Unique, light-sensing 3D printing device can help people with lupus

A team of engineers and doctors at the University of Minnesota have designed a unique 3D-printed light-sensing medical device that could help millions of people around the world with lupus and other light-sensitive diseases by providing access to more personalized treatments and information to determine what’s causing their symptoms. The device is placed directly on the skin and provides real-time feedback to correlate light exposure with disease flare-ups.

According to the Lupus Foundation of America, about 1.5 million Americans have some form of lupus. Light sensitivity is common in people with lupus, and many find that their disease is made worse by exposure to sunlight or even artificial light indoors. Symptoms of these episodes in people with lupus include rash, joint pain and fatigue.

The search was published in advanced science. The researchers also made a patent on the device and the technology is available for licensing.

David Pearson, MD, a dermatologist at the U of M School of Medicine and co-author of the study said. “We know that ultraviolet light, and in some cases, visible light, can cause symptom flares – both on the skin and internally – but we don’t always know what combinations of light wavelengths contribute to symptoms.”

Pearson had heard about 3D printing for wearable devices developed by Michael McAlpine, a professor in the U of M School of Science and Engineering and co-author of the study, and called him to collaborate on a solution.

The McAlpine research group worked with Pearson to develop the first fully 3D-printed device with a flexible UV photodetector that can be applied to the skin. The device is integrated with a portable console specifically designed to continuously monitor light exposure and correlate it with symptoms.

“This research builds on our previous work where we developed an all-light 3D printing device, but this time instead of emitting light, it receives light,” McAlpine said. “The light is converted into electrical signals for measurement, which in the future could be associated with a worsening of the patient’s symptoms.”

The research team has received approval to begin testing the device in humans and will soon begin enrolling study participants.

McAlpine and Pearson said the 3D printing process is relatively inexpensive and could one day provide quick and easy access to the device without the expensive manufacturing processes of traditional devices.

“There is no other device like this right now with this potential for easy customization and manufacturing,” Pearson said. “It was a dream to have one of these 3D printers in my office. I can see a patient and evaluate the wavelengths of light we want to evaluate. Then I can print it out for the patient and give it to them. It can be 100 percent customized to their needs. This is where the future is headed.” Medicine “.

The research was funded by a U of M Grant-in-Aid Research and Arts Grant and Academic Investment Research Program Grant. Support was also provided by the National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health. Portions of this work were conducted at the Minnesota Nano Center, which is supported by the National Science Foundation through the National Nano-Coordinated Infrastructure Network (NNCI).


About the College of Science and Engineering
The University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering combines the university’s programs in engineering, physical sciences, mathematics, and computer science into one college. The college is ranked among the best academic programs in the country and has 12 academic departments that offer a wide range of degree programs at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels. Learn more at cse.umn.edu.

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