A Step in the Right Direction

Kent State podiatry device takes top prize at Northeast Ohio innovation contest.

Vincent Hetherington, DPM, Tianyi Guo, Peter Palffy-Muhoray, PhD, and Misha Pevnyi, PhD ’15,  with the prize-winning “Shear Force Mat.”

Foot ulcers are one of the most prevalent problems facing diabetic patients, but new technology developed at Kent State may soon help doctors better understand and treat them. The device, called a “Shear Force Mat,” represents a breakthrough for physicians seeking to understand how plantar ulcers form. It was developed and built by Kent State alumnus Misha Pevnyi, PhD ’15, and Tianyi Guo, a graduate student in KSU’s Chemical Physics Interdisciplinary Program in the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute (AMLCI). The project, funded by a grant from the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine, was overseen by Peter
Palffy-Muhoray, PhD, and Hiroshi Yokoyama, PhD (both in the AMLCI) and Vincent Hetherington, DPM, senior associate dean and professor in the College of Podiatric Medicine.

The team took the top prize at the Burton D. Morgan Foundation’s LaunchTown Soar competition, which focuses on high-tech college student businesses and was held at Baldwin Wallace University in April. Their winnings ($7,000) will allow them to further develop the device.

“They conducted interviews with 18 podiatrists, and the judges were impressed that the inventors had actually spoken with potential customers,” says Stephen Roberts, director of KSU’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Research Finance. “This is a great example of the value of getting out of the lab and talking to end users.”

Unlike direct forces, created when the foot comes straight down, shear force pushes one part of the body in one direction and another part in the opposite direction. Recent studies suggest shear forces may play a significant role in ulcer development, but the question was how to effectively measure shear?

“This is a great example of the value of getting out of the lab and talking to end users.”

Image of Pediatric device

The answer, Pevnyi and Guo found, was to convert shear stresses to more easily measurable local pressures. The device’s platform (about the size of a large computer keyboard) is made mostly of pyramid-shaped pressure plates that were 3D printed in Palffy-Muhoray’s lab, with a pivot plate on top, and electrodes and a microprocessor for data collection beneath. The data is automatically uploaded to a website for instant access and monitoring.

Guo worked on the 3D printing and layout while Pevnyi did the electrical and software development. AMLCI engineer Merrill Groom contributed to the IC chip design and assembly. Hetherington says the next steps include improvements of the prototype and clinical testing, followed by use of the technology as a medical analysis tool. Future goals include developing a device for in-shoe application.

The KSU Patent Board has recently approved the device for federal patent application, and funding to continue development is currently being sought.

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POSTED: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 02:02 PM
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2019 03:54 PM
Dan Pompili