Researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-San Francisco in the US have partnered to drive development of new medical devices for children. The initiative will be supported by the UCSF-Stanford Paediatric Device Consortium.

A team of the researchers are currently developing a device to facilitate the non-surgical closure of feeding tube sites in children. Feeding tubes are generally used in children on a temporary basis but can result in leakages in the abdomen upon removal.

A separate team is working to create a monitoring system for babies with reflux, which is a common issue but can develop into a pathological condition. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is the long-term form, which causes stomach contents to rise up and irritate the oesophagus. Babies with underlying medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy, may need to be treated for GORD by having the ring of muscle at the bottom of their oesophagus tightened.

“It’s very hard to know who they are because we don’t have diagnostic tools that are the right size, or data about the physiology of infants to determine when reflux will become a problem,” said surgery assistant professor James Wall from Stanford University.

The US FDA have approved certain devices to diagnose pathological reflux in adults but fewer in babies and children. This shortage can be problematic when adult-sized devices do not fit paediatrics or in cases of paediatric-specific diseases.

Supported by the FDA, the Paediatric Device Consortium focuses on driving innovation in paediatric space, offering funding support, feedback and mentoring to developers. As part of the latest collaboration, the consortium will leverage UCSF’s expertise in paediatric device design and Stanford’s bio design process capabilities.

This is an area likely to see a significant amount of future funding. In September last year, the FDA awarded five grants to support the development, production and distribution of paediatric medical devices.