Some of that hardware is going beyond prototype and making its way to the commercial market. One notable result came from a proposal to create a device to help analyze people with sleep disorders without having them spend a night in a hospital or otherwise monitored room hooked up to a complex set of electrodes and machines.
the SleepShirt, is a shirt with sensors that monitor a person’s sleep to diagnose irregularities such as sleep apnea. The students who developed the shirt created a startup called Rest Devices to commercialize it, and they also are working on a baby onesie that can allow parents or caregivers to monitor children while they sleep. Sensors inside the clothing send information to a smartphone application or tablet via a wireless connection.
Another device from the class is being commercialized through a startup formed by MIT PhD candidate Danielle Zurovcik, Hanumara says. The device is a low-energy system for negative pressure wound therapy, which draws fluid out of an ulcer or a sucking wound to promote healing. The device is based on the idea that it’s the seal and not the amount of pressure that is key to the device. “The energy [for the device] can be a bellows expanding, like a toilet plunger,” Hanumara says. “If you connect that up and seal your connection really well, it can actually work.”
Other devices designed by the class that could make their way into the medical field include a thoracoscopic screwdriver used to place screws to repair cracked ribs from the inside, and a low-cost, lightweight robot for image-guided lung biopsies.
A company has licensed the screwdriver prototype as an enabling technology, Hanumara told us, declining to divulge specifics on the company or the deal. The deal resulted in a working prototype, a worldwide patent that has been approved in China, and numerous follow-on research projects and funding, Rajiv Gupta, an MD and PhD with Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School who worked on the project in 2004 with the class, told us.
Gupta calls the ability to work closely with teams on devices “a unique and exciting opportunity” that “gives me a way to look at the problems I face in routine practice of medicine in a completely different light.”
He said that while there are other project-oriented courses like this one at MIT and other universities, the opportunity to pair physicians and students to create devices from a clinical rather than merely a technological perspective is unique.