Students present senior project at Capitol

Four Tech undergraduate students presented the findings of their Biomedical Engineering senior design course to the House Science and Technology Committee at the State Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 9.
The student delegation included fourth-year BMED students Tahir Haque, Chris Jorgensen, Nick Patel and Kevin Rego.  Their research advisor, James Fonger, M.D., executive director of Surgery for St. Joseph’s Translational Research Institute, accompanied the group.
The students presented the culmination of a yearlong project, a modified bronchoscope called the Cardio Scout, which seeks to address current issues with regenerative therapy in the heart.  According to Haque, 40 percent of deaths in the US occur as a result of heart disease, the majority of which are caused by heart failure.  The current methods of treatment involve regenerative therapy, which is usually administered via open-heart surgery, an invasive and risky procedure.
“Although doctors and scientists have come up with some highly effective regenerative therapies for heart disease, there is no effective way to administer them without risking complications due to the invasive nature of open heart surgery,” Haque said.  “What we have done is create a subxiphoid method of administering treatment.”
According to Haque, subxiphoid, or below the sternum, surgery methods eliminate the need to break the sternum during surgery, and simply require a two cm incision in the chest.  A major advantage to the subxiphoid approach to regenerative therapy is that there is no need to stop the heart during surgery, and no bypass procedure is required.
Rego explained that the device they designed attempted to integrate a modern bronchoscope with an ergonomic, curve shaped handle that allows surgeons to maneuver around the heart with ease. The wide angle, wedge shape of the tip also allows surgeons to lift the pericardia, the sac in which the heart rests, off of the surface of the heart to allow better access to the its interior.
“A major advantage of this new device is that it is small and simple, and a surgeon can maneuver the HD camera within the tube in multiple directions, not just up and down.  Its versatility also allows for surgeons to administer injections with superior accuracy,” Rego said.
The students demonstrated the use of their device for the Committee, showing the accuracy of the Cardio Scout by seeking out different targets within a simulated heart (marked by staples) and placing simulated injections within them.
According to Fonger, this novel device will not only cut down significantly on loss of life due to heart failure, but it will save a significant amount of money within the federal Medicare system.
“Thirty two cents on every Medicare dollar goes to treating patients with heart failure, and if we can get this device on the market, we will have a great shot at reducing repeat visits to the hospital and reducing the amount of people who have to be treated for heart failure, therefore cutting back significantly on Medicare costs,” Fonger said.
Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson followed up the presentation by congratulating the students on their achievements and thanking the House Science and Technology Committee for allowing them to present their project and their findings.
“I am thrilled that these students had the opportunity to highlight their work for the Committee today, and I would like to thank the fantastic partners that they have had the opportunity to work with at St. Joseph’s Translational Research Institute,” Peterson said.
Representative Paul Battles, Vice Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee told the students that they are to be commended on their incredible work, and that it is most of all impressive that they did such work as undergraduates, not graduate students.
“If this is the kind of work you produce as undergrads, I cannot wait to see what you come up with as graduate students,” Battles said.

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