Anyone who has been in an orthopedic cast knows their inconveniences. They are cumbersome, must be kept dry, which makes bathing difficult, and can cause the skin underneath to become itchy, smelly, and irritated.
Cast21 has designed a cast that solves those problems. The Chicago-based company uses a lattice frame that provides more breathability, while the material itself is waterproof and performs better in a few key metrics when compared to traditional fiberglass casts. The company’s cast takes about three minutes to set and can last for the duration of the casting.
The concept started as an undergraduate engineering project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since its founding in 2016, the company has generated enthusiasm from physicians, found clinical and manufacturing partners, and developed a design that they hope will change the way casts are done.
We spoke with co-founder and CEO Ashley Moy about Cast21’s origins, product, and future directions.
Cici Zhou, Medgadget: Can you give us a bit of detail on how Cast21 started out?
Ashley Moy, Cast21: It started as an undergraduate capstone project. My co-founder [Jason Troutner] and I at the time were trying to just find a project where [our] interest and expertise overlapped. I’m a biomedical engineer by training, and he’s a mechanical engineer by training.
We brainstormed about so many different issues in the medical space, and when we got to casts, Jason was very passionate about solving this issue because he has been in over fifty of them. Just hearing him speak about it so passionately let me know that this was what we had to solve.
Medgadget: Say a patient comes into the doctor’s office and would like to use this cast. How does fitting and sizing work?
Moy: They would get a sleeve pulled on over their appendage, much like a glove, for a hand or arm cast, or a sock, for a foot or a leg cast. And then a two-part liquid is injected into this sleeve, where it will then harden to the rigid structure.
We anticipate that a few sizes are going to fit most people, as far as the sizing is concerned. So like you would provide for a fiberglass cast now, where you have two-inch, three-inch, four-inch [casting tape] rolls, you could imagine something like small, medium, and large for our casts.
Medgadget: How many physicians have you consulted about the idea and design? What are some key pieces of advice they have given?
Moy: We’ve probably interviewed over 250 stakeholders across the industry: orthopedists, sports medicine and ER doctors, cast techs, ER techs, athletic trainers, parents, patients, you name it. As far as feedback goes, [they’re] mostly excited and interested. There have been companies that have been trying to innovate in this space, but all of them have their shortcomings, and hearing from physicians about the shortcomings of circumferential and non-breathable waterproof materials, thermoform materials, and 3D-printed materials, really helped guide us in the direction that we have been going, to create the product that we have.
Medgadget: Cast21 received about $800,000 in seed funding earlier this year. How far do you hope to get with that investment?
Moy: We hope to get this device on a patient with that funding round. We have one final manufacturing step that we are in the process of completing right now… [afterwards] we actually will be running a clinical trial, and we also have a waitlist of physicians from around the country who are interested in trying this product.
Medgadget: In the future, what directions would you like to see Cast21 move towards?
Moy: I would love to see this as an ambulatory device. For example, if you were a skier and got hurt on the slope, you would be able to use a version of our technology to immobilize your joint out in the field. Or if you were a victim of a natural disaster, then you would be able to use something like this: it doesn’t take up a lot of space, doesn’t require water [to activate], is extremely rigid, and gets its job done effectively and quickly.
To learn more, check out the Cast21 website…