Portable Thermoregulation Device through Negative Pressure and Peripheral Stimulation

Life Sciences : Medical Devices

Available for non-exclusive licensing

Inventors

  • Kenneth Diller, Sc.D. , Biomedical Engineering
  • Timothy Diller, Ph.D. , Mechanical Engineering
  • Daniel Hensley , Biomedical Engineering

Background/unmet need

A device that can efficiently and safely raise or lower core body temperature is critical for a variety of medical treatments as well as for optimal performance in heat stress environments. In the medical field, devices that allow rapid core temperature changes without delay are invaluable for treating ischemia related conditions such as cardiac arrest, stroke, and traumatic brain injury as well as for neonatal brain injuries. In these types of injuries, the window of opportunity for initiating neuroprotective hypothermia following the ischemia precipitating event is about 90 minutes, after which the benefit of hypothermia therapy is diminished significantly. The ideal device to administer such rapid treatment would be one that is light enough to be transported on an emergency vehicle for rapid deployment, is simple to apply, operates noninvasively, and does not require an external power supply, thereby enabling a high level of portability.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have devised an invention that produces rapid heat exchange with the thermal core of the body via enhanced blood perfusion to the skin in conjunction with applied surface heating or cooling, thereby creating a direct thermal conduit between the surface and the interior of the body. This rapid heat exchange can be achieved by peripheral stimulation of skin blood flow at specific control locations away from the surface heating or cooling site. The rate of heat exchange can be enhanced by application of a negative pressure at the site of surface cooling or warming to distend cutaneous vessels, increasing the rate of blood perfusion and the capacity for convection. The surface heat transfer can be produced in conjunction with a chilled or warmed chemically activated pack to cause the required change in body core temperature. This technology is advantageous because it can be implemented without requiring insertion of a body part into a rigid vacuum chamber, but rather it utilizes a surface vacuum and/or peripheral stimulation.

In addition to its medical applications, such a device can be utilized for enhanced body cooling during exposure to heat stress environments such as in military operations or in the metal processing industry. The vacuum can be incorporated into a helmet that would normally be worn for protection during an activity to be benefited by enhanced body cooling, such as, military maneuvers, biking or working in heat stress conditions. The helmet provides a rigid platform for mounting the vacuum and coolant supplies to the forehead pad. The device can be used for either heating or cooling the body thermal core, depending on the application requirements. The device allows the user to ambulate, and therefore has the advantage of being utilized in situations in which the user is mobile. The principal investigator for this novel technology is an international authority on the application of the principals of heat transfer in living systems. A device that can rapidly change core body temperature is in high need by doctors. Two physicians from medical school faculties have indicated initial market validation for such a device by demonstrating the need for this technology in the areas of traumatic brain injury, stroke, and cardiac arrest.

Invention Description

The thermoregulation device uses negative pressure or vasodilation through peripheral stimulation at a separate location to produce a rapid cooling effect which provides treatment for a variety of ischemic conditions. In addition, the device can be applied to optimal performance tools for work in heat stress environments. The technology has many advantages, including the unique feature that it can be used in the absence of an external power supply. In addition, it is light weight, allowing the system to be easily transported in an EMS vehicle, a medical helicopter, or a military operations vehicle. Finally, the device can be implemented with a small battery pack for personal portability in a prolonged use application or in a 100% manual operation mode requiring no operational energy source. Under these conditions the rapid cooling should be easy to administer, require minimal training, be low risk, and preferably involve noninvasive procedures. The potential for achieving a high level of medical benefit and wide adoption is large.

Benefits/Advantages

  • Provides rapid thermoregulation treatment
  • Able to provide access to manipulate thermoregulation with other methods fail
  • Non-invasive
  • Minimally obtrusive to other medical procedures and instrumentation
  • Doesn’t cause shivering
  • Surface vacuum does not require the use of a rigid chamber
  • Peripheral heating can be used stimulate skin blood flow for heat exchange
  • No external power supply
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Ideal for use in emergency vehicles or “on the field ”
  • Well adapted for use in closed military vehicles in hot environments

Market potential/applications

Medical device companies interested in therapeutic hypothermia as well as the personal protective clothing industry with interest in optimal performance in heat stress environments.

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status

  • 3 foreign patents application filed
  • 2 foreign patents issued
  • 1 U.S. patent application filed
  • 1 U.S. patent issued: 8,617,230
  • 1 U.S. patent issued: 9,549,844