02 August 2010

Hopkins Students Design Device to Prevent Premature Birth

Baltimore Sun

A group of brainiac Johns Hopkins graduate students have developed a device to detect a woman's likelihood of delivering a premature baby.

The CervoCheck is a small ring embedded with sensors that picks up electrical signals associated with uterine contractions. The ring is designed to be embedded in a woman's vaginal canal at a physician's office or hospital.

The device has only been tested on animals at this point. But the students have obtained a provisional patent on the device.

There are about 500,000 premature births in the United States each year, according to The National Center for Health Statistics. A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, while a preterm baby is delivered before 37 weeks.

Preterm babies may experience complications and health problems. The births can also result in more costly medical bills.

The students, who studied biomedical engineering, said that current technology doesn't detect preterm labor until it's too far along. By that time medications can only delay the birth by a few days.

They believe their device can detect the likelihood of early labor sooner and prolong the pregnancy by as much as six weeks. Cost savings could be as much as $44,000 per patient, the students believe.

The students who invented the CervoCheck system were, from left, Karin Hwang, Chris Courville, Deepika Sagaram and Rose Huang. They have all recently received their graduate degrees from Hopkins. Photo courtesy of the University of Louisville Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge Business Plan Competition.

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