The BION microstimulator — derived from the original concepts and patents of USC engineer Gerald Loeb — from Advanced Bionics Corp. is currently on sale in Europe and awaiting premarket approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its initial clinical application is urinary urge continence.
“I am thrilled to see our research turned into a product that will help people cope with disease and disability,” said Loeb, director of USC’s Medical Device Development Laboratory and a professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “I am particularly pleased to see it done with the flair required to win this prestigious design award.”
An important feature of the BION technology is that one or more devices can be implanted into different parts of the body to treat a wide variety of disorders, he said. Several clinical applications are now being investigated by both USC’s Alfred Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Bionics Corp.
The MDE awards — supported by the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society — recognize engineers, scientists and designers responsible for groundbreaking innovations changing health care. They are considered a premier awards program for the medical technology community.
The BION product receiving this award was devised by Advanced Bionics, where Loeb was chief scientist from 1994 to 1999. It includes a miniature rechargeable lithium ion battery — produced by Quallion Inc. in Sylmar, Calif. — that allows it to operate autonomously for several days before being recharged via an external coil.
The original BIONs, currently being built at USC’s Mann Institute are powered by an externally worn coil and are the size of two adjacent rice grains. Multiple implants can be controlled individually and simultaneously to reanimate paralyzed limbs.
Newer versions of the technology under development at the Mann Institute include sensors to provide voluntary control of movements such as reaching and grasping.
Also underway is research to determine if BIONs can stimulate the tongue and open the airways of those suffering from sleep apnea — a condition in which one’s breathing stops during sleep.
Last year, the Medical Design Excellence Award went to creators and developers of products including a disposable umbilical cord clamp, joint implant, external breast prosthesis, rapid HIV antibody test and robotic endoscopic surgical workstation.
Presentation of the 2004 awards will take place June 16 in New York City.
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