Scientist Creates Cheap, Effective Medical Tools From Old Toys (Video) : TreeHugger

toys for medicine photo
Image via video screengrab

Old toys rarely get a second chance for a new life. Most of them head to landfill without a second glance. But Jose Gomez-Marquez of MIT has come up with a way to hack old toys into medical devices for dealing with everything from diabetes to dengue fever, providing cheap solutions for developing nations all while reusing existing products.

CNET reports, “By taking everyday items like Legos and bike pumps and turning them into replacements for expensive medical devices, [Gomez-Marquez is] attempting to save lives on the cheap.”

“Most of the devices that get donated to developing countries fail because they were not designed to be used in these environments,” Gomez-Marquez said during a visit to CNET this week to show some of his creations. “We need to make the Land Rover version of medical devices for these countries. Right now we are sending the Ferrari versions and they fail.”

What Gomez-Marquez and his team are coming up with is nothing short of amazing. He’s developed a bike pump-powered nebulizer for asthma patients, and a printer that can diagnose diseases which can then be uploaded to a central database via mobile phone to track the spread of infectious disease. They’ve also developed a lab-on-a-chip created using Lego bricks as molds, reducing the cost from needing materials made on a $500,000 machine to materials that run about $10.

Being able to hook an old bike pump up to power a device that will bring relief to those suffering with asthma or diagnose a disease with a printout from an old inkjet — it is upcycling and reuse at its very, very best.

The ingenuity doesn’t stop with his work at MIT as program director for MIT’s Innovations in International Health initiative. The program wants to train other medical professionals to use the creative half of their brain and hack devices with ordinary objects they find around them.

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