Eric M. Bershad, M.D., is assistant professor of neurology and Center for Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine/CHI St. Luke’s Health-Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Q | What would you consider to be your most successful innovation?
A | I am creating a bridge between multiple disciplines for clinical validation of novel biomedical technologies for space and earth medicine. Currently, I am helping to validate a new technology for measuring the intracranial pressure (pressure inside the skull) using non-invasive ultrasound energy.
Q | What spurred this innovation?
A | Recently, NASA scientists have determined that a majority of the astronauts on long-duration missions are developing visual changes that may be related to elevated pressure within the skull. Measurement of the intracranial pressure in outer space is crucial for understanding this condition, but currently the only way to measure the brain pressure is by placing an invasive catheter through the skull. As a neurointensivist, I understand the importance of developing a non-invasive method for measuring the intracranial pressure not only for understanding the astronauts’ condition, but also for many patients with neurological injuries on earth who may have traumatic brain injury, stroke or brain hemorrhage. After an extensive review of existing non-invasive ICP technologies, I identified the Vittamed ICP device as a promising technology that needed further evaluation. I then established an international collaboration with the Kaunas Institute of Technology, Kaunas, and also applied for grant funding from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute to clinically validate this device for possible use on the International Space Station.
Q | What are the unique benefits of that innovation that make it a valuable solution?
A | The Vittamed ICP device is unique in that it uses low-energy ultrasound to measure the intracranial pressure by comparing two different segments of the ophthalmic (eye) artery. As part of this artery runs inside the skull, the ICP will affect the flow in this part of the artery, which can be compared with the extracranial (outside of skull) eye artery segment to give an absolute measurement of ICP. Currently, the only clinically accurate way to measure ICP is by placing an invasive catheter through the skull. Since millions of people each year require ICP measurement to help prevent irreversible brain damage after traumatic brain injury, stroke, hydrocephalus and brain hemorrhage, a safe and easy way to assess the ICP would revolutionize the care of these patients.
Q | What resources were helpful to you when you were first starting out?
A | Given the complexities of developing a framework for international collaboration involving multiple institutions in Lithuania and the United States, including Kaunas Institute of Technology, NASA, National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Baylor College of Medicine and CHI St. Luke’s Health-Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, it was essential to involve a number of experts in various fields including medicine, engineering and law. Establishing a good rapport, as well as frequent and clear communication was important to gaining momentum in the project.
Q | What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs or innovators?
A | The key to successful translation of an idea to reality is to assemble a multidisciplinary team of experts from diverse backgrounds who are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and can learn from each other. When developing a novel approach to medical technologies or innovation, the innovator should understand his/her own limitations and call upon other experts to fill in the gaps. The innovator should develop the overall goals and concepts and make sure the ship is heading in the right direction. Flexibility in the approach and continuous reassessment of the situation is important to avoid heading down the wrong path. Persistence, motivation and enthusiasm are the driving forces for success.
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