January 25, 2012

A Bot Smart Enough to Pipette

by iihlab

Check out this great article on IIH’s liquid-handler hack (a la MakerBot) written by Boonsri Dickinson of SmartPlanet. http://bit.ly/zyicwM

Thanks, Boonsri!

January 24, 2012

IIH Radar: museums, the Alps and NPR

by iihlab

This week, Aya Caldwell, IIH researcher and Program Manager at MGH’s Center for Global Health, will be at the Invent For Humanity Conference in Geneva speaking on the MGH-CGH model of advancing global health technologies from research to commercialization. Jose Gomez-Marquez will be in NYC on Friday at the New York Hall of Science speaking on the power of DIY-Health Technologies to enable nurses and doctors around the world to invent. Tomorrow (Jan 24) at 8AM EST Listen in to Boston’s WGBH to hear Cristina Quinn’s interview with the Little Device’s group — “Fighting Dengue Fever with Legos.”

January 17, 2012

Ex-Army Physicians Develop Wound Treatment Device

by iihlab

Medgadet reports on a tourniquet designed by Dr. Richard Schwartz and Dr. John Croushorn, two emergency physicians from Georgia Health Sciences University and Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham. The tourniquet is used to slow lethal abdominal bleeding in soldiers, a difficult task for field medics given the large number of blood vessels in the stomach. Given Scwartz and Croushorn’s extensive wartime credentials, they are the perfect pair of physicians to design such a technology. So far the device has undergone testing in animals and humans to demonstrate proof of concept. The inventors have also received premarket clearance for the abdominal aortic tourniquet from the FDA and some early orders from the military. We’re excited to see progress on a much needed technology that could save countless lives. Read the full press release from Georgia Health Science University here.

January 17, 2012

The Sunny Side of Nicaragua

by iihlab

This past week, we loaded up on SPF, packed up our prototypes and headed to Ocotal, Nicaragua, near the Honduran border. Ocotal, population 30K, is a small town full of inventive doctors, nurses and lab tech. It is also home of solar technology experts, las Mujeres Solares (the Solar Women). We collaborate with both groups on the design and manufacturing of some key technologies at our lab, including the foot-powered nebulizer and Solarclave. For these two technologies, we aim to create products that can be made from tools and materials found in any workshop around the world. Thus, it’s pretty important that we spend as much time as possible in Nicaragua testing and iterating the design. Working with las Mujeres Solares helps us to understand the local supply chains and fabrication methods. By involving nurses from nearby clinics in the early stage of the designs, we can brainstorm together the important features – compact storage, able to use by one person, repairable with local materials – that lead to a more sustainable product.

Seen here is Charles Hsu, IIH bio/physics expert and self-taught viola maker of MIT ’14 , setting up a bacteria test in the Solarclave prototype outside of las Mujeres Solares’ workshop. You’ll hear more from Charles in future IIH updates from Nicaragua. In the mean time, here’s a small clip from Alejandra of las Mujeres Solares explaining the Solarclave prototype built by their team at the workshop. English subtitles forthcoming!

January 4, 2012

MEDIKits at the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt Design Museum

by iihlab

With the contributions of 20 MIT and 40 Nicaraguan Health Professionals, our MEDIKits are part of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museums exhibit,  “Design With the Other 90%: CITIES.” The exhibit is a fantastic compilation of technologies from emerging and developing economies and is organized by Cynthia E. Smith, the museum’s curator of socially responsible design.

IIH’s MEDIKits are one of sixty projects at the exhibit that address the complex issues arising from the unprecedented rise of informal settlements in emerging and developing economies. Design With the Other 90%: CITIES runs until January 9 at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC and will be available for travel there after. We’re thrilled that the MEDIKits are part of such an extraordinary exhibit. Thank you to Cynthia, Andrea, Melanie and team for the recognition and support!

January 4, 2012

Request for Proposals: $100K Grant in Maternal Newborn and Child Technologies

by iihlab

The fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals commit the international community to substantially reduce both child and maternal mortality. Innovative, low-cost technologies can act as a catalyst to reduce these deaths by offering better treatments, better risk stratification, and more efficient strategies to get effective treatment to mothers and children.

IIH Collaborator, the Center for Global Health at MGH (CGH), is excited to launch a Translational Grant to accelerate innovative health technologies to improve the lives of mothers, children, and newborns in resource-constrained settings. The CGH is interested in technologies that close the gap between patients and providers in the poorest regions of the world. This inaugural grant is designed to provide one-year of research and/or development support for an early stage, appropriate technology.


For more information and RFP application visit http://www.massgeneral.org/globalhealth/


The Translational Grant is open to graduate students, post‐doctoral trainees, or faculty from
Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard
University, Harvard‐affiliated teaching hospitals, Mbarara University of Science and Technology
(MUST) in Mbarara, Uganda, and members and affiliates of the Lata Medical Research
Foundation in Nagpur, India. Partnerships that include members from target countries (see
below) are particularly encouraged. Applications that support and build multi‐disciplinary,
multi‐institutional collaborations are preferred.

Translational Grant
The recipient will be awarded based on a one year budget, to commence in 2012. The
maximum award is $100,000 total costs; up to 25% indirect costs may be included in the
budget. Funds may be used alone or as a supplement in conjunction with other funding to
support a project.

Submission Deadline: February 1, 2012

November 1, 2011

Sterilizing Surgical Tools with Sunshine

by iihlab

as written for Scope, MIT’s Student Publication for the Graduate Program in Science Writing
Sterilizing Surgical Tools with Sunshine

by Abby McBride
Scope Correspondent

October 14, 2011


Students work with a prototype solarclave
Photo: Anna Young

With a bucket, a pressure cooker, and 140 pocket-sized mirrors, MIT-affiliated researchers have invented a device that uses sunshine to sterilize surgical tools.

They are field-testing the device in Nicaragua as part of a broad plan to help people in developing countries cope with severely limited medical resources.

Most of Nicaragua’s 1,500 rural clinics lack the electricity to power an autoclave, which is a high-pressure chamber for sterilizing tools. Nurses resort to measures such as trekking to a regional health center over the weekend to sterilize a batch of instruments. They are often forced to either use unsterilized instruments or turn people away.

Ted Liao and Anna Young tackled this problem as part of MIT’sInnovations in International Health program (IIH). In July 2011 they developed a prototype of their solar autoclave, dubbed “Solarclave,” and over the summer they collaborated with rural Nicaraguans to hone the design.

Solarclave has a reflector that focuses sunlight onto a vessel containing the surgical instruments. Light rays heat the vessel to over 300° F, surpassing the 250° degree minimum needed to sterilize the instruments inside.

The vessel is simply a modified pressure cooker purchased from a local Nicaraguan market, says lead engineer Liao, a medical student at Boston University. The cooker is wrapped in fiberglass insulation and built into an upside-down bucket, which is suspended a couple of feet above the ground.

On the ground below the vessel sits the reflector, a mosaic of small, ten-cent mirrors arranged at different angles on a plywood lattice. Light bounces off of each mirror and up into the bucket, striking and heating the presser cooker inside. The contents are sterilized within about an hour.

The Solarclave’s heavy insulation keeps the vessel hot even when the sun goes behind a cloud. “We did our local testing during the rainy season, and we were able to hit required temperatures at least once each day between batches of clouds,” wrote Liao in an email.

One Solarclave costs about $150 in local materials and consumes no fuel, making it a practical option for rural clinics. A kerosene-powered stovetop autoclave, on the other hand, would cost about $300 up front and use $4 worth of fuel per use.

To build the prototypes, IIH has worked with a Nicaraguan women’s manufacturing cooperative, Las Mujeres Solares. “We’ve shown that what we’ve designed can be built by this group, and it’s quite easy for them to do it,” says Liao.

IIH also field-tested the device with local doctors and nurses over the summer, continually tweaking the design to address logistical questions such as “where are they going to store it, how are they going to move it out, how are they going to set it up, how are they going to adjust it,” Liao explains.

After making a few more changes to the device based on the recent testing, IIH plans to transition into an advisory role. The organization hopes that local manufacturing groups will continue to build and sell Solarclaves on their own, making modifications as they see fit. “The idea is for this to be sustainable,” says Young, IIH’s Research and Development officer.

Solarclave is one of a suite of collaborative projects that IIH has initiated in Nicaragua and other developing countries. Other innovations include bike pump-powered nebulizers, diagnostic tests made of paper, and build-it-yourself kits that allow medical professionals to mix and match parts to create the equipment they need.

By emphasizing collaboration and inventiveness, IIH believes it is successfully empowering rural residents to take control of their own health care problems. The collaborative approach is “awesome,” agrees Lori McIlvaine, a founder of the nonprofit organization Salud del Sol, which helped fund the Solarclave project.

IIH director Jose Gomez-Marquez points out that the program does face obstacles such as funding and the challenge of sustaining local engagement in between field trips. It’s important to keep in touch with the community and press on, says Liao. “We try to keep the ball rolling all the time.”

October 5, 2011

How we tackle adherence

by iihlab

Behavioral Diagnostics are a combination of standard point-of-care diagnostics coupled with behavioral economic algorithms that use incentives, pattern recognition, and remote monitoring to encourage healthy behavior.

The basic idea of behavioral diagnostics is that it relies on a combination of chemical diagnostic technology, wireless communication technology, and economic incentives to encourage patients to stay on their tuberculosis medication.Patients are given sets of test strips that they use every day to prove that they have taken their medication.  If proper ingestion is present in their system, a secret numeric code appears on an MBDx diagnostic that keeps the code encrypted otherwise. Unlike DOTS where a healthcare worker intervenes to monitor, the patient sends his or her proof code via an SMS to a central processing databases that tracks the patient’s compliance rates.  For each week that the patient succeeds in taking his or her medication, they receive a reward in the form of cell phone minutes (immediately transferred electronically to their cell phones).  These short term incentives keep patients engaged in their long-term treatment using this combination of technologies that result in positive behavior modification—and healthier patients.

For more information on purchasing these tests for your next clinical trial contact helloiih@mit.edu
October 4, 2011

Apply now! IIH Internships available

by iihlab
Two fall internships (UROPs for MIT students) available at IIH this fall! Read the descriptions below and send a note to helloiih@mit.edu to apply before October 12 at 5PM. 

E-Smart Cloth for Malaria

The Innovations in International Health program at MIT is recruiting a course 6 UROP for the Fall semester with possibility to continue in the spring. This UROP involves working with an interdisciplinary team of physicians and engineers to design a sensor-laden malaria net that will passively monitor and track usage for malaria prevention. The smart nets will be designed and developed by this UROP in Cambridge this fall and tested in Madagascar next spring.

Requirements for the position include:

– background in electrical engineering
– experience with device prototyping using arduino platform
– interest in sensor development including position and imaging
– creative and resourceful thinking
– must be an independent worker
– flexible in terms of meeting during off hours
– expectation of 10-15 hours/week commitment


Mobile Phone Programmer

The Innovations in International Health program develops smart technologies aimed at extreme environments in developing countries. Our lab aims to design technology that is robust and economical, yet intelligent using advanced sensors and smart materials. We are seeking an undergraduate student with experience in mobile phone programming to work with us on the development of mobile phone applications that connect to medical device hardware. Apps wil be developed on android phones. Projects will include, sensory laden medical equipment that automatically generates checklists for doctors and nurses, wireless sensors on a cooling device that send SMS temperature data and diagnostic readers to interpret colormetric tests. Apps developed by this UROP will be field tested in Ethiopia and Nicaragua.

Prerequisites: We are looking for a UROP with phone application building and wireless sensors experience.

Preferred: Experience with designing, prototyping (such as Arduinos) testing and debugging electronic circuits (e.g. embedded systems combining analog circuitry, digital circuitry, microcontrollers and wireless communications)

– Good communication skills
– An interest in international development and medical technology
This is a fall position with the opportunity to continue in the IAP and spring.

September 21, 2011

IIH Solarclave: Solar-Powered Medical Instrument Sterilization

by vtliao

IIH researchers have built the Solarclave™, a novel solar-thermal autoclave for rural clinics in resource-limited settings using locally-sourced supplies and local manufacturing.

Prototypes of the Solarclave™ under test in Ocotal, Nicaragua

Rural clinics in developing countries provide primary care for 3 billion people worldwide, but more than half of these do not have access to electricity. This means that electrical autoclaves, which represent the gold standard for medical instrument sterilization, cannot be operated in these clinics. Even in clinics that do have access to electricity, supply can be intermittent and unstable, leading to blown fuses and burnt circuitry.

Broken steam autoclave                Broken dry heat autoclave

The Centers for Disease Control specify the wet-steam sterilization requirement as maintaining a temperature of 121°C (250°F) for 30 minutes. This requires an enormous amount of energy. In the many rural communities where fuels are scarce and electricity is intermittent, this means proper instrument sterilization is not possible. On our many research trips, we spoke to nurses that worked in rural clinics so remote that the only way to sterilize instruments was via a day-trip to the nearest regional health center.

Rural health clinic, Jicarito, Nicaragua

The Solarclave is a solar-powered surgical instrument sterilizer that uses the energy of the sun’s rays to directly heat surgical instruments to sterilization requirements. It uses locally-available materials and manufacturing techniques that are already available in thousands of rural workshops across the world. Its thermodynamic efficiency allows for a small size that is easily transportable to remote clinics and is simple for one healthcare worker to set up.

Prototype Solarclave integrated on stand, locally-built in Nicaragua

The Solarclave has two main parts: a Reflector that concentrates the sun’s rays and a Pressure Vessel that holds the surgical instruments and receives the focused solar energy.

The Reflector is made from 140 mirrors held in a precise orientation and provides the heat energy needed to sterilize medical instruments. Though the geometry of the mirrors is complicated, the reflector itself is easy to manufacture. The mirrors are supported by a lattice of plywood made from only two basic patterns. In combination, these two patterns hold each mirror at just the required geometry. Further, we have created a way to manufacture these precise patterns using only simple tools. This prototype is capable of heating to over 300°F.

Solarclave Reflector panel prototypes set up for test    Closeup of mirror squares in reflector panel

The Pressure Vessel sits in the focus of the reflector and holds the surgical instruments that need to be sterilized. Our Pressure Vessel works similarly to a Thermos bottle: we insulate our container to keep the heat inside. A modified pressure cooker is wrapped in layers of fiberglass insulation and shielded by a plastic bucket. At the bottom of the Pressure Vessel, a short duct lets in sunlight while trapping hot air. Since it tries to rise but can’t go anywhere, the hot air acts as an invisible insulating blanket that further increases the efficiency.

The Solarclave pressure vessel seen from the side and bottom

The Reflector and Pressure Vessel are held in the proper orientation by a mobile stand that moves like a wheelbarrow, with one front wheel and two rear legs. This allows easy transportation around a rural clinic site, which may have many steep slopes and high ledges.

We estimate the total cost of materials to be US$150 when purchased in Nicaragua, with 95% of materials locally-available. Our local manufacturing partners have built prototypes of all major assemblies.

The Solarclave being built by Las Mujeres Solares in Sabana Grande, Nicaragua

Our design focus at IIH goes beyond creating new appropriate medical devices. We believe that users can be inventors and we seek to cultivate local innovation.

Research continues!

Working in collaboration with MIT D-Lab, University of Dayton ETHOS, Las Mujeres Solares of Sabana Grande, Nicaragua.

Funding from MIT IDEAS 2011 Global Challenge and Salud del Sol, Inc.

— V. Ted Liao (IIH Researcher, Solarclave Project Technical Lead)

For more info, contact: solarautoclave@mit.edu


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 65 other followers