Johns Hopkins University Student Teams make strides in biomedical engineering designs

NOTE: This is an overview of two press releases, which appeared on the Johns Hopkins University web site.
Click here to read the press release concerning the first two teams. Click here to read the second press release concerning the third team.

Johns Hopkins student teams designed innovative devices that garnered two of the top three awards in a national contest that recognizes innovative biomedical engineering designs that have high commercial potential and social impact. The first-place winner was EchoSure, a blood clot detection system designed by five Johns Hopkins graduate students.

Hundreds and thousands of patients each year undergo surgeries to help repair areas that have been damaged by cancer or an injury. The procedure requires doctors to connect blood vessels from transplanted tissue to arteries and veins in a specific location. In about 15 per cent of these cases, non-preventable blood clots form, and if not found and removed promptly, the procedure will fail. The EchoSure device enables nurses to perform routine monitoring of patients’ vascular health at the bedside, giving surgeons the chance to restore the surgery before it’s too late.

The EchoSure system includes EchoMark, a novel implant, and EchoFind, an ultrasound software package that locks into the unique EchoMark signature and analyzes blood flow. The five student inventors formed a start-up company to develop additional funding and push the EchoSure prototype from the laboratory toward clinical use.

First held in 2004, the annual competition has selected winners from some of the nation’s top biomedical engineering departments. Judging is by faculty and industry representatives.

Another student team won the third place prize in the same national contest for their Gala Pump, a hands-free, concealable, and quiet breast pump designed to help nursing mothers to discreetly pump in the presence of others.

In other Johns Hopkins news, four graduate students designed a device that enables pathologists to quickly inspect excised breast tissue within 20 minutes, while the patient is still in the operating room. These students were part of a year-long biomedical engineering master’s degree program where students learn to design new medical tools and products that address urgent healthcare needs.

“We spoke to breast cancer surgeons,” said Hector Neira of Silver Spring, Md., one of the student inventors. “They told us that they are desperate for something that will allow then to remove a tumor in its entirely the first time, so that the patient doesn’t have to come back for a second surgery.”

The device applies an adhesive film to the breast tissue before it is sliced to hold the delicate tissue together and prevent damage to the samples during the slicing process.

At Johns Hopkins, the pathology device was developed under the supervision of the university’s Center for bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID). The center places students with faculty researchers, physicians, and others who help them understand healthcare needs and guide them through the process of finding solutions and developing and testing prototypes. The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation is providing funding for these students to continue working on the project.