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Students Design Better Cornea Transplant

Setting out to design a better product to restore vision in patients with corneal diseases, bioengineering students Lyvona Nese (BS ’16), Marianne Palczewski (BS ’16), and Tiana Wong (BS ’16) created a novel artificial cornea, which won first place in the medical products category competition at the College’s senior design EXPO.

The group’s design is a graft-less and suture-less plate made of an acrylate polymer that provides optical clarity, strength, and flexibility to help shorten surgery time and keep the transplant secure. “In many areas around the world, donor eyes [for corneal grafts] are not readily available,” says Nese. “We wanted to create something for patients in those places.”

Prototyping a model of their design, Nese says, was the most challenging aspect of the project. “We found that because of the way the material hardens, the mold needed to be extremely smooth in order to produce an optically clear material. This meant that it needed to be milled using a CNC (computer numerical control) machine instead of being 3D printed,” says Palczewski.

But that challenge was also the most rewarding part. For Wong, who soon begins work on her graduate degree in bioengineering, creating a working prototype was a dream come true. “I was drawn to bioengineering because I want to use technology to improve people’s quality of life,” she says.

The project helped Nese, who plans to enroll in medical school, gain valuable shadowing experiences with UIC physicians. In addition to working with UIC bioengineering professors Miiri Kotche, PhD, and Terry Layton, PhD, the team also spent time with UIC ophthalmology professors Charles Yu, MD, and Mark Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, MBA.

Palczewski is keeping an open mind about the type of research she’d like to pursue in UIC’s graduate pharmacy program, which she will be starting in the fall. “I first entered UIC thinking I only wanted a career in drug design research,” says Palczewski. “But after getting a taste of working on our artificial cornea, I found that I am very interested in working on surgical and prosthetic devices as well. I hope to merge these two passions in my future.”

To see more about the project, watch the team’s interview on Chicago’s Polvision .

-- kgorton - 2016-05-25


Topic revision: r2 - 2016-05-25 - 16:13:36 - Main.kgorton
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