Scientists at the University of Missouri–St Louis and the University of Kentucky have developed a device to help protect premature infants from the toxic effects of aluminum in their intravenous feeding solutions. A small filter removes the metal by chelation. This technology could be in hospitals as early as 2010.
More than 12 percent of births in the United States are preterm, with most of those infants requiring intravenous feeding, called total parenternal nutrition, or TPN. Aluminum is commonly found in these TPN solutions, and can damage the skeletal system, brain and bone marrow. The federal Food and Drug Administration recognizes the problem of aluminum toxicity associated with TPN solutions. In 2004, the FDA began requiring parenterals used to prepare the solutions to contain less than 25 μg/L. However, manufacturers have difficulty meeting this requirement.
Chris Spilling and Wesley Harris at UMSL, and colleagues at the University of Kentucky, founded a private firm, ALKYMOS, to develop and market their technology. The venture has produced two patent applications. Spilling and Harris won the 2009 University of Missouri System-Wide Faculty Entrepreneur of the Year Award for their work. The award honors UM faculty members for entrepreneurial innovation that demonstrates commercial utility, contributes to the public welfare, and brings visibility to the University of Missouri. The award carries a stipend of $15,000.