At Western, researchers have been working on innovations in health care intended for communities in resource-constrained environments. The Frugal Biomedical Innovations Program has launched 15 catalyst grants to support these innovations, which will help in diagnosis of diseases and in therapy, while costing less to operate or maintain.
Ana Luisa Trejos, professor with the department of electrical and computer engineering is leading a project to create a low-cost wearable system to monitor Parkinson’s disease.
The 10 million people worldwide living with the disease have differing needs, depending on the severity of the condition. This is why Trejos and the team at the WearMELab, in collaboration with Kwara State University in Nigeria, are developing the low-cost system, which will assist in treatment planning.
“Through the catalyst grant, we are initiating a collaboration with under-resourced countries in Africa, starting with Nigeria. This collaboration allows us to co-create a design solution aimed at supporting the health of people living in remote and low-resource communities,” said Trejos, who is the Canada Research Chair in wearable mechatronics.
Saving the lives of newborns
Another engineering team is looking at a key innovation which could save the lives of millions of infants.
“Jaundice causes an unnecessary loss of life. It is responsible for 15 per cent of infant deaths in the developing world. This can be stopped with phototherapy, but commercial systems are expensive and not nearly as available as they should be in low resource settings,” said Western Engineering professor Joshua Pearce.
Pearce’s partners at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, have developed a light therapy box at a comparatively lower cost than commercially available models, but it must be calibrated for clinical use, and this process has to be affordable. The teams will jointly create an open-source sensor device to calibrate the therapy box.
This is one of three affordable innovation projects Pearce is leading which were supported by catalyst grants.
Detecting brain injury in pre-term babies
Researchers at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry are also collaborating across disciplines – and continents – to fuel medical technology advancements in remote and low-resource communities.
Mamadou Diop, professor in medical biophysics, is developing a low-cost device for detecting brain injury in pre-term babies who are particularly vulnerable to brain swelling and inadequate blood flow. Current non-invasive monitoring techniques, such as near-infrared spectroscopy, are often out of reach in remote and low-resource areas of the world.
“Neonatal brain injury is a major concern in under-resourced communities, and we know that early signs of brain injury can be detected by cerebral monitoring of blood oxygenation,” said Diop.
“Our goal is to develop a low-cost, wearable device that is less expensive, can function using very low power, and can be operated by a minimally trained person.”
Diop is collaborating with David Holdsworth, as well as researchers at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal, on the project.
The 15 recipients of the Frugal Biomedical Innovation Catalyst Grants
Maria Drangova, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
A low-cost material testing system for biomedical engineering education programs
Jennifer Guthrie, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
Technology for rapid detection of drug resistant TB
James Lacefield, Faculty of Engineering
Smart toothbrush and tele-dentistry system to promote oral health in Kenta
Emily Lalone, Faculty of Engineering
Positioning tool for improved X-ray images of the wrist
David Holdsworth, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
Low-cost X-ray quality assurance system for low-resource settings
Joshua Pearce, Faculty of Engineering
Open-source system to calibrate device for light therapy for newborns with jaundice
Open-source table for surgical procedures on fracture patients
Affordable solar electrical and power supply systems for portable oxygen concentrator to integrate with ambulances and facilities which do not have adequate or reliable access to power
Mamadou Diop, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
Wearable device for measuring oxygenation of brain tissue in newborns, under low-resource conditions
Ana Luisa Trejos, Faculty of Engineering
Wearable system to monitor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Michael Rieder, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
Non-invasive system to count and characterize blood cells
Ian Cunningham, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
High-quality Fourier microscope for point-of-care malaria diagnoses
Noha Gomaa, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
Non-invasive, low-cost, rapid screening test for oral inflammation and periodontal disease
Tarek Loubani, Schulich Medicine & Dentistry
Validation of high-quality low-cost open-source electrocardiograph
Using 3D-printed hands and legs to improve quality of life for disabled persons in Ethiopia