Belly up: NYIT monitor is a gastric breakthrough

Reader, digest: A cutting-edge monitor developed by NYIT researchers (and friends) offers unprecedented understanding of "slow wave" gastrointestinal processes.

Two years after winning a lucrative federal grant to study the human gastric system, New York Institute of Technology assistant professor Aydin Farajidavar has put that money where the stomach is.

Farajidavar, who in 2015 earned a $457,000 National Institutes of Health grant to help fund development of an implant system to study the human body’s gastric functions, has come through, leading the way on the world’s first portable wireless device for documenting gastric contractions in patients suffering from gastroparesis.

Also known as “delayed gastric emptying,” gastroparesis is a potentially debilitating condition – more common in women than men – that affects as many as 5 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the NIH.

The disorder slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine – often because of damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the stomach muscles, though the precise cause of gastroparesis is not always known.

Leveraging that 2015 grant, Farajidavar, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at NYIT’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences in Old Westbury, led a team in a study titled “A Novel System and Methodology for Continuous Ambulatory Monitoring of Gastric Slow Waves.” Gastric slow waves originate in the proximal stomach and move toward the pylorus – essentially, they usher digested foodstuffs from the stomach into the small intestine.

Farajidavar’s federally funded research centers on a groundbreaking wireless device that offers unprecedented monitoring of gastric functions, allowing physicians to measure and better understand slow wave activity.

The work was selected as a “poster of distinction” by Digestive Disease Week, a Maryland-based organization that attracts hundreds of presenters and upwards of 14,000 physicians and researchers to its annual conventions, which are billed as the “world’s foremost GI event.” Digestive Disease Week 2017, where Farajidavar’s work was presented to gastroenterologists, hepatologists and various gastrointestinal surgeons, was held in April in Chicago.

The research, which parallels the developing science of bioelectronics and electric nerve stimulation, is part of an ongoing effort in NYIT’s Integrated Medical Systems Laboratory to develop devices that better diagnose gastrointestinal disorders and diseases.

Aydin Farajidavar: Go team.

“From an engineering perspective, we know that the wireless device works effectively,” Farajidavar said this week. “The system can help us to better understand the effect of electrical stimulation on gastric contractions and to examine a variety of hypotheses about the gastric activity.”

The system includes a portable module that wirelessly transmits data to computers that can display the information in real time and store it for future analysis. It was developed by Farajidavar and gastroenterologists Thomas Abell and Abigail Stocker from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, with the help of three NYIT graduate engineering students and a postdoctoral fellow.

The study involved patients at the UL medical school under the care of Abell and Stocker. Each patient received two temporary electrodes and leads via endoscopy prior to the implantation of a permanent gastric stimulator; one of the leads connected to the stimulator, the other connected to the portable recording system.

The physicians recorded slow waves in each patient before and after electric stimulation on multiple occasions, amassing a sizeable dataset filled with critical information regarding frequencies, amplitudes, wave shapes and other factors.

“It is significant that the monitoring of the gastric activity was captured over the course of several days, with patients in the trial utilizing portable devices,” Farajidavar noted. “Now that activity in the stomach can be measured objectively, this ultimately could revolutionize how some digestive diseases can be diagnosed and treated.”

More information on the study is available here.

Farajidavar, credited as the lead researcher of the project, called it a true team effort.

“This result could not have happened without the close collaboration between the NYIT engineering team and the University of Louisville physician team, and the patients who volunteered to participate in this study,” the NYIT researcher said. “I am privileged to have such hardworking students and a postdoctoral fellow in my lab.”

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