We’ll start on a positive note. As part of an undergraduate biomedical engineering design project class, a group of students from Johns Hopkins University recognized an awesomely simple new way to close the chest after the sternum has been cut through: zip ties. To put it simply, zip ties rule. However, it seems Johns Hopkins might be giving the team more credit than is due…
The 11-member team’s prototype won first-place honors in the university’s recent Biomedical Engineering Design Day competition. The project’s sponsor, Surgical Transformations LLC, has obtained a provisional patent covering the system. If the idea appeals to enough surgeons, the firm plans to support further research and development to produce a commercial model.
“The premise was based on an unmet need identified by cardiothoracic surgeons,” Lloyd said. “The students came up with a working prototype that hit all of the engineering requirements we proposed. The end result was better than my partner and I expected, particularly given the limitations they had in terms of resources.”
The students produced their prototype, which resembles a stapler and uses standard locking cable ties, for about $1,500. Much of this went to a private prototyping shop that built the device according to the students’ detailed design drawings.
A roughly 8-inch curved piece extends from the handheld tool to guide the tie between and under the ribs, enabling a surgeon to connect both ends and pull the severed sternum parts toward one another. When one end of the tie is reinserted into the tool and the handles are squeezed, the device operates like a ratchet, tightening the clasp and bringing the pieces of the breastbone firmly together so that the healing process can begin.
In a class called Biomedical Engineering Design Teams, the project was adopted last fall by a group led by Chris Weier, a 23-year-old senior from Sterling Heights, Mich., and Neha Malhotra, a 20-year-old junior from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Weier added: “This was not just a textbook problem. This was like a real-life industrial project with deadlines and patent searches.”
Let us get this straight: as part of your BME education you have to design a medical device at some point? With deadlines? When sending a part out to be built the drawings need detail?
We’re all for the simplest solution to a problem, with zip ties frequently embodying this solution. However, it took an 11 person team to give us a prototype consisting of a Sawbones model with the ribs zip-tied together? And this won a design competition? And for this the school decided to issue a press release? To paraphrase Lord Vader: “Unimpressive…most unimpressive”
More from the Johns Hopkins press release…