HTCF Student Internships to Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Texas

Extracts from the weekly blogs of students Ella Mencel, Hannah Lyons and Samuel Moorcroft!

Three students from the University of Leeds had the opportunity to undertake an internship during a 6-week Surgical Hackathon Innovation Programme at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston Texas. This really is multi-disciplinary student-led healthcare technology innovation at its finest! Enjoy team!

07/08/17 – The Beginning!

We arrived for our first day at Baylor College of Medicine for an early start of 8am. We quickly got checked in with the international office. They gave us all the important visa documents we need to keep with us for the duration of our stay and then proceeded to tell us all about Houston- where to eat, what to do and how to get around. We quickly realised how lucky we are to be here; Texas Medical Centre alone sees around 10 million patients a year and is the largest of its kind in the world.

Booklet provided by intuitap

When we arrived on the next day we were given a booklet; produced from a new company: IntuiTap. It began outlining the anatomy of the lower spine and explained that a lumbar puncture was a procedure whereby a needle is inserted into the lower back and spinal fluid is collected. Alongside this however it then went into the difficulties associated with the procedure; placing the needle in the correct location is very challenging for a clinician often requiring four or more attempts before they get it right. This inaccuracy leads to unnecessary pain to the patient and increases the length of time the procedure takes. IntuiTap however have created a product that can accurately detect the bones in the lower back giving the clinician landmarks, and goes on to provide needle guidance for an accurate insertion on the first attempt. What they need now is a model of the lower spine upon which they can test their device.

Researching Materials for Skin

IntuiTap had created for us a wishlist of what they needed the model to have and one of the factors was to mimic the tissue elasticity of skin. Hence as a group we divided the multiple layers the needle pierces from skin to fat to muscle and began researching what materials were commonly used for them. I volunteered to cover skin and luckily found a paper that summarized which material was best used for which properties of skin were most important for your model. For example the ability of skin to absorb certain substances like a skin cream was not an important property for our model, whereas its mechanical properties such as its elasticity was.

Exploring a patent

To further my knowledge of what materials are used to replicate skin I explored patents of previous models which in themselves analyzed what materials were best to use and why as well as the flaws in other materials which was very helpful.

Lab Skills!

Today was an action packed day.  We started off the day continuing our reading before Matt taught Hannah, Ella and I how to cultivate and split cells. We worked on two cancerous cell lines, ASPC 1 and Capan 1, and have each been given our own samples to look after for the duration of our time here. It was nice to get back doing some lab work, especially as this will be a skill I shall be using later on in my PhD project.


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