June 21, 2010

Brain-cooling device wins first-place prize for JHU undergrads

A brain-cooling invention that could improve the survival prospects for cardiac arrest patients has won a $10,000 first-place prize for a Johns Hopkins undergraduate team in a national biomedical engineering competition for college students.

The honor was announced June 9 at the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance’s annual BMEidea Awards, as part of the Medical Device and Diagnostics Industry awards ceremonies in New York. More than 30 undergraduate and graduate student teams participated in the contest, in which judges from academia and industry evaluated entries for their ability to solve clinical problems. The devices also needed to demonstrate new and practical designs and applications, economic feasibility, market potential and patentability.

The Johns Hopkins undergraduates’ project is called the Rapid Hypothermia Induction Device. “Essentially,” said team leader David Huberdeau, “it’s designed to prevent brain damage.”

The device includes an air tank, a pouch containing a pressure regulator and control mechanism, and two nasal prongs that are inserted into the patient’s nostrils. It works on the principle of evaporative cooling, the students said. By flushing cool, dry air through the nasal cavities, the device speeds up the evaporation of moisture that resides naturally in the nasal cavities. As this moisture leaves the body, it carries heat away, causing a condition called hypothermia. “Our animal tests indicate that the system works by cooling the blood that passes through the nasal cavity, and then that cooled blood passes through the brain,” Huberdeau said.

Cooling the brain is an important way to limit brain damage when a person’s heart stops beating for more than a few minutes. The loss of blood flow deprives brain cells of oxygen, but cooling can delay the process of cell death.

According to the students, the device could be administered in less than 15 seconds by a trained emergency medical technician without interfering with traditional emergency treatments such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation. The goal would be to begin the cooling process well before the patient arrives at the hospital, where more intensive care can be administered.

In a written description about their project, the students said that animal testing has demonstrated “a significant drop in cranial temperature with a nasal application of our RHID system.” The device has not yet been tested on human subjects.

The team’s faculty sponsor is Harikrishna Tandri, an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a member of the Johns Hopkins Heart and Vascular Institute. The invention is protected by a provisional patent listing Tandri as the inventor. Tandri, working with Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer, is talking to medical device companies and investors regarding possible commercialization of the device.

The Johns Hopkins project was developed as part of an undergraduate biomedical engineering design team program directed by Robert Allen, an associate research professor in Biomedical Engineering. The device was produced with support from the university’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design.

In addition to Huberdeau, the student team members were Joe Chao, Jessica Hu, Mikel McDonald, Yoshiaki Sono, Byron Tang, Valeriya Aranovich, Joshua Budman, Jessica Chen and Hyo Jun Kim. The BMEidea Awards competition prize money will be shared among the students.

Related websites

Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering

Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design at Johns Hopkins