Saturday, October 4, 2008

Using technology in medicine.

A new advanced facility at the University of Minnesota is harnessing big ideas for medical devices.

It's called the Medical Devices Center.

"I don't think there's any place across the country in an academic setting with this kind of facility," said Art Erdman, director of the Medical Devices Center.

Located on the East Bank, the center is a place for engineers and medical professionals to come together and capture the ideas of graduate students often lost when they graduate and move on. "[Ideas] are lost all the time," Erdman noted.

At the center, medical device prototypes from the simple to the complex can be mocked up faster than the weeks it can take if a design has to be made off site. Sometimes prototypes can be finished in a day.

One prototype currently on display that was created at the university is a device that would conduct radial breast compression for MRI's, potentially replacing the bilateral breast compression plates that are currently used.

In addition to prototype manufacturing and providing facilities to test devices on tissue, the center also has new 3D cameras that will be used in about 40 operating rooms around campus.

These cameras will allow groups of engineering students to sit in on surgeries remotely so they can help medical experts solve problems.

Surgeons will also be able to see the students on monitors in the OR and communicate with them during surgery.

"Right now you're lucky if you can get into a surgery suite as an engineer. [They] maybe allow one to two people at a time," engineering graduate student Nathan Knutson said. "So to be able to project those surgeries here and have the prototyping equipment to sit down and start solving the surgeon's problems with their devices and handheld manipulators we can really come across with some great innovations and

Not only will graduate students be able to advance their ideas more easily, the center has also hired a team of engineering and medical experts well established in their fields to brainstorm ideas.

And a new fellows program will bring together four experts this fall.

"We put them in a think tank and for one year they seek out relevant clinical needs," Fellows program director Marie Johnson said. "So they actually put on scrubs and go over to the OR's, sit in the clinics, watch rehab, participate in all aspects of medical care and they ask stupid questions."

Those stupid questions though, could lead to the next big idea.

Erdman said harnessing these ideas will be good for the University of Minnesota, and potentially great for the state.

"Arguably, this is the center in the United States for medical devices, certainly in cardiology and urology, so how do we sustain that?" he asked. "It's very important for the economy of the state."

Read it all at:
University of Minnesota Opens New Medical Devices Center - MPO Magazine

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