Dayton innovators: Men search for a medical breakthrough for children

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Dayton innovators often work behind the scenes.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Editors note: We’re introducing you to Dayton-area innovators and patent-holders, those who roll up their sleeves and demonstrate that the region remains a cradle of creativity.

Tyson Ross, an electrical engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and Casel Burnett, a Miamisburg native who now works as a general manager for Toyota in Kentucky, have been engaged in “a labor of love” since 2008.

That labor has resulted in a pair of patents, a new company that doesn’t yet have offices — and the promise of what the two men hope will be a medical breakthrough to help children afflicted with scoliosis.

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Scoliosis imposes a curvature of the spine. Children who suffer the condition can require surgeries to adjust “growing rods” which are placed along their spines as they grow, as often as twice a year.

The surgeries can happen from ages eight to 18, costing an average of $250,000 each, Ross said.

“It’s very traumatic to the body to have to go through so many surgeries through a lifetime of treatment,” Ross said.

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Burnett’s daughter once faced the prospect of the condition, although she was able to avoid the worst.

That was when Ross and Burnett put their heads together.

“I said, ‘You know, you’re a mechanical engineer; I’m an electrical engineer. Let’s do something to fix this,’” Ross recalled. “We were both in tears.”

They white-boarded a concept and came up with a design for an “automated growing rod.” With wireless control, the rod attached to the spine can be remotely contracted or expanded as needed.

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“Quite literally, we can send some commands all the way around the world if necessary,” Ross said.

With that control, rods can correct deformities without making surgery necessary, although minimally invasive surgery can allow the rods to be manually adjusted, Ross said.

West Carrollton medical devices manufacturer NuVasive makes what Ross and Burnett see as a competing product.

But the men believe their self-contained rod can be used in more areas of the market, for internal or even external fixation needs.

“The key differentiators on our equipment: It’s programmable and intelligent,” Ross said.

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