University students develop potentially life-saving device
The engineering and medical fields came together when five University of Michigan undergraduates teamed up to contribute to modern medicine with a device that can give the same data as a $30,000 machine in one-fifth of the time.
Sanguis Diagnostics, also called Team 805, is a group of students who have developed the product HeRM — hemoretractometer — a device that can measure a patient’s pre-treatment hemostasis, or natural blood-clotting abilities.
The ability to maintain hemostasis is crucial for normal life function, as clotting too much or not enough could have serious implications for a patient’s health. The device, however, could be used for providing high-tech medical care to those who do not have access to it, reducing workload and patient overload in hospitals and saving time in emergency situations following mismanagement of medications, much more so than what is currently available in the medical field.
The team, spearheaded by Engineering senior David Peyer, the leader of the group who conducted all the preliminary research for the product, worked to create a user interface around an important medical procedure — something that could prove significant for both health care professionals and patients.
Peyer first began his research in the University’s Mechanical Engineering Department with Jianping Fu, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, performing clinical trials on the technique.
Peyer has since collaborated with Kevin Ward, the director of the Michigan Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care, in securing blood samples from the University of Michigan Hospital. Later, after enrolling in the Applied Liberal Arts course 261, Social Science Topics in ALA — a course geared toward those minoring in entrepreneurship — taught by Eric Fretz, a lecturer of psychology and education, Peyer and his group members were able to explore the potential for the device even further.
Within the group are two subgroups: The first, centered around the business endeavors of the project, includes Business juniors Ajay Das and Jeet Shah. The second, focused on the physical development and implementation of the project, is led by Peyer and Engineering sophomore Kyle Fietsam and LSA sophomore Antonio Mika, who designed the encasement of the device, completed the circuit designs, and integrated subsystems and software design, respectively.
Das noted the business endeavor of the project aimed to challenge the device’s central competitors, specifically Roche Diagnostics, Alere, Abbott and Siemens.
“Our role was to more analyze the competitive vantage of the device, see how that plays a role with the major competitors in the blood coagulation market,” Das said. “What we’ve been doing this past semester is analyzing major competitors, what their products provide, how this device actually undercuts that and what the cost savings are that it could provide to potentially hospitals and other consumers.”
The devices of the central competitors cost thousands of dollars, Das said, and their tests take nearly an hour to complete. This is only if a hospital is equipped with the testing device. For many, the data have to be sent elsewhere, delaying the turnaround time even further. For the Sanguis Diagnostics prototype, however, the device costs less than $200 to produce and takes between five and 15 minutes to complete the same data measurement.
Additionally, while the competitors’ devices are large machines — costing as much as $30,000 —the Sanguis Diagnostics prototype is portable, simple to use and does not require a trained technician to run the diagnostic; instead, those already present at the hospital would be able to determine the correct medical treatment based on the device’s results in real time.
Peyer explained the functionality of the device: the user places a droplet of blood on a cartridge — a portion of the device only costing a matter of cents — and as the blood coagulates, it contracts, pulling a beam on the device downward. An electrical current is run across the beam; as the beam deflects, the resistance goes up, allowing the user to measure the resistance.
Jeet talked about the potential of the device when scaled to a global picture.
“A unique device like this has many different applications for emergency rooms, hospitals, NGOs, Doctors Without Borders and even the military,” Jeet said. “So right now, we’re going to get into analyzing the different avenues for this device.”
The team also discussed the device’s significance with regard to preventing doctor error — a study from Johns Hopkins Medicine recently reported errors take the third leading cause of death in the United States, causing more than 250,000 deaths per year.
The team has received interest from Roche, a central competitor; however, following graduation, Peyer will focus on creating a company in Ann Arbor around the product while working with the others in between their academics. Peyer will also continue to maintain clinical testing with the hospital.
“The purpose of this machine … is to give doctors more information, faster so that they can make better decisions,” Peyer said.