A teenager at Tufts University, Medford, USA has spent three years developing a titanium-alloy spinal implant for adolescents with scoliosis, which expands as the patient grows, according to a report in Qmed.
Harry Paul—who was born with congenital scoliosis—had undergone a number of surgeries as a child to correct his spine. Frustrated by the need to go under the knife every few months, he wanted to create a device that would adapt as a patient grew, lessening the need for such frequent surgeries.
According to the article, Paul has won a number of awards for the idea, as well as a scholarship from the US Office of Naval Research. He has even been invited to exhibit his prototype at the White House Science Fair, Washington, USA.
After working on the device, Paul partnered with K2M to refine the implant and apply for a patent. Working with industry engineers allowed him to develop an appreciation for the traditional process of bringing a product idea to fruition. He tells Qmed, “I learned so much from having to redo my work [for the patent application process] that it has informed my design process in a really positive way.”
Paul was initially surprised by the amount of time a product can take to be developed and commercialised, “It will be five to 10 years to see how long it will take to be used, and there are good reasons for that. Medical devices can be some of the most dangerous things in medicine,” he tells Qmed.
After completing his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering, Paul plans to either become a doctor, or continue designing biomedical products, telling Qmed, “Whether I decide to apply to medical school or continue with engineering, I am not sure. But wherever I end up, I want to have the same culture of optimism that I had in working with this.”