With a hand-held plastic bellows pump, surgical tubing and a new kind of wound dressing, Danielle Zurovcik is developing a cheap replacement for a $25,000 medical machine. The Wound Pump needs no electricity, costs just a few dollars and it's portable. The negative-pressure machines that it replaces, on the other hand, are bulky power guzzlers that are impractical in many medical centers worldwide.
The hand pump and the hospital machine operate on the same principle. Applying slight, but steady suction to certain kinds of wounds can stimulate the body to heal three times as quickly with less scarring. Danielle, a doctoral candidate at MIT, realized that much less power would be required if the wound dressing were airtight. She worked with doctors in the lab and in the field in Rwanda and Haiti, and she ultimately invented a new material for a dressing that doesn't leak. For her important work in low-cost design (and her taste for Johnny Cash), we're proud to feature Danielle as our Member of the Month.
E4C: How can E4C help with this kind of project development?
DZ: The major thing is that E4C provides a framework for a community and a network of people to mentor each other and provide a means of interaction between people with similar interests.
I think there are a lot of people interested in designing devices, and not just medical devices. They have globally applicable markets. But there are very few success cases out there, and people have limited knowledge. Pooling that knowledge could improve the chances of success. Knowing who to talk to and where to get information is difficult.
E4C: When you tell people about your work, what surprises them to hear?
DZ: A lot of people are surprised that I go into Rwanda to see the design in the field there. For me, it's a learning experience. I feel like it will help me understand how to develop new devices in the future with the same flavor: Low cost, low power, with surgical and therapeutic applications.
E4C: What's one of the keys to low-cost design?
DZ: My adviser now ingrains in us the need to look for the simplest solution. The push for simple design isn't really there. Maybe it is at the university level, but in corporations over-design is prevalent. There's no push to make something truly innovative to reduce cost and power consumption.
[In the case of the Wound Pump,] I think coming into the field and looking at it from different ways allows you to be clever about the design process.
E4C: Now you're seeking FDA approval for the device?
DZ: FDA approval is not necessary in some other countries, but for me, I wouldn't want to put it on a patient without a protocol. I feel that having that regulatory approval states that you're not giving a substandard device to anybody.
E4C: What's next?
DZ: I think a great paper should come out that shows the entire design process and the clinical data that went along with it. I think that would be interesting for people interested in this process. Maybe ours wasn't the best process, but it has some eye-opening features.
E4C: What's one of the songs or books that you took in over the last week?
DZ: Unless you consider medical journals a book, probably not anything interesting. I listen to Pandora, and my station has Jack Johnson and Johnny Cash on it. You get that Jack Johnson sound and then that country sound.