A joint team of researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas Health Science Center are working on assembling a prototype for an implantable in-line shunt flow monitoring system that can monitor hydrocephalus on an on-demand and continuous basis.
Jenkins Garrett Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Sandy Dasgupta and senior research scientist Aditya Das, both from UT Arlington, were awarded $100,000 from the Texas Medical Research Collaborative, and will be advancing the project with Dr. Anthony Lee, a UNT Health Science Center surgeon.
This product could prove especially beneficial to infants and children who comprise a significant portion of the number of shunt operations done each year, with their numbers reaching nearly 75,000. According to the National Institutes of Health, there remains a relatively high rate of complications with shunt placement, with some occurring as late as 17 years after surgery.
This new shunt prototype is expected to prevent these complications through its improved proactive monitoring of the flow of fluids and catheter malfunctions. It could also enable neurosurgeons to better trace the source of complications.
“I have seen the effect of hydrocephalus up close. As a teenager, I saw my infant cousin born with hydrocephalus. He did not survive more than two years,” Dasgupta said. “Now shunt implantation quality of life and life expectancy are far better, but shunt failure and timely diagnosis of that are still problems. It will be a privilege to play a role to help solve this problem.”
The new shunt system will also feature an ability to give a real-time diagnosis in a hospital, outpatient or home setting, and can potentially provide research platforms for other biomedical applications, such as in cardiovascular disease and designing artificial organs.
“The entire hydrocephalus community is invested in seeing this research project yield results. Any opportunity to reduce the amount of failures of a shunt, and lengthen the life of the performance of the shunt is welcomed,” said Michael Illions, vice president and director of advocacy for the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation. “A better shunt and less brain surgeries equal a much better outcome for those living with hydrocephalus.”