Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 6 - Zavrel

This past week I mostly spent working on my research project, which involves the design and construction of an electromechanical device to strengthen the genioglossus muscle so as to keep the upper airway from collapsing during sleep. When the upper airway collapses, cessation in breathing occurs. This in turn prompts the person to awaken momentarily. A person with severe obstructive sleep apnea may experience upwards of 30 or 40 such arousals an hour. These breathing episodes serve to disrupt a person’s sleep, leaving the person feeling groggy and lethargic the following day. Most of the device is finished. The major issue I foresee is making it user-friendly, not just for the patient but for the doctor. I still have to incorporate some feedback (visual or auditory or both) mechanisms. I also have to get the USB data logger to work and connect the device to a DAQ emulator. In this manner, data can be saved to a portable drive for later retrieval and analysis or displayed in real time. The choice will depend on the setting in which it is used, i.e. in the lab or in the patient’s home. I need to be able to read from the external drive in addition to writing to it so as to customize the training regime. The idea is that with time, the person’s upper airway becomes stronger, so initial baseline values need to be measured and stored. These baseline values need to be incorporated in the return of feedback, mostly as a consequence of limited resolution.

This past week I also met with my Ithaca PI’s collaborator here at Weill. Dr. Joseph Scandura works in the hematology and oncology departments, specializing in blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma. He received his undergraduate training in electrical engineering and was surprisingly adroit when it came to engineering matters. He proposed a particularly elegant and novel way in which to implement PCR within channel-confined droplets. I hope to follow up his suggestion upon return to Ithaca as to my knowledge it represents a completely original solution to an important problem.

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