Thursday, June 8, 2017

Medical Device sponsored by MIN-Corps presents at International Conference

Gabriel Vidal (CSE 16) presented the results of his teams senior biomedical engineering design project at the Global Conference on Myositis (GCOM) from May 5-8, 2017. The annual conference focuses on updating cutting-edge research in all areas of myositis, a type of muscle weakness. Gabriel and his teams research focused on the early detection of soft tissue calcinosis, a debilitating type of soft-tissue calcification that 40% of patients with juvenile dermatomyositis experience. It is crucial to identify the onset of calcinosis early as it becomes increasingly hard to resolve as it progresses in size, density and numbers throughout the soft tissues.

The year-long biomedical engineering project by Gabe and his teammates, which they completed with support from MIN-Corps, attempted to design a practical solution to this problem. At the end of the year, Gabe and his team presented a prototype of the device which was designed to detect the onset of calcification by measuring the electrical impedance of tissue. The device operates by placing clinical grade electrodes on the skin, and then, by applying a small current into the skin and measuring the resulting voltage value to analyze the impedance of the skin. Tests with synthetic tissue indicated that the device could distinguish between physiologically relevant concentration changes of calcium phosphate based on the way the impedance changes with the frequency of the applied current.

Gabe, presenting his poster at the conference.
Gabriel describes the conference in his own words:
The conference began with a Juvenile Myositis Pre-Conference Workshop sponsored by the Cure JM Foundation, where important new developments in the areas of research concerning juvenile myositis were shared. The room was set up like a lecture hall, with desks stretching one hundred feet in every direction, and two large screens surrounding a podium where leading experts presented their visions for the future of myositis research. This continued during the main session and these experts taught and informed one another, cultivating new ideas and creating new connections. By the time of my presentation on Saturday morning I had learned much about a disease which I had little deep understanding of before, and became versed in the landscape of the current research. With this new found knowledge base, I presented my device and connected to the myositis community, offering comfort to families affected by the disease and forming new relationships for researchers who would benefit from our device.

Possibly having been the only engineer presenting at this conference, senior members of the community expressed to me their excitement for this mixing of scientific professions that I was able to represent. Afterward, during the breakout session I attended, scientists gathering on an international scale in collaboration to discuss important goals, a discussion in which I was able to voice my unique perspective as a biomedical engineer.
The team responsible for this project were Gabriel Vidal, Alexander Nelson, Nathaniel Carlson, Jacob Heffernan, Clara Lee, with industry primary investigator Mauris N DeSilva, PhD and clinical primary investigator Olcay Y Jones, MD PhD. As Dr. DeSilva describes, it is essential to bring innovative technologies for improving disease outcomes.  JDM is a rare disease and like many other orphan diseases, the funding and resources on these patients are challenging.  The current work presented by Gabe is significant as it exemplifies that cross-disciplinary communications are essential to nurture new, fresh ideas for patient centered care. We are thankful and very proud of the accomplishments by the students and appreciate the generous support from MIN-Corps.

The team is looking forward to continue the work to take their technology to the next level and all the way to clinical application.