Showcasing the research excellence of De La Salle University (DLSU) students through their research project DALOY, five BS Manufacturing Engineering and Management (MEM) graduates were able to bag first place in the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ (SME) Innovation Competition held last October 12 in the SMX Convention Center.
Madon Arcega (BS-MEM, ‘18), Tristan Limchesing (BS-MEM, ‘18), Joshua Manalili (BS-MEM, ‘18), Samantha Rice (BS-MEM, ‘18), and Marie Tuason (BS-MEM, ‘18), together with their research adviser and MEM Department Chair Dr. Nilo Bugtai were able to present their award-winning liver transplant prototype that also received a Gold Thesis Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Thesis from the University.
Arcega and Manalili both state that a problem with the Philippines’ current organ preservation technique is that it is only able to conserve an organ for about six to eight hours. This is because once the organ is extracted, it is only stored in ice or kept in a cold environment. Another problem they mention is the possibility of donors being too far away from the organ’s recipient, highlighting that complications may occur during the organ’s transfer if too much time elapses before the recipient receives the transplant. This is where DALOY comes in.
DALOY’s process utilizes the concept of normothermic perfusion, a method that simulates the inner environment of a human body, essentially tricking the donated liver into functioning as if it was still inside a person. One of the main goals of the researchers was to make sure that it is preserved longer than the current methods available. Arcega contrasts the two different methods, boasting that their innovative technique could keep the organ fresh for “up to 12 to 16 hours.”
The machine also comes with a monitoring system that is able to show real-time data, such as the acidity level of the liquid used to preserve the liver and the internal temperature of the machine.
Developing the product
The researchers were tasked with conceptualizing an idea that not only had to be new to the market, but also simple enough for students to make. “When we were formulating our topic, we already established [that] we wanted something that would have a great social impact, and not just for the sake [of completing] thesis,” Tuason explains.
“We had a couple of ideas at first and we were trying to pick between which one would be the best to go for,” Manalili recalls. Brainstorming ideas, they needed a moment of inspiration.
That moment came in the form of a Facebook video. Presented by one of their fellow researchers, Rice shared a video of a heart transplant machine, which set the group’s work in motion as they had begun brainstorming on a similar instrument but re-purposed for a different organ.
Skeptical at first, the group researched on the concept of their topic. “We presented [our idea] to my sister, who was a fourth year medical student that time, for consultations. She said it’s good and has a lot of potential, but she suggested why not liver para mas madali on our part,” Tuason narrates. She continues to explain that the liver has less vessels to work on than the other proposed organs, which would make the construction of the machine easier.
Adjusting to limitations
Facing factors such as scheduling conflicts, the research team devised a specific division of labor in developing the prototype. Each member focused on the purchasing, maintenance, and integration for each specific part of the machine.
Although the group was disconnected, the scheduling conflict proved to be a benefit as well. Tuason clarifies, “this is because if we need someone to represent our group at a certain time, there’s always someone that’s free to do it.”
On the group’s work regiment, Tuason explains that “[Although] we’re specialized, we [still] consult each other and do weekly updates.” Aside from working on it during their free time, they were also able to consult one another and provide assistance when needed, she cites. For the division of labor in writing their thesis, Manalili elaborates that each member was given the freedom to choose which part of the thesis they wanted to tackle. “We trusted [each other] to do the work because we know na kaya naman nila,” he states.
The project also had to sacrifice the actual liver testing and integration of medical-grade equipment. As Tuason reasons, “It was not part of our scope, and most of our components are not medical-grade, since our focus is the ability of the machine to maintain parameters. In that way, even if we replace the parts with medical grade equipment, it’s easily adaptable.”
Needing only the machine’s regulating and monitoring systems to work, the researchers were able to cut down their initial projected cost of P200,000 to a manageable range of P40,000 to P60,000.
Bringing home the bacon
The researchers’ efforts paid off in the end when they managed to acquire gold thesis nod, apart from the aforementioned research stint. “Winning the SME Competition was more of a learning experience for us rather than a contest,” Tuason shares. She explains that during the competition, they were visited by potential partners from the industry that could offer their services in helping the research team reach their future goals for the prototype.
On being able to win over the SME judges, Arcega adds that “I think it’s helpful that our professors and our panelists were able to train us in answering those kind of questions [the SME judges asked]. Since we [had multiple] defenses, we were to able to respond to their questions.”
Tuason furthers that a unique factor of their prototype was its incorporation of biological concepts. Along with that statement, she clarifies that the team made sure they focused on the significance and impact of the study, and continues, “[We] think na kahit gaano ka complex yung machine mo, if it doesn’t have an impact to society, useless lang rin siya.”
([We] focused on the significance and impact of the study because we think that no matter how complex your machine is, if it doesn’t have an impact to society, then it’s useless.)
The gold thesis title, on the other hand, was a different experience, according to Tuason. “This is where you’ll apply all the concepts and skills you learned for the past five years, and getting that gold just means you’re one step closer in making an impact to society,” she highlights.