There’s always something going on in the world of lymphedema and lymphatic research! It can be a lot to keep up with, so here’s a digest of some of the latest headlines from the past month carefully curated to keep you in the lymphie loop.

“Florida Tech Project Takes Top Prize at Statewide Senior Design Showcase”

A group of biomedical engineering students designed a pneumatic compression device, earning them the People’s Choice Award at the second annual Florida-Wide Engineering Senior Design Invitational Spring 2019.Their project — called “Nixus” — is described as easy to put on and able to be worn continuously; it uses nickel-titanium actuators and nylon bands to create sequential compression from the ankle to knee to help facilitate lymphatic drainage. “Pressure sensors are placed between the device and the patient’s leg to ensure therapeutic and safe pressures,” according to the project description.

A few weeks earlier at the Northrop Grumman Engineering & Science Student Design Showcase, the Nixus team won the Northrup Grumman Best in Show Award for engineering and the Entrepreneurial Award, as well as the category award in Biomedical Engineering.

Congratulations to students Thomas Ward, Ariana Eichler, Samantha Schultz, and Daniel Mastellar for a job well done!


“A smart watch for lymphoedema management”

Remember Dicronis, mentioned in the February Research Roundup? The spin-off of ETH Zürich developed a device called “Lymphit” to aid in the early diagnosis of lymphedema.

The device itself is a tiny, transdermal patch of dissolving microneedles; the microneedles are long enough to penetrate the skin but short enough to avoid contact with dermal nerves. Once the microneedles dissolve and release a fluorescent dye, the patch is removed and an intelligent armband is applied and worn for about six hours. The armband monitors the uptake of the dye in the lymph vessels and transmits the data to the physician.

The Lymphit device can detect malfunction of the lymphatic system before any visible swelling develops, making it a promising diagnostic tool. It can also be useful for patients already undergoing treatment, as it allows doctors to monitor lymphatic function and determine whether the current treatment is successful or needs to be adjusted.

The entrepreneurs behind the concept — Laura Jabinet, Jovan Jancev, and Patrizia Marschalkova — are among the top three finalists for the Pionierpreis (Pioneer Prize), awarded by Zürcher Kantonalbank. They stand to win around 100,000 Swiss francs, which would be a huge assist as the team prepares to raise funds for clinical trials for Lymphit.

The team have won various awards for Lymphit already — here’s to hoping they win this one, too!


“Shoes for Lymphedema Patients Take Top Prize at EPICS in IEEE Challenge”

Twin sisters Cami and Nina Tran won first place in the 2018 EPICS in IEEE Challenge for their proposal to design 3D-printed shoes for people with lymphedema. The high school students received $6,500 to develop their project, and each was given a $2,000 college scholarship.

The sisters conducted research at Rome Memorial Hospital, talking with patients, doctors, nurses, and physical therapists to get a better understanding of lymphedema and the patients’ footwear needs. Their solution is to use a 3D printer to make stretchable shoes from elastic materials, likely including Velcro straps at the back of each shoe so that the wearer can adjust the shoe to accommodate changes in swelling throughout the day.

Cami and Nina plan to make prototypes in different sizes for the Rome Memorial patients. Congratulations and good luck, ladies!


“LIMPRINT: The UK Experience—Subjective Control of Swelling in Patients Attending Specialist Lymphedema Services”

A recently published study in the United Kingdom highlights the complexity of patients with lymphedema and the challenges associated with controlling chronic edema within specialist services due to sociodemographic and clinical comorbidities.

The findings were published in an open-access special issue of Lymphatic Research and Biology, a peer-reviewed online journal from Mary Anne Liebert, Inc., publishers. The accessibility of this data is “groundbreaking and should provide a much-needed paradigm shift,” says Stanley G. Rockson, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Lymphatic Research and Biology and Allan and Tina Neill Professor of Lymphatic Research and Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA.

“The nearly universal neglect of lymphedema has been both paradoxical and frustrating to patients and health care providers alike,” Rockson continues. “As the Editor-in- Chief, I am proud to have our journal serve as the publication medium for this important work.”


“Scientists Advance Creation of ‘Artificial Lymph Node’ to Fight Cancer, Other Diseases”

This isn’t necessarily lymphedema-related news, but it’s exciting lymphatic research news nonetheless.

In a proof-of-principle study in mice, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine report the creation of a specialized gel that acts like a lymph node to successfully activate and multiply cancer-fighting immune system T-cells.

Per the news release: “We believe that a T-cell’s environment is very important. Biology doesn’t occur on plastic dishes; it happens in tissues,” says John Hickey, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and first author of the study report.

See the T-cells interacting with the transparent gel:


“Surgeons master new techniques in AIMS”

Surgical treatment of lymphedema will soon be available to patients in India as surgeons gather at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences & Research Center to train in microsurgical techniques.

As is largely the global practice, the surgeons are trained first on live animals. There are very few animal labs in India where surgeons can practice new techniques on live animals before practicing on humans; AIMS is one of the leading animal lab research stations in the country, complete with magnetic resonance imaging, a catheterization laboratory, and micro–computed tomography.

The article quotes Dr. Subramania Iyer, head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at AIMS: “Surgeons are well-trained in cutting and suturing. So far, they used big instruments, but super microvascular surgery is very miniature. To move from a gross surgery to microsurgery is virtually impossible and needs training. Practicing the same on animals before doing it on human beings gives it a real feeling and ensures precision. The emphasis is on learning a new technique.”

The Amrita Institute was the first to offer training in robotic surgery to surgeons in 2016; now, they offer laparoscopic and super microvascular surgery techniques at their state-of-the-art lab.

Dr. K. P. Sreekumar, PhD coordinator of Central Animal Facility at the Institute, tells The Times of India: “We have all the necessary permissions from the government of India for animal research and training procedure. We ensure that every animal right is protected and welfare measures are maintained by following the ethical rules.”


Lymphatic filariasis news

Lymphatic filariasis (commonly known as elephantiasis) is a neglected tropical disease caused by parasitic infection to the lymphatic system. It is the leading cause of lymphedema worldwide: of the over 120 million people infected, 40 million are incapacitated or disfigured by the disease.

“A Tale of Two Parasites: How Loiasis Complicates Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Efforts in Central Africa”

Elimination of lymphatic filariasis has lagged in Africa, due in part to a related parasitic infection called loiasis. A lab at Washington University in St. Louis is working to improve diagnostic tests for both.


“How Kenya’s Fight Against Elephantiasis is Becoming a Blueprint for Africa and the World”

Dr. Sultani Hadley Matendechero, head of the Kenyan Ministry of Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Unit, says the new triple drug therapy treatment for lymphatic filariasis is not just about science: “It is about what is possible with innovative thinking, international collaboration, and willingness to keep pushing forward.”


“Podo: The invisible tragedy”

Unlike the most common form of elephantiasis, Podoconiosis is not caused by injection of filarial worm larvae by a feeding mosquito host. Rather, it is caused by barefoot farming on certain types of ancient, red volcanic soil.

The lymphatic system in the feet and lower legs absorbs this soil and, effectively, commits slow suicide. Years of self-harm to the lymphatics in the legs and feet eventually results in full-blown elephantiasis and fibrosis. Those afflicted are often exiled to a life of shame, hopelessness, and pain.

PODO, a portrait series by photographer Matthew Joseph, spotlights the people living with podo in remote Southern Ethiopia in an attempt to bring awareness to the invisible tragedy. Be sure to check it out if you’re in London!


Compressed news

In Memoriam

This month, the lymphedema world lost an incredible advocate: Elaine Eigeman.

Elaine was Board Chair of the Lymphedema Advocacy Group and a driving force behind the Lymphedema Treatment Act. She lived with lymphedema for twenty years, having developed it as a result of bilateral breast cancer treatments in 1999.

Please take a moment to read her legacy letter, which she wrote before her passing. You can also continue her efforts by contributing to her fundraiser supporting the Lymphedema Treatment Act.

Here’s a delightful video of Elaine, surrounded by fellow advocates and friends, receiving special recognition at the Lymphedema Lobby Days 2018:

Rest in Peace, Elaine — you mean so much to so many. Thank you for all you have done for our community 💙

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