Sunday, November 25, 2012

Technology Under Development

Emory University received a grant from NIH under the STTR program to fund research and develop new technologies that have the potential to succeed as commercial products. Dr. Muralidhar Padala, Director of Emory’s Structural Heart Disease Research and Innovation Laboratory in collaboration with MedShape Solutions Inc. an Atlanta medical device company are working to develop a polymeric heart valve.

The problem is that Bioprosthetic Heart Valves (BHV) used since the 1980’s to repair valves can deteriorate over time due to calcification. While mechanical valves fail less frequently than BHV, they can create problems such as blood clots. In recent years, the search for a more durable artificial heart valve has turned to the development of the biocompatible Polymeric Heart Valve (PHV).

NIH funding will help Dr. Padala and his team develop a new PHV using a novel ultra-polymer called polyetheretherketone or (PEEK). “PEEK is superior to traditional polymers and is widely used for implantable devices,” says Dr. Padala. “It has excellent fatigue resistance, low water absorption, highly inert structure, is likely to be hemocompatible. Its structures can be molded into complex shapes and woven and/or non-woven to avoid regions of stress concentration which is where structural failure of BHV occurs.”

In other news, Neurotrack, an early stage company has launched a breakthrough technology developed by a team of researchers at Emory to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease years before clinical symptoms appear.

Based on results from a 5 year longitudinal study funded by NIH, this computer-based recognition memory test has been able to predict Alzheimer’s at least three to four years before clinical symptoms appear with 99 percent accuracy.

“One of the biggest hurdles that pharmaceutical companies face in the development of preventive drugs for Alzheimer’s disease is populating their clinical trials with appropriate candidates that are pre-symptomatic but who have Alzheimer’s disease,” said Elizabeth Buffalo, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology at Emory.

“Unlike other diagnostic tools on the market, Neurotrack’s test focuses on memory ability that critically depends on the integrity of the hippocampus, one of the first areas of the brain that is affected in the course of Alzheimer’s,” said Stuart Zola, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the university. “Our hope is that this tool will allow us to determine who is on the trajectory for Alzheimer’s and then be able to intervene at a time when the brain is less compromised.”

Another research project at Emory involves developing a home diagnostic test for Anemia. Anemia is the most commonly recognized blood disorder that requires blood tests to be done.
Due to the nature of the blood draw, this type of test is not appropriate for home testing or self-monitoring purposes.

However, there are a number of groups including nursing home residents, pregnant patients, patients undergoing chemotherapy, patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and HIV patients that could benefit from a home or over the counter kit for detecting anemia. Similar testing kits currently available are expensive, inaccurate, and difficult to use.

Emory investigators have created a disposable test kit with a color change indicator to monitor hemoglobin levels easily at home. The kit consists of a thin capillary tube, a microfuge-like tube with a chemical solution, and a reference card.

The key benefits for using the disposable kit is that it is a standalone product and does not require electrical power or an additional device to interpret results, requires less than a drop of blood from the patient, and results are available in one minute.

For more information on the kit, go The “Point-of-care, Patient-Operated, Self-Contained Disposable at Home Diagnostic Test for Anemia” has a prototype in development.