Professor granted patent for medical device

Posted November 04, 2014

Dr. Kenneth Olree, director of engineering at ACU, received a utility patent in September for a method of determining an optimal coil shape for use in magnetic stimulation. His invention can potentially provide relief from neurological disorders such as epilepsy, depression and cerebral palsy.

Olree, also an associate professor of engineering and physics, plans to use his device to stimulate or inhibit regions of the brain to develop a further understanding of how the brain and its neurons work. He says doctors and scientists are looking at magnetic stimulation as a way to block nerve impulses or help patients cope with pain.

“Magnetic stimulation is taking on more of a role in clinical medicine, as it’s been used to help prevent epileptic seizures,” says Olree. “It’s also been used for patients who suffer from depression and are no longer responding to medication.”

While magnetic stimulation has had difficulty achieving pinpoint accuracy in the past, Olree’s patented device determines how much of a pinpoint is needed and what specific shape is needed for the coil to stimulate certain areas of the brain. Olree says this kind of technology hasn’t been previously examined and can even stimulate neurons in the spinal cord.

Another notable advantage of magnetic stimulation is the lack of a need for surgical procedures, since the process is entirely external.

Olree says he’s excited about receiving his patent and hopes he can pave the way for ACU students to continue the school’s tradition of innovation.

“I think this will help ACU students because I’m quite certain we have students that have good ideas and are able to develop something new they’ve invented, and protecting that is going to be very valuable,” he says.

Olree began working toward the patent in 1998 with the lab research he conducted as a graduate student. Dr. Ken Horch, professor emeritus at the University of Utah, was Olree’s advisor and is a co-inventor of the patent.

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