2017 May 2017 News

Small device, big innovation

It’s about the size of a slice of bread, costs roughly $60 to purchase and assemble, and packs the potential to improve the lives of thousands of patients around the globe with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular diseases.
The portable bioelectric impedance analyzer developed by graduating SMU seniors Taylor Barg, Allison Garcia, Danya Hoban, Mar McCreary and Hyun Song measures electric current pulsing through the body to assess muscle health. For someone who otherwise might have to endure a painful needle biopsy or costly MRI to measure the progress of their disease, this small device would be a welcome improvement.
The women have been working together on the device since the beginning of the academic year as their senior design project in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.
“Our goal was to create an affordable, accessible device that was non-invasive and non-intimidating,” says group spokesperson McCreary, a mechanical engineering major with a premedical/biomedical specialization. She recently presented their research at the 2017 HUNTALKS hosted by the Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, a pipeline for student innovation with social impact at SMU.
Their research is particularly relevant now because of the increasing number of health issues and deaths attributed to neurodegeneration in the rapidly growing population of aging Americans. McCreary points out that the Parkinson’s mortality rate has jumped 330 percent over the last 40 years. In addition to the comfort factor inherent in their design, the diagnostic and monitoring applications of their device could improve the odds for older patients living in rural areas without easy access to doctors and medical services.
Each student on the team contributed ideas and expertise in her field. Hoban also is a mechanical engineering major with a premedical/biomedical specialization, while Barg is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. Garcia and Song are electrical engineering (EE) majors in the “4+1” program, which enables them to complete a master’s degree in one year after earning a bachelor’s degree.
Read more at SMU News.