

_Problem

Electrospinning, a common technique used in tissue engineering studies, fabricates nanofiber matrices with exceptional mechanical strength made from biocompatible polymers. But current spinning devices can only enable in-plane control of the fibers’ alignment. A tool is needed that can better mimic the 3D architecture of biological tissues.

_Solution

A new spinning device that allows for continuous through-plane control by integrating a rotating collection plate to collect an aligned nanofiber layer and rotate it, allowing another layer to collect on top and enabling through-plane control. The team’s testing revealed continuous control of the collection plate angle, which would allow the device to produce scaffolds more closely aligned with native biological tissue.

Team Brandon Eng, James Kirwan, Alexander Mariner, Ravi Shah, Michael Shmukler and Brendan Sweeney / Advisers Assistant Professor Lin Han, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; and Biao Han, PhD candidate, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

4. A Smarter Way to Grip Tissue Without Damage

_Problem

Laparoscopic graspers are surgical tools used in minimally invasive procedures to safely manipulate tissue. No method currently exists to modulate the force applied by surgeons, which often leads to tearing and bruising of tissue, resulting in greater patient pain and longer recovery times.

_Solution

By placing sensors at either end of the grasper, along with a braking mechanism and an electromagnet in the middle of it all, the team designed a tool that can apply just the right amount of pressure to grip difficult parts of the body while not crossing the damage threshold. The device could reduce the risk of tissue injury and improve the surgical training process.

Team Zachary Block, Matthew Bolopue, Eric Barbalace, William Dackis and Allison Grasmeder / Adviser Associate Professor Sriram Balasubramanian, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

5. A Deep Dive to Diagnose Tissue Injuries

_Problem

Deep tissue injuries — pressure ulcers that spread outward to a patient’s skin and affect 250,000 patients annually — aren’t typically detected until they’ve progressed to the skin’s surface, at which point surgical intervention is required. There are no ideal methods for measuring the stiffness of different tissue samples in order to identify pressure ulcers.

_Solution

A 3D-printed, handheld design that houses a piezoelectric finger that can measure the elasticity of materials in the human body at the depths where deep tissue injuries typically originate. The device offers precise measurements that could improve the quality of life for at-risk patients and open doors for further diagnostic applications.

Team Alice Alderson, Luyando Chibwe, Peter Esslinger, Arlene Genevieve Offemaria and Kevin Yeaman / Adviser Professor Wan Shih, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

6. A Stage to Study Tissue Samples

_Problem

There is currently no way to measure the nanoscale properties of a tissue sample under strain in a simulated physiological environment. This limits the capacity for research into materials such as prosthetics, synthetic tissue grafts and athletic clothing.

_Solution

The team designed a device with a stage to hold a tensile specimen and a surrounding fluid chamber to provide support. Grips secure the ends of the tissue and strain is applied, allowing researchers to take measurements using atomic force microscopy and better understand materials. The product could reinforce current research and generate new research that would have benefits for surgical and materials science applications, not to mention sports.

Team Jonathan Amora, Tara Jordan, Leif Malm, Kawyn Somachandra and Anthony Young / Adviser Assistant Professor Lin Han, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Bones

7. A Better Understanding of Bone Impacts

_Problem

There are 200,000 midshaft clavicle fractures each year and the bone alignment is typically off by less than two centimeters. Whether this amount of malalignment impacts shoulder mechanics is not understood. Researchers need a device capable of creating a known malalignment so that studies of cadavers can investigate the impact on shoulder motion.

_Solution

The team created a device with a PVC crossbar and a cantilever beam that fixes the clavicle in place on a cadaver to allow doctors to simulate different amounts of malalignment. The team’s prototype minimizes rotation and movement between its components to prevent bending during testing, and was found to withstand the same loads as an intact bone model. The device has the potential to be used in cadaver studies to examine the effect of clavicular malalignment on shoulder mechanics.

Team Seth Greber, Margaret Gunn, Kristin Irons, Alicia Rusnak and Cassandra Tu / Adviser Associate Teaching Professor Joseph Sarver, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

8. Optimizing Ultrasound for Bone Recovery

_Problem

Osteoporosis — the decrease of bone density common in elderly patients — makes patients more susceptible to fractures, 2 million of which are caused by the condition each year. Ultrasound is beneficial for wound healing, but the main existing product is expensive, has a limited treatment time and has a non-rechargeable battery pack.

_Solution

By optimizing an ultrasound transducer driver circuit for low frequency and low pressure, the team designed a lightweight, wearable, tether-free and battery-operated product to stimulate bone recovery. The electronic driver successfully created the appropriate tone burst and repetition frequency to be effective, potentially reducing recovery time for patients.

Team Ajo Joseph, Kevin Kunju, Mohana Nagda, Neel Patel and Sunil Shah / Adviser Richard B. Beard Distinguished University Professor Peter Lewin and Assistant Professor Kara Spiller, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health System

Brain

9. Mapping Neural Connections in the Brain

_Problem

A lot of time, money and effort are spent trying to map the brain and understand its neural connections, but current methods for creating a connectome map are all manual, leaving room for human error and operator bias. The only fully mapped organism is the nematode worm, so an automated mapping process would present significant room for advancement.

_Solution

A computational pipeline that can identify major neural structures, compile the results into a connectome map and adjacency matrix, and perform without technical failures. Using a collection of MATLAB scripts, the team used scanning electron microscope image data as an input; analyzed, filtered and identified the images; and output a connectome map as an image and matrix, identifying more than 96 percent of cell bodies and axonal pixels along the way.

Team Edgar Cardenas, Melissa DuBois, Andrew Kaiser, Rea Parikh and Eaindra Tin Lat / Adviser Research Assistant Professor Will Dampier, College of Medicine

10. A New Way to Diagnose Dyslexia

_Problem

Early diagnosis of language-based learning disabilities is key to treatment, but there is no gold standard at the moment. Dyslexia often comes in tandem with other issues, such as ADHD, that can make it difficult for a child to sit still long enough for psychological and neurological exams to properly diagnose.

_Solution

The infrared spectroscopy system (fNIRS) can allow doctors to measure oxygen levels in the brain, which has different patterns in individuals with dyslexia as compared to regular readers, easing diagnosis. The team designed a wireless device lightweight enough (less than 50 grams) to be wearable and mobile but still transmit the results quantifying an individual’s oxygen levels up to 10 meters. In the end, it could give dyslexic students the same opportunities as any of their peers.

Team Valeria Beckhoff Ferrero, Tushaar Godbole, Eshiemhomo Kadiri, Michael Iskhakov and Durand O’Meara / Adviser Meltem Izzetoglu, research professor, Villanova University

11. Identifying Synapses to Treat Brain Injuries

_Problem

Traumatic brain injuries are responsible for nearly one-third of all injury-related deaths and impact 1.7 million people each year. To date, no clinical treatments exist to regenerate damaged synaptic connections. Emerging genetic therapies show some promise in creating new synaptic connections; however, preliminary therapy screening in animals costs too much money and time.

_Solution

The team designed an in vitro, cell culture assay to screen genetically engineered proteins capable of establishing novel synaptic connections. By quantifying synaptic contacts with fluorescent confocal microscopy, the team created an assay that will support future research, presenting a possible step forward for treating traumatic brain injuries.

Team Yiyang Deng, Ayan Desai, Xinyi Lu and Sohil Patel / Adviser Assistant Professor Catherine von Reyn, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

12. Measuring Brain Oxygenation to Identify Traumatic Injuries

_Problem

Traumatic brain injury is diagnosed in 2.5 million patients each year using MRI or CT scan machines that are very large and not portable. No point-of-care devices exist to monitor traumatic brain injuries.

_Solution

The team created an oximetry module that can be used to measure oxygenation level in brain tissue using the InfraScan device, including an interface display that allows for easy operation. The device could improve pre-hospital treatment of traumatic brain injuries by allowing health care providers and field clinicians to quickly and effectively evaluate cerebral oxygenation and determine when one has occurred.

Team Christopher Cox, Murynia Hernandez, Anna Lu, Kaitlyn Money and Beverly Tomita / Advisers Associate Research Professor Hasan Ayaz, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; Research Professor Meltem Izzetoglu, Villanova University; H.H. Sun Professor Banu Onaral, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Procedural

13. Measuring a Scalpel’s Force to Minimize Misuse

_Problem

Scalpel misuse causes 18 percent of injuries in the operating room. Current training methods for scalpel use include informal apprenticeship, synthetic models and computer simulations. A virtual reality simulator could be a more cost-effective and more portable option for surgical training, but a simulator is only effective if the user can be prepared for a real-world clinical environment by getting accurate force feedback on their scalpel use.

_Solution

Using 3D-printed blade holders capable of testing scalpel blades angled at 0, 25 and 45 degrees, and a platform layered with neoprene rubber and pig skin, the team was able to calculate the average amount of force directly exerted on the skin to create an incision. The work could lay the foundation for transcribing the physical loads applied when making an incision and provide a protocol for acquiring biomechanical data for future uses.

Team Muammar Johnson, Haiyue Lu and Mashaal Syed / Adviser Professor Wan Shih, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

14. A New Process to Prepare Patients for Image Scans

_Problem

Traumatic brain injuries can be diagnosed using imaging devices, and one way to prepare for imaging is to induce hypercapnia, a state in which a body contains an excess amount of carbon dioxide. The current technology used to induce hypercapnia is bulky, immobile, takes a long time to set up and uses external gas sources.

_Solution

By recycling a patient’s own carbon dioxide in a re-breathing process, similar to what happens when a person breathes into a paper bag over and over, the team designed a device that can effectively achieve and maintain hypercapnic levels of carbon dioxide. Using the patient’s own lungs as an external gas source, it could be the first portable, lightweight option to promote early intervention in cases of traumatic brain injury.

Team Stephen Brown, Thomas Lightfoot-Vidal, Ashley Malone, Yerram Pratusha Reddy and Joseph Sincavage / Adviser Meltem Izzetoglu, research professor, Villanova University

15. A Stabilizing Seat for Steroid Injections

_Problem

There are 9 million epidural steroid injections each year in the United States to relieve pain associated with inflammation, but 47 percent of procedures involve unintentional nerve injury caused by sudden movement. There is no device on the market to stabilize a patient’s neck and allow room for medical professionals to safely operate.

_Solution

To increase safety and effectiveness, maximize epidural space while the patient is seated, and provide rigid support to keep the patient in place, the team created a two-part device with a head piece attached to a table via nylon straps and an L-frame with a seat-belt system to slide under a seat cushion. With an adjustable suspension, it would work for any patient, reducing risk by securing their position while allowing for quick release in case of an emergency.

Team Matthew Bova, Tyler Miller, Ashley Moy, Amanda Tilles and Gregory Toci / Adviser Assistant Teaching Professor Marek Swoboda, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

16. Adapting Infrared Imaging to Rats

_Problem

Strokes affect 800,000 people every year and are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. Research is needed to develop our understanding of the physiology of strokes in order to create more effective preventive measures and regenerative treatments, and that research is conducted in rats. Innovative imaging methods are needed to better assess information from animal models.

_Solution

Infrared imaging is one way to measure the amount of oxygen in brain tissue. By creating a piece of imaging technology small enough to fit on a rat’s skull, weighing less than 10 percent of its body weight and allowing unrestrained movement, the team’s project opens up research possibilities for studies using infrared imaging on animals. There is a niche market of researchers whose work could greatly benefit from customized devices for such imaging.

Team Daniel Finnegan, Andrew Joseph, Marina Louis, Trevor Montez and Michal Swoboda / Adviser Professor Kambiz Pourrezaei, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; and Meltem Izzetoglu, research professor, Villanova University

Procedural

MISCELLANOUS

17.A 3D-Printed, Regenerative Tracheal Brace

_Problem

There are no ideal treatments for tracheomalacia, a degenerative disease that leads to the collapse of a person’s airways. The existing options are either quick and temporary or can fracture and create further tissue damage. Degenerated tracheal rings need cartilage support from a mechanical structure that can prevent collapse, promote tissue growth and create adhesion.

_Solution

A 3D-printed, C-shaped brace that facilitates the growth of cartilage tissue while resisting the pressure generated during the breathing process. The team’s design is porous, in order to allow cartilage cells to migrate and proliferate, with a solid outer layer and an inner scaffold to remain sturdy and promote regeneration. The device would improve a patient’s quality of life and offer a permanent, non-pharmacological solution.

Team Kosha Kumar, Alexandria Neiman, Nicholas Wancio, David Luke Wetnight and Emrecan Yener / Adviser Professor Wan Shih and Michael Frohbergh, both of the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

18. A Suture-Silk Scaffold to Guide Nerve Regeneration

_Problem

There are 347,000 Americans with spinal cord injuries, and 17,000 more suffer such injuries each year and are at risk of permanent loss of neurological function. There is currently no promising solution to repair spinal cord injuries. In order to restore functionality to damaged nerve fibers, guided direction is required.

_Solution

The team designed a scaffold made of suture silk — which is biocompatible, readily available in many sizes and inexpensive — to guide nerve regeneration through channels that could address sites both near and far from an injury. As a proof of principle, the team demonstrated that nerves did attach to the suture silk, while future development will also aim for directional nerve growth.

Team Liam Barnes, Christopher Brennan, Kalgi Chokshi, Megan Donohue and Angelica Spinelli / Adviser John M. Reid Professor Margaret Wheatley, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

19. A Melatonin Pump Attuned to Nature’s Rhythms

_Problem

Insufficient melatonin can lead to unstable sleep, which can accelerate the symptoms of a patient’s disease, especially dementia. Existing solutions to deliver melatonin lack a natural release, and patient noncompliance with current approaches can be as high as 75 percent in elderly populations.

_Solution

In order to deliver sufficient supplemental melatonin in a way that mimics the body’s natural circadian rhythms, the team developed a pump that dispenses melatonin through a syringe-style system with a microprocessor and circuitry able to control the melatonin output. If used as a bedside device, it could offer better modulation of melatonin uptake and, therefore, more consistent sleep cycles.

Team Jordan Bucher, Thomas Donnelly, Sean Jenkins, Samuel Kim and Dalton Lester / Adviser Assistant Teaching Professor Marek Swoboda, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

20. Drug Delivery for Chronic Wounds

_Problem

Six-and-a-half million Americans are affected by chronic wounds — those that fail to heal within 12 weeks — and $25 billion a year is spent on treatments, none of which address the underlying physiology. In a normal wound, macrophages create inflammation that helps an injury heal, but chronic wounds don’t behave in expected patterns.

_Solution

A topically applied drug delivery system that can be placed on a wound of any size and contains two different mechanisms to address the two different types of macrophages with two different release methods. When combined, the gel, which contains a microparticle slurry, promotes the growth of new blood vessels, allowing tissue to regrow and the wound to heal.

Team Matthew Geib, Allison Liptak, Samantha Santos, Anh Trinh and Kathryn Volk / Advisers Assistant Professor Kara Spiller, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

21. Sound-Guided Gait Adjustment

_Problem

For a large number of patients in physical therapy for neurological disorders or rehabilitating injuries, an abnormal gait can increase the risk of falls, back pain and other subsequent injuries. But at the moment, there are no mobile solutions to help patients regain a normal walking rhythm.

_Solution

A shoe insole with force sensors that translates the map of an individual’s gait into sound that can be played in headphones as he or she walks. A target pattern is played repeatedly prior to walking, then, as the user walks, the rhythm of their current gait is played. By adjusting their walking rhythm to match the target, the individual can use real-time auditory feedback to speed along the rehabilitation or physical therapy process.

Team Samantha Fox, Jaclyn Goulet, Tyler Kern, Cory Quigley and Yang Wan / Adviser Associate Teaching Professor Joseph J. Sarver, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Muscles

22. A Muscle-Testing Simulator to Eliminate Subjectivity

_Problem

More than 5 million Americans need muscular assessments to gauge the impact of their neurological disabilities. The current 0–5 scale ranges from no movement to normal strength, but translating a patient’s muscle strength to the scale is fraught with errors due to subjectivity.

_Solution

An electro-pneumatic device that mimics a healthy adult male arm and can be used as a teaching tool to help clinicians reduce variability. The imitation forearm replicates an individual’s range of motion, allows clinicians to set scale values and provides feedback through LED lights. It could increase the reliability of muscle strength assessments and increase the consistency of training, and its portable design would maximize its usefulness.

Team Oyinkan Aderele, Caleb Gerald, Emily Du, Melissa Frendo-Rosso and Loveena Williams / Advisers Associate Professor Sriram Balasubramanian, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; Clinical Specialist Allan M. Glanzman, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Attending Physician Matthew P. Kirschen, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

23. Hot and Cold Muscle Therapy

_Problem

For patients dealing with muscle pain, cryotherapy (cold) and thermotherapy (heat) are often used at relatively extreme temperatures in an attempt to reduce swelling and address inflammation. Heating pads and ice packs both serve a function, but there is no product that uses both heating and cooling tactics to help patients.

_Solution

The ThermoKloth uses both cryotherapy and thermotherapy in a regulated setting powered by pairing two circuits, one for heating and one for cooling, to address inflammation. The design is a dual-Peltier device that allows users to control the temperature — hot or cold — for application on an injured muscle.

Team Chung Cheng, Stephen Parsons, Dennis Roy, Uyen Tran and John Yockey / Adviser Professor Ryszard Lec, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

24. A Better Method to Measure Infant Tremors

_Problem

Neonatal abstinence syndrome affects babies whose mothers abused opioids during pregnancy, a group that in 2012 was five times larger than it was in 2000. Among the symptoms is tremors, involuntary rhythm movements that are measured on a 1 to 4 scale. Babies are scored every two to four hours and treatment depends on a total score, but the measurement is subjective and can lead to incorrect methadone or morphine dosage.

_Solution

An ankle-worn device as small as an Apple Watch that can track and quantify a baby’s tremors using an accelerometer, then wirelessly transfer data via Bluetooth technology to a computer for analysis. The device could improve treatment accuracy and eliminate subjectivity, ultimately reducing hospital costs and discharging babies sooner.

Team Nsilo Berry, Chris Bijumon, Priyanka Karekar, Josue Manjarrez Linares and Todd Roescher / Advisers Professor Kambiz Pourrezaei, School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; and Assistant Clinic Professor Barbara Amendolia, College of Nursing and Health Professions