For the past four weeks, students of all backgrounds have gathered around our table in the dead of night and excitedly shared ideas. We have met engineers, visionaries, programmers, artists, and biologists. We’ve discussed possibilities of campus hydroponic systems and a 3D bio-printer. Most importantly, our first project has begun: Wickit. Wickit, envisioned by Natalie Stottler and adopted by the BIOME team, tackles VAP (Ventilator Associated Pneumonia) with an inexpensive dual-mechanism bio-mechanical device.
VAP is a leading cause of hospital-based mortality. When patients are intubated for 12 or more hours, they may develop bacteria in their lungs from antibiotic-resistant bio-films that collect on the tube from saliva. This leads to deadly pneumonia. Since VAP is complex and difficult to treat, prevention is necessary. “The Wickit device aims to simultaneously reduce the bacteria load with the power of silver and remove the secretions using capillary action,” Natalie explains.
The only other comparable VAP prevention device is inordinately expensive. This makes it impractical for patients, compared to Wickit’s vision.
Our team is now collaborating with Natalie on design, mechanics, and tests in and out of the laboratory. As BIOME promises, we have a place for everyone on this project. Engineers are headed to work on nuts and bolts. Artists are called upon for design, and biologists will be producing bio-films in the lab for experimentation. Those new to biology and engineering may participate with experienced members in testing on human cadavers. Once past its finishing stages, Wickit may save innumerable lives.
Go here to learn more about VAP.
by Rachel Zilberg