Rice undergraduates assemble system to treat gastroschisis in developing countries
It should go without saying it takes guts to develop a low-cost procedure to treat gastroschisis. A team of Rice University students working on the problem had them in every way.
The three members of Team Si-Low built a sophisticated system that would be simple for doctors in developing countries to execute as they help infants born with the condition, in which the abdominal wall is not fully closed and some of the child’s intestines remain outside the body at birth.
The standard treatment in Western hospitals is a sterile silicone bag that holds the intestines in place over the child and allows gravity to slowly pull them back into the abdominal cavity, a process that can take five to 10 days. But the custom bag and its mounting equipment are too expensive for hospitals in Uganda, where an infant with the condition has a nearly zero chance of survival.
Rice University students have built a low-cost system for the treatment of gastroschisis. The system is intended for use in low-resource countries where children rarely survive the condition. Photo by Jeff Fitlow
Dr. Bindi Naik-Mathuria, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital, works with hospitals in Uganda. She learned from Dr. Nasser Kakembo, an expert in gastroschisis at Mulago Hospital, Kampala, that makeshift solutions are generally inadequate to save a child.
Naik-Mathuria approached bioengineer Meaghan Bond, a postdoctoral research associate with the Rice 360˚ Institute for Global Health, who brought the problem to the undergraduate team early this year.
Si-Low is a play on the “silo bags” used to treat gastroschisis, so-called because they roughly resemble their larger gravity-fed cousins. “We thought, we’re coming up with a lower-cost alternative to the bag, so why not call it Si-Low,” said sophomore Sanika Rane, who is majoring in kinesiology …