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Sponsorship helps Hopkins student team design ‘shocking’ garment

Lightweight defibrillator vest improves upon existing garment for patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest
Posted June 13, 2014
The undergraduate team who developed this defibrillator vest.
IMAGE: WILL KIRK The undergraduate team who developed this defibrillator vest. IMAGE: WILL KIRK

When Todd J. Cohen, A&S ’81, Med ’85, suspected that current wearable defibrillators could be improved, he sponsored and mentored a Hopkins biomedical engineering undergraduate student design team to develop a better one. Cohen, the director of electrophysiology at Winthrop University Hospital, “provided a tremendous amount of time and support for the team,” says Youseph Yazdi, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design, which offers the design team program for students. Opportunities to support student design teams are available every year.

The students designed a lightweight, easy-to-conceal, shirt-like garment to deliver lifesaving shocks to patients experiencing serious heart problems. The students say their prototype device improves upon systems already in use by featuring a more comfortable design made of thin, breathable, and stretchable fabric, and by encasing its electrical components in thin pockets on the sides.

"We did not change any of the science involving how a wearable defibrillator works," team member Melinda Chen says. "We just changed the form of the device. We pursued a 'slip on and forget' approach to minimize the user's need to maintain and interact with the device."

Cohen says that the prototype was well-received recently by physicians, medical researchers, and device makers at the noncompetitive Stanford Biodesign Conference. At the annual Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering Design Day event, the project won the Most Innovative Design honor and took first place in the People’s Choice Award contest.