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U of M-Industry Partnership Boosts Realism, Improves Outcomes in Medical Training


As the health care industry rapidly transforms, medical training at the University of Minnesota isn’t satisfied just keeping pace. Through a unique collaboration with industry partners, the U is developing new surgical simulation tools with an unprecedented level of realism – better preparing medical professionals for real-world procedures and ultimately leading to better patient care.

Simulation PeriOperative Resources for Training and Learning, or SimPORTAL, the U’s center for simulation equipment and clinical training, ensures medical professionals are up to par on procedures before they start operating on real patients.

SimPORTAL’s researchers are now teaming up with the U’s Medical Devices Center and the Interactive Visualization Lab, combining resources from 3D modeling, interactive visualization and a one of a kind human tissue properties database to develop medical simulation tools that look and act like parts of the human body.

Airway management trainer and real life model

The accomplishment would not have been possible without industry collaboration from partners like 7-SIGMA, Stratasys, Bose ElectroForce and Vital Images.

Eric Ferski, product manager at 7-SIGMA, a Minnesota-based company specializing in carbon nanotube sensors, said the company began working on adding its sensor technology to the university’s simulation equipment in June.

“We believe that 7-SIGMA’s innovative sensor technology, when paired with the diverse expertise at the U, will help advance cutting edge health care solutions.  At the same time, the partnership with the U and other industry experts will help our company remain globally competitive and develop more precise education training tools.”

Bose supplied equipment for measuring the properties of human tissue, giving researchers guidelines for making the synthetic polymer organs. Going forward, researchers are dreaming up new ways to continue partnering with the sound innovator to improve simulators; a win for both Bose and the university.

One exciting result of the U’s industry collaboration is an airway management trainer, a mannequin-based training system that makes learning to respond to acute airway-related trauma more realistic to better prepare on-scene medics. The trainer, which was commissioned by the Army Research Laboratory, is so lifelike that pores speckle its skin and moisture coats its tongue. The “patient” is made of synthetic materials specially designed to mimic the properties of bodily tissues, meaning training on airway procedures will feel more realistic than ever.

Jay Schrankler, executive director of the U of M’s Office for Technology Commercialization, said the partnerships allow researchers from different backgrounds to share knowledge and create the best possible outcomes for businesses and the end user.

“At its core, this collaboration represents a revolutionary new approach to product and device development and training for companies in the medical device industry,” Schrankler said. “It provides a single point of access for a full service customized research platform, offering everything from R&D to clinical training to licensing. It’s really exciting to see the U of M’s expertise in surgical simulation, 3-D visualization and medical devices come together in this innovative new approach that is sure to be an industry game changer.”

Robert Sweet, M.D., associate professor in the U of M’s urology department and director of SimPORTAL, agreed.

“When you knock down the barriers between disciplines and combine their work, you can accomplish some really incredible things,” Sweet said. “That’s only possible when a major research university teams up with industry leaders.”

The new simulation devices will be a premier display at “Healthcare Transformation – Surviving the Shift,” a conference hosted by Minnesota-based LifeScience Alley on Wednesday, Nov. 20 to showcase the ways life science industries are adapting to health care transformation. The airway management trainer will be one of several technologies on display.

Airway model photo courtesy of SimPORTAL

Originally published on Business @ the U of M.

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

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