A magnetic, noninvasive medical device could help children who suffer from scoliosis avoid the need for repeat surgeries to adjust their spines.
The spinal fixation system from Akron, Ohio-based Apto Orthopaedics is still in its early stages of development, and is several years away from reaching the market in the best-case scenario.
Nonetheless, the device represents hope for children who suffer from scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. As children afflicted with scoliosis grow, they can require surgery as often as every six months to adjust the rods and screws that hold their spines in alignment, according to Dr. Steve Fening, co-founder and chief technology officer with Apto.
“If you were a child, imagine every six months having to go through spine surgery,” Fening said.
The surgery to adjust a child’s spinal screws and rods isn’t particularly complex, but it does require rehabilitation and brings with it the risk of infection.
Apto’s device could represent an improvement because it uses magnets outside of a patient’s body to turn and loosen spinal screws. The rods in the growing child’s spine could then be lengthened via traction, Apto’s thinking goes.
Children with scoliosis typically require the repeated spinal adjustment surgeries between the ages of 6 to 12 years old, Fening said.
Apto has developed a prototype of the device and is currently engaged in bench testing, such as measuring the variation in angles and distance that would be required to magnetically adjust the screws.
The next step in development involves beginning animal testing. Apto is also applying for about $1.6 million in nondilutive federal grants that would go toward further developing the technology.
Apto is the first company to be spun out of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA), a biomedical business development group.
The ABIA was formed in 2008 as a result of the collaboration among several Akron institutions: Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Summa Health System, The University of Akron and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
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