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Dr Sloan Kulper — A Gentler Solution for Elderly Fractured Bones | 古思融博士 — 長者骨折 溫柔修復

Dr Sloan Kulper, a CEO of Lifespan Ltd, smiles at the camera while sitting in a mini lecture room

(中文版見於下方)

Elderly patients are susceptible to falls that can result in fractures to the hip, shoulder and spine, especially if they have osteoporosis. The conventional treatment has been to fuse the bones together with rigid metal implants, but these tend to break through elderly bone after surgery, resulting in failure rates as high as 25 per cent. New technology developed by Dr Sloan Kulper — CEO of the LKS Faculty of Medicine spinoff company Lifespans Ltd — and his colleagues from the Department of Orthopaedics & Traumatology offers a gentler, more effective way to treat elderly bones.

They have developed the world’s first soft, elastic implant tip technology, a discovery that happened quite by accident. During a test on elderly bone tissue, a piece of biocompatible rubber fell into the hole they were drilling and showed very good results.

“From that accident, we began to look at how ‘soft implants’ could cushion the softer bone tissue of patients with osteoporosis,” Dr Kulper said.

The implant they developed uses a biocompatible polymeric material to create a cushion between the rigid implant and bone. It was found to stay in place better than conventional implants — in pre-clinical testing, “migration” of the implant was 25 per cent lower than rigid implants.

Dr. Kulper from HKUMed’s Lifespan Ltd holds a orthopaedic screw thread in his hands

The team has also optimised the design of the orthopaedic screw thread so it better matches the biomechanical properties of bone, based on the PhD thesis work of Dr Feng Xiaoreng at HKUMed.

Dr Kulper, who received his PhD (Biomedical Engineering) from HKUMed, co-founded the start-up Lifespans Ltd in 2018 with HKU colleagues. A hip implant based on their soft tip technology is undergoing the final stages of US FDA 510(k) testing. Lifespans has also worked with the Faculty of Engineering to develop the world’s first realistic simulation system for bone tissue.

Biography

Dr Sloan Kulper, CEO of Lifespans Ltd, received a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an MFA (industrial design) from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a PhD (biomedical engineering) from the Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, HKUMed. He is an American engineer with deep ties to the Silicon Valley startup community. A
serial entrepreneur and inventor with multiple international patents, he has built successful startups in four countries and raised millions of US dollars in grants and seed funding across multiple ventures.

(This article was originally published in Medical Faculty News)

老人容易跌倒,尤其是患有骨質疏鬆症的病人跌倒後,可致臀部、肩膊和脊柱骨折。傳統的治療方法是利用硬性金屬植入物固定骨折部分,但手術後往往較易刺穿骨骼,令失敗率高達25%。由港大醫學院衍生的初創公司Lifespans Ltd行政總裁古思融博士(Dr Sloan Kulper)以及其矯形及創傷外科學系的伙伴研發的新技術,可以為長者的骨骼手術提供更柔軟的物料,達致更有效的治療效果。

這項骨骼植入技術是團隊在一次意外的情況下研發的,當時他們正對長者的骨組織進行試驗,期間有一塊可與生物相容的橡膠掉進正在鑽孔的骨洞中,而手術後的結果非常理想。這項研究也是世界上首個使用柔軟且具彈性植入物的技術。

古思融博士說:「從那次意外開始,我們便著手研究『軟性植入物』如何緩衝及保護骨質疏鬆症患者較軟的骨組織。」

團隊研發的植入物是生物相容的聚合物,能在硬性植入物與骨骼之間形成緩衝墊,與傳統植入物比較,更穩固及不容易移位。臨床前測試顯示,新植入物移位的機率比硬性植入物低25%。

團隊又以港大醫學院畢業生馮小仍的博士論文為基礎,發展並改善骨螺釘的設計,可以更好地與骨骼的生物力學性能接合。

古思融博士是港大醫學院的生物醫學工程博士畢業生,於2018年與港大醫學院的團隊共同創立了初創公司Lifespans Ltd。團隊以橡膠製成的尖端植入物科技研發的一種髖關節植入物,目前在美國食品藥品管理局進行510(k)最後註冊審批階段。Lifespans亦與港大工程學院合作,研發世界首個與骨骼組織有關的模擬系統。

簡歷

Lifespans Ltd行政總裁古思融博士是美國麻省理工學院理學學士、羅德島設計學院藝術(工業設計)碩士和港大醫學院生物醫學工程博士。他以美國工程師的身份,與矽谷創業圈有很深厚的連繫。古思融博士創始多家企業,也在多項發明上取得國際專利;他在不同行業的種子基金和其他機構籌集數百萬美元的資金,成功在四個國家開設初創公司。

(原文刊登於港大醫學院 Medical Faculty News)

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