Researchers from Stanford University and the University of California-San Francisco in the US have partnered to boost the development of new medical devices for children.

The initiative will be supported by the UCSF-Stanford Pediatric Device Consortium.

Currently, a team of the researchers is 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.

“Data shows that fewer medical devices are approved specifically for babies and children.”

A separate team is working to create a monitoring system for babies with reflux, which is common but could develop into a pathological condition in some babies. Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a long-term form which causes stomach contents to rise up and irritate the oesophagus. Babies with serious underlying 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.

Stanford University surgery assistant professor James Wall said: “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.”

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved certain devices to diagnose pathological reflux in adults.

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Data shows that fewer medical devices are approved specifically for babies and children. This shortage could be a challenge when adult-sized devices do not fit paediatrics or in cases of paediatric-specific diseases that lack adult correlate.

Supported by the FDA, the Pediatric Device Consortium focuses on driving innovation in paediatric space. It offers funding support, feedback and mentoring to developers.

Under the latest collaboration, the consortium will leverage UCSF’s expertise in paediatric device design and Stanford’s biodesign process capabilities.

The FDA awarded five grants in September last year to support the development, production and distribution of paediatric medical devices.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Edwards.