Rice students target rate of cervical cancer with 3D printed training devices

The Gyno-mite
team of Rice University’s
Oshman Engineering Design
Kitchen
(OEDK) are working on a project that could
transform the lives of many women, and the people who depend on
them, in low-income countries around the world. Using 3D
printing, the team has developed a realistic kit to help train
doctors to conduct cervical examinations.

According to figures reported by the team “Cervical cancer
kills close to 300,000 women per year worldwide, with
approximately 85 percent of these deaths occurring in
developing countries.”

At an early stage, 100% of these cases can be prevented. The
Rice University team hope to be part of the solution.

From left: Christine Luk, Rachel Lambert, Sonia Parra and Elizabeth Stone of Rice University’s Gyno-mite team at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OED). Photo via Rice UniversityFrom left:
Christine Luk, Rachel Lambert, Sonia Parra and Elizabeth Stone of
Rice University’s Gyno-mite team at the Oshman Engineering Design
Kitchen (OED). Photo via Rice University

Challenging the standard

Though many countries have developed standards for cervical
care, i.e. yearly pap smears, and appropriate training, access
to this level of care is much more challenging in a low
economical climate.

Elizabeth Stone a senior design student on Rice’s
Gyno-mite team
explains
, “The main reason for [lack of adequate
gynaecological care]is because these countries are not able to
implement the standard of care,”

“And many times it’s also due to the lack of training for
providers to learn standard cervical cancer screening and
prevention skills needed in order to screen and provide
prevention services for the entire population.”

Prevention is cheaper, and easier, than the
cure

Innovative treatments for gynaecological cancers are in
development at a number labs around the world. Using 3D
printing, scientists have
engineered sperm as a possible treatment for the disease
,
and
body-on-chip solutions
hope to be able to glean further
information about possible drug remedies.

However “Prevention,” as Stone explains, “is accomplished
through screening and, if necessary, treatment.”

The Gyno-mite team has 3D printed models that accurately
represent conditions in the cervix. Normal, pre-cancerous,
cancerous, cysts and a sample for colposcopy has been made
at the OEDK.

Cervical models made at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Photo via Rice UniversityCervical models
made at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. Photo via Rice
University

To the next, commercial, step

Labelled clearly in laser cut tiles, each of these models can
be removed and fitted to a box/clamp set up that simulates a
cervical exam. The device can also be moved to demonstrate the
various positions of the cervix for a more accurate
representation of a woman’s body.

“This device is specifically designed so health care providers
in developing countries and low-resource regions,” adds Stone,
“many of whom lack gynecological training — learn to screen for
and treat cervical cancer.”

So far the team have held successful workshops with the device
at clinics in El Salvador and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
The main takeaway from the sessions is that people want to keep
the device, and so the team are now looking for commercial
partners to help take this project to the next level.

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Featured image shows from left: Christine Luk, Rachel
Lambert, Sonia Parra and Elizabeth Stone of Rice University’s
Gyno-mite team at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OED).
Photo via Rice University

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