Wounds suck: so Danielle Zurovcik did something about it. Wound healing for the developing world

As we participate with our colleagues from 50 other nations at DFCon, we can’t help but want to work toward solutions toward the enormous problem of acute and chronic wounds, worldwide. To that end, this just came off the wire from MIT review, where one of DFCon’s faculty, Prof. Dennis Orgill, is quoted:

 Addendum: Danielle was invited to DFCon14 and gave a superb presentation.

A Cheap, Portable Wound-Healing Device

After the Haiti earthquake, physicians tested a vacuum pump meant to speed healing.

By Emily Singer

FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2010

In mid-February, about a month after a massive earthquake leveled much of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a wound-care team from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston traveled to the devastated capital. The team’s task was to help care for scores of patients suffering from the large open wounds that accompany amputations, crushed limbs, and other injuries. Among the team was MIT graduate student Danielle Zurovcik, who arrived ready to test a device she had developed as part of her thesis research–a cheap and portable version of the negative-pressure devices currently used to speed wound healing in hospitals.

Zurovcik and her collaborators hope the device, which costs about $3, will provide a way to improve care for patients after the emergency phase of relief efforts, including life- and limb-saving surgeries, has ended. Even after many of the emergency medical teams leave the disaster zone, the dangers of chronic wounds remain high.

“My experience in Haiti and other major earthquakes is that after the acute medical response, such as amputating limbs and setting fractures, the major disease burden is wounds,” says Robert Riviello, a trauma surgeon at Brigham and Women’s, and Zurovcik’s collaborator. Negative-pressure therapy decreases the need to change wound dressings from one to three times per day to once every few days, a major benefit when medical staff is in short supply.

Negative-pressure devices, which act like a vacuum over the bandaged wound, have become a central part of wound therapy in the United States over the last decade. They speed healing up to threefold, depending on the type of wound, and in some cases eliminate the need for plastic surgery or skin grafts. A number of commercial versions are available in the U.S. and are used to treat burns and chronic wounds such as bed sores or diabetic foot ulcers. While scientists don’t exactly know why this treatment accelerates the healing process, it likely helps by removing some of the fluid and bacteria that accumulates at the injury site and by increasing blood flow to the wound. The pressure itself may also help healing by bringing together the edges of the wound and deliver

(Cambridge, MA, 01/09/13) Danielle Zurovcik pictured with her "Wound-Pump" at MIT's Martin Trust Center on Wednesday, January 09, 2013. Staff photo by John Wilcox.
(Cambridge, MA, 01/09/13) Danielle Zurovcik pictured with her “Wound-Pump” at MIT’s Martin Trust Center on Wednesday, January 09, 2013. Staff photo by John Wilcox.

ing mechanical pressure, which has been shown to spur cell growth, says Dennis Orgill, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s who was not involved in the project.

David G. Armstrong

Dedicated to amputation prevention, wound healing, diabetic foot, biotechnology and the intersection between medical devices and consumer electronics.


  • I surmise that restoring even rudimentary hemodynamics is critical in wound healing. The skewed concentrations of electrolytes and formed elements and the dilution of oxygen and medication harries homeostasis. Clastic and blastic functions as well as the components of epithelialization are tenuous enough in a disturbed endocrine terrain. The use of negative pressure normalizes the cascade of arteriovenous function and closes the tissue to invasion by ambient pathogens. The plantar tissue structures are uniquely suited to positive and negative loads. It is mimicing the gait cycle of stance and swing.
    David Eckhous PhD

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