Physiotherapists from University College London (UCL) in the UK are working with Microsoft to develop partially 3D printed tools for children with cystic fibrosis (CF) a hereditary disorder that affects the exocrine glands, causing thick and obstructive mucus. The tools form part of a computer-game-style strategy help young CF sufferers increase their breathing capacity.
There is currently no known cure for the condition; however, there are certain techniques and practices for mitigating the negative effects of CF for patients. Airway clearance techniques (ACTs), for example, are practiced by patients in order to loosen thick, sticky mucus so that it can be cleared from the lungs by coughing. There are even special devices that patients can use to encourage the draining of the mucus.
The “Fizzyo project” encourages young people suffering from the condition to effectively carry out the practice with fun incentives. The project, which makes use of 3D printing and other modern technologies, takes conventional airway clearance devices and inserts a wireless chipped electronic sensor into the mouthpiece. As the user of the device exhales, the sensor sends electronic signals that function as input signals for a computer game being displayed on a tablet.
“I started creating a sensor which attaches to a traditional physiotherapy device and turns the children’s breath into controls for a video game,” Zhang told attendees at Createch. “It’s a sensor that uses existing equipment and allows you to play video games in the day-to-day treatment. From a prototype, we were able to turn this into self-contained devices that the kids can use day in day out with their treatment.”
Sarah Rand, a senior teaching fellow and research fellow at UCL, believes the breathing device could help CF researchers understand more about the condition—particularly regarding how much the practice of airway clearance actually helps CF patients
Benedict. “3D Printed Device ‘gamifies’ Airway Clearing Exercises for Young Cystic Fibrosis Patients.” 3ders.org. N.p., 23 June 2017. Web. 26 June 2017.