A team of researchers, including three Carle Illinois College of Medicine students, has designed an inexpensive robotic device that could help general surgeons save the lives of patients with potentially life-threatening fluid on the brain when no neurosurgeon is available. The innovation was featured at the 16th Coordinated Science Lab Student Conference at The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Carle Illinois student Al Smith
Carle Illinois College of Medicine student Al Smith

Carle Illinois student Al Smith says the device could benefit patients in parts of the world where neurosurgeons are in short supply. “The application of an inexpensive navigation device like this could allow general surgeons to perform shunt placement for patients with hydrocephalus (cerebrospinal fluid on the brain),” said Smith. “We hope it could reduce the mortality of life-threatening neurological events like severe traumatic brain injury, which has a 90 percent mortality rate in communities without adequate neurosurgical care.”

Carle Illinois College of Medicine Student Alexander Teague

The team’s research and design will be showcased during the Bioimaging and Computational Biology session on Friday, Feb. 26. Other team members who contributed to the design include Carle Illinois students Alexander Teague and Sindhu Parupalli, along with St. Louis University team members Edvin Kuc, Michael Eagleton, Michael Borovik, and Omar Ahmed. The project is currently funded through a Carle Illinois Innovation Pathways Grant. Previous funding and mentorship came from Saint Louis University and Johns Hopkins University. The team’s mentors also include Drs. Kevin Teal and Wael Mostafa of the department of neuroscience at Carle Foundation Hospital.

Carle Illinois College of Medicine student Sindhu Parupalli

The virtual conference brings together scientists from academia and industry to address cutting-edge research problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective. This is the first year that Carle Illinois students are taking part, as conference organizers have expanded to highlight biology and technology. Carle Illinois’ curriculum is built on an interdisciplinary approach, infusing engineering, technology, and innovation into all four years of medical training. Through its relationship with The Grainger College of Engineering, Carle Illinois students gain access to leading experts as they explore advanced technological solutions to health problems.

Carle Illinois student Jonathan Kim’s research on the digital transfer of expert pathologist annotations across imaging modalities is part of the conference’s poster competition. His research project involves deep learning and creating a “digital pipeline” to automatically transfer pathologist-generated labels from one imaging modality to another. “This would significantly reduce the amount of time needed to generate labeled training data, paving the way for an accurate, fully automated deep learning-based spectroscopic analysis of histopathological samples,” said Kim.

To learn more about the Coordinated Science Lab Student Conference scheduled for February 24-26, visit their website.

Editor’s note: The presentation by Carle Illinois student Al Smith on behalf of his team received  ‘Best in Session’ honors for Bioimaging and Computational Biology at the CSLSC in February.