By Cynthia Hua
Teens who have to wear back braces to correct the problematic spinal curves of adolescent scoliosis may soon have an easier time due to the 109 Design team, one of many teams participating in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Venture Creation Program (VCP).
Undergraduates Levi DeLuke, Sebastian Monzon and Ellen Su developed the Intellistrap device for better scoliosis treatment system and are now accelerating their technology with funding and guidance from the VCP. The VCP provides early-stage student startups with up to $2,500, a mentor, expert advice and dedicated space in the YEI Incubator.
The 109 Design team kicked off their venture through a fellowship with the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design at Yale this past summer. CEID sponsors the summer fellowship annually to offer student projects funding and equipment as well as mentorship.
Existing scoliosis monitoring products rely on outdated technology and are not able to provide patients and doctors with reliable, quality feedback or real-time data on the treatment’s progress. The Intellistrap device, prototypes of which were recently completed, comes as a strap that can be fitted onto existing braces.
“Our feedback device aims to improve current treatment methods by increasing the effectiveness of bracing,” DeLuke says. “Our device attaches to existing scoliosis braces and gathers data on the quality and hours of brace wear.”
Around 10% of the population suffers from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), abnormal spinal curvature without an identifiable cause, and 1% of those cases need treatment. Children and teens between eight and 14 are most likely to be effected, particularly girls. The Intellistrap is meant to reduce the likelihood of surgery for these scoliosis patients, a condition which can be mentally and physically scarring as well as highly costly, DeLuke says.
Braces are often not worn for the time prescribed by a doctor and even when braces are worn, they are often not tight enough to be fully effective. In order to take full advantage of their treatment, patients need reliable feedback. The Intellistrap device will provide that feedback and help to reduce the progression of spine curvature, leaving the patient with a straighter spin at the end of treatment, DeLuke adds.
“We hope to improve the bracing experience for patients by allowing them to understand their treatment and to become involved in the treatment process,” he says.
The appearance and technology of the product have been designed to be unobtrusive and low-profile in order to integrate into current treatment methods seamlessly, according to Su. The device is a “natural addition” to the existing braces, Su says.
At the moment, the Intellistrap is targeted to parents and doctors to help them better understand their children and patients’ treatment, Su says. However, a priority for the company will be making the bracing experience more positive for young patients. During the design process, the team visited clinics to talk with patients and doctors and met with members of Curvy Girls, a national scoliosis support group.
“We intend to be a design company that focuses on solving meaningful problems using the design process, but we also want to bring creativity to these serious issues,” Su says.
The team is currently implementing a pilot study.Read More