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Scientists Build Neonatal Incubator From Car Parts

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the band-aid-and-a-dead-bee dept.

Earth 211

Peace Corps Online writes "The NYTimes ran a story this week about a group of scientists who have built a neonatal incubator out of automobile parts, including a pair of headlights as a heat source, a car door alarm to signal emergencies, and an auto air filter and fan to provide climate control. The creators of the car-parts incubator say that an incubator found in any neonatal intensive care unit in the US could cost around $40,000, but the incubator they have developed can be built for less than $1,000. One expert says as many as 1.8 million infants might be spared every year if they could spend just a week in the units, which help babies who are born early or at low birth weights regulate their body temperature until their organs fully develop. Experts say in developing countries where infant mortality is most common, high-tech machines donated by richer nations often conk out when the electricity fizzles or is restricted to conserve power. 'The future medical technologists in the developing world,' says Robert Malkin, director of Engineering World Health, 'are the current car mechanics, HVAC repairmen, bicycle shop repairmen. There is no other good source of technology-savvy individuals to take up the future of medical device repair and maintenance.'"

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211 comments

but (0, Troll)

weirdo557 (959623) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197637)

cars are pretty expensive, unless there is a huge supply of broken cars i cant see this panning out.

Re:but (4, Informative)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197701)

Thats sarcasm right?... cause, you know with stuff like...

Police have seized more than 25,000 cars in Greater Manchester since new powers to tackle rogue drivers were introduced last year.
More than 10,000 have been crushed. [manchester...news.co.uk]

And thats in "Greater" Manchester alone, which is about 3 million people or so... and that doesnt include just normally scrapped vehicles, or accidents.

Calculate that for various other locations in the world.

Re:but (0)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197809)

Ok cars are expensive outside of the Nanny State then. Here in Amerikkka you can't just take people's cars for speeding or reckless driving.

Re:but (5, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197945)

I dont see what that has to do with it, do a search for "american junkyard" or "african scrapyard", etc, etc.

There are millions of cars just sitting around all over the world, and stuff like air-conditioning has been around since the 1950's or so, headlights for even longer, etc.

It's not like we need to create an incubator for every baby born or anything either, there's what, 20,000 or so cities in the US? say, 2 incubators per city, thats 40,000, easily do-able, and a savings of about $1,560,000,000 (provided all 40,000 cities needed new incubators, lol)

Everett's Auto Parts [yardquest.com] ... Everett's recycles over 10,000 cars a year and has more than a thousand cars in stock for you to find just the parts you need. You can even ask us to find those parts for you!...

That single junkyard could do it in about 16 years or so (given that not all vehicles have air-con, working lights, etc), nevermind the other hundreds maybe thousands of other salvage and junkyards in the US, nevermind elsewhere in the world...

You get the idea.

Honestly, i dont really give a damn about the incubators, but the point is its a worthwhile recycling program, plus it uses a relatively small amount of the vehicles, leaving a large amount of other parts that could (should) be used for other things.

OLPC Redux? (1)

shungi (977531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198093)

Why not have an OLPC like effort. With the salvage parts, we might even get this one down to $100.

Re:but (1, Insightful)

Henkc (991475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199133)

Honestly, i dont really give a damn about the incubators...

Nice one. You're obviously not a parent...

Re:but (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197957)

Here in Amerikkka you can't just take people's cars for speeding or reckless driving

OK. Drug possession on the other hand...

Re:but (2, Informative)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198045)

Ok cars are expensive outside of the Nanny State then. Here in Amerikkka you can't just take people's cars for speeding or reckless driving.

Here in the Nanny State we have a lot less road deaths.

Most seized cars were uninsured. If you pay the fines you can get the car back, but if you've been banned from driving for a year or two for driving uninsured and your car wasn't worth much anyway it might not be worth it.

Re:but (1)

Ortega-Starfire (930563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198053)

But we have more than enough junk car yards. Trust me, you could get the parts needed for cheap. It's the fully functioning new cars that cost money (and even those are pretty cheap right now, thank you Mr. Bush)

Re:but (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199071)

Here in Amerikkka you can't just take people's cars for speeding or reckless driving.

You can't just take them in the UK either.

Re:but (3, Interesting)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197717)

Ever been to a junk yard? I have many times. In fact, you can even do it online.

http://www.pickyourpart.com/ [pickyourpart.com]

Re:but (1, Troll)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197815)

cars are pretty expensive, unless there is a huge supply of broken cars i cant see this panning out.

And a huge care package for extra babies. Call me cold-hearted, but there is a reason that those babies are not surviving. Now that they will survive, there will be even more mouths on each gram of scarce food and more congestion.

1) Save third world babies
2) Have a food crisis
3) Have a population crisis
4) Have a disease crisis
5) ???
6) They die anyway.

Re:but (2, Interesting)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197981)

No cold-hearted, just Malthusian. There is talk about how technology has stunted human evolution. Technology has also vastly increased the Earth's ability to support human life far beyond what it would be capable otherwise. I'm still kinda riding the fence on the Neo-Malthusian/Cornucopian debate.

Re:but (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198087)

I'm still kinda riding the fence on the Neo-Malthusian/Cornucopian debate.

Why? Here's a question. In the technologically advanced parts of the world, what is their birth rate, especially for people native to that region? Once you've answered that, you'll see why the neo-Malthusian view of the world is broken.

Re:but (3, Interesting)

quenda (644621) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198207)

Technology has also vastly increased the Earth's ability to support human life

Unfortunately, it's much worse than that. First, so long as countries have a high birth rate, any technological advance only delays (and magnifies) the coming Malthusian disaster.

Secondly, many of the technological advances are temporary, especially in 3rd world countries, as they depend on cheap oil for mechanisation, fertiliser and pesticides.

The current economic situation has given oil a small reprieve, but the shit will hit the fan some time. It might start with some "unexpected" coincidence of multiple factors: a drought here, a war there, a crop disease somewhere else.

N.America, Australia, Brazil etc suffer a little with reduced exports. China bids high for what remains. Africa starves first, with places like Indonesia and even India not so far behind.

And guess what? There is nothing we can do to stop it, short of mass involuntary sterilisation. Even if all the Americans go vegetarian, banning grain-fed beef and ethanol fuel, it only delays the problem a short time.

Birth rates are the time bomb, and China is the only third world county to be doing anything about it. Mass-starvation (millions of deaths!) is _very_ fresh in their minds.

You can argue over all the variables of crop yields, oil reserves, etc, and it only changes when, not if, mass global food shortages will come.

Re:but (3, Insightful)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198565)

First, so long as countries have a high birth rate, any technological advance only delays (and magnifies) the coming Malthusian disaster.

True, but when higher technology is actually available, the birth rate drops. This has held true for about 1/3 of the earths population across several cultures.

Secondly, many of the technological advances are temporary, especially in 3rd world countries, as they depend on cheap oil for mechanisation, fertiliser and pesticides.

Right, in the long run the only solution is to covert them into first world countries.

Re:but (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26199277)

> in the long run the only solution is to covert them into first world countries.

Does not work, they still have 3rd world mentalities. Go to any part of eurabia, every burka clad bitch has 5 brats in tow and another on the way.

Mean while the local population can't have children because they both have to work to keep a home and eat. Then there's taxes - which go to all the scrounging wogs so they'll keep voting for leftist pandering scum.

Re:but (2, Insightful)

ianare (1132971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198017)

There is a direct correlation between infant mortality and birth rate, across all living things. This is why reptiles or fish have so many offspring at once compared to mammals. In mammals, the parents protect and educate the young, ensuring lower mortality rates, and therefore don't need to produce as many offspring to have the same number of adults. Even within mammals, species that provide less maternal care will have more young more often (i.e. dogs, cats) compared to those that provide more (i.e. dolphins, apes).

Looking at our species the same law naturally applies, and its effects can be clearly seen. If you look at the countries with high birth rates [wikipedia.org] , you will see they are also the ones with high mortality rates [wikipedia.org] . In the short term there will be a population increase but in the long term it will stabilize. The initial increase can (and should) be reduced by providing contraceptives, legalizing abortion, teaching sexual education in schools, and minimizing the influence of religion (if it goes against the first 3). These are things that all modern societies have done, I don't see any reason why others would be unable to do so.

Try teaching sexual education in schools.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198083)

Perhaps in somewhere with a strong islamic culture, like say Nigeria.

Let us know how that works out for you.

I'd heard it was quite tough in the USA... (2, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199019)

I'd heard teaching birth control in countries with strong Christian cultures like the USA [duggarfamily.com] is tough is as well...

Re:I'd heard it was quite tough in the USA... (3, Insightful)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199167)

Furthermore - Christian cultures hamper usage of birth control in Africa, too. Rather than preventing ways to decrease infant mortality, I think the ethical way to contribute to population control is to stop religious fundamentalism from interfering with development aid. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/newsroom/press-releases/bush-administration-withholds-africa-22494.htm [plannedparenthood.org]

Re:but (3, Insightful)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198869)

Looking at our species the same law naturally applies...

The numbers work out the same, but I don't think it's due to that law. In nature, choosing an R-type (many and cheap) or K-type (few and expensive) reproductive strategy is something the occurs at a genetic level, and has to happen because resources are limited.

But since that balance is in the genes, you can 'break' that law by putting the creature in an unnatural situation. Bacteria in culture or rabbits in Australia can have low mortality and rapid reproduction, because they aren't being held back by predators or a lack of resources. Human beings are in a similar situation in the first world - we could easily have an average of eight children per female like in the third world and still have very low mortality - but we don't, so some other factor must be involved.

Re:but (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26199157)

When you're a rabbit in Australia, you have three choices. Eat, Sleep, Reproduce.

When you're a woman in a first world country, you have a few more choices. Some of these choices (career?) beat out the whole "vagina=clown car" system.

Re:but (3, Informative)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199301)

Thank you for the first reasonable post in this thread! (I know there are others to follow.) People who don't know any better can talk about birth rates all they want, but it's the infant mortality rate that tells the tale. Combine that with the number of otherwise healthy adults dying from diseases like HIV/AIDS and you have places in Africa where the few children remaining are being raised by their few remaining grandmothers because there aren't any parents left to do the job--or to put in the crops or otherwise bring in money and food.

For the past eight years, very capable American agencies have had their hands tied because they can't mention (for example) the fact that you can prevent the spread of HIV by the use of condoms or that you can space the births of your children by means of condoms or other birth control. I'm optimistic that all this is about to change with the new administration, but a lot of ground has been lost in eight years.

The other issue that hasn't been mentioned is that birth rates may be higher in rural, agrarian, or subsistence-level economies because it takes more people per family to make a living. Children, and large families of them, have been an asset across thousands of years. It's only in the past couple of hundred that this has changed.

Also, idly, I'd entertain thoughts of taking the "let the babies die" folks on a stroll through a neonatal intensive care unit and allowing them to choose which of the babies got to live and which had to die. That's because I also believe at some level that humans who haven't been conditioned or brutalized have a natural instinct to try to save any distressed human young that we happen to run across.

Dear God (4, Insightful)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198393)

...and this is modified +5? I hope you've elected to avoid any form of surgery or medical attention in your country should you need it, to be even-handed.
I fail to see how making incubators cheaper/more prevalent can be seen as anything other than a good thing. Following your line of logic it'd seem the logical extreme would be bombing continents for the good of the "civilised" western world...

Re:but (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198547)

cars are pretty expensive, unless there is a huge supply of broken cars i cant see this panning out.

I thought the point of using car parts is that they are cheap, easily available, and run on 12 volts (so the device can run without A/C, and be charged by another vehicle).

Re:but (1)

gunnarstahl (95240) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198645)

This is one of the most ignorant and arrogant views I have heard in a long long time. And you even get modded insightful. Wow.
Yes, third world faces horrendous problems. War, dictatorships, racism, food crisis, diseases.
So yes, it is a dying world. And by your proposed logic something like homicide shouldn't even be considered a crime there, because "They die anyway".

All the foreign aide going into third world is useless, because "They die anyway". Safe the money which is invested into the education in these countries because "They die anyway".

I do not hope that the next time you visit a doctor this pendulum swings back to you. Might be interesting to see if you'd agree to some totally arrogant bitch of a stranger telling the doctor to stop helping you because "Listen doctor, in another couple of decades he will die anyway".

The reason for saving the lifes of people is to give them a chance to create a better world. But interesting enough with people like you, living in such a better world (No, I do not know your particular world, but from the point of view of some of the poorest people in this world your life looks like heaven, no matter how hard you think it is), there is a reason why this world is turning for the worse every day a little bit.

Yt,

Gunnar

Re:but (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198813)

I take it you don't have kids, do you?

Call me cold-hearted, but there is a reason that those babies are not surviving.

Yes. They don't have access to proper medical care. Cold-hearted asshole.

Yes, there are piles of car parts. (4, Interesting)

Neuticle (255200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198039)

From my experience, I would say yes, there are huge supplies of car parts lying about in developing nations.

Sure, only the small fraction of wealthy people can buy a car, even one heavily used, but what happens to the car when it breaks down beyond all repair? Does the non-existent trash-collection agency come to haul it off to the non-existent recycling facility or proper landfill? Nope, it sits right where it broke down - unless it broke down on the road, then it will be pushed aside just enough for normal traffic to resume. After that, everything that can be removed and hauled off without special equipment will be removed. Fans, engine, alternator, lights, pumps, belts, bits of plastic, body panels, I mean EVERYTHING. All this stuff ends up back at the mechanics, since they are the only people who could get any use out of it. Parts rarely match up exactly, but things get shoe-horned into place and made to work. In a few months or so, if a big flat-bed lorry comes along, what is left of the frame will be hauled off and turned into hand carts.

My single data point: In my small little remote town there are about 4 private cars (1 was a missionary doctor), a couple of government cars, as well as a bus-stop that ran 3 or 4 buses between the nearest towns. The mechanics at the bus stop stand had a large collection of spare parts. I have no idea how many of them were functioning or to what degree they did, but there were piles and piles of all different sorts of parts. I'm sure that with a bit of trial and error, enough working parts could have been pulled out of there to construct something equal to what was in TFA. Even more, there was a shop selling solar panels to charge car batteries for 12v lighting systems. While still quite expensive, a system like this could be set up to be totally independent of unreliable mains.

I know that what passed for the hospital in town did not have an incubator, or regular electricity to run one if they did. I never personally knew anyone there who lost a baby shortly after birth, but I heard of it happening often enough. Something like this could have saved some of those lives.

Now I'm feeling some kind of reverse home-sickness :(

Re:but (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198877)

Well, in poor countries they keep things running longer, so there aren't a huge supply.

One way of thinking about this might be that there are different financial scales of purchasing in rich countries and poor countries. This leads to different qualitative phenomena, e.g., the attitude towards labor and the prevalence of things like personal servants.

In a rich country, a proper neonatal incubator probably costs a considerable amount of money, but not so much that a hospital with a maternity ward would hesitate to buy enough of them to handle the maximum likely demand in their neonatal ward.

In a poor country, a proper neonatal incubator might be more like getting a CAT scan machine -- every hospital probably could use one, but not every hospital can afford one. However, although a used car (or pile of parts) is a considerable expense, it is one that is affordable on their scale of finances. The labor to transform the car into an incubator is negligible.

All countries have rich people. In fact all countries have something of a middle class. So all countries are going to have cars and a considerable infrastructure to supply those cars with parts. So it's quite practical to look at ways transform cars into other things. We did it in this country when cars were new and expensive relative to the median wage: people tranformed model T's into all kinds of machines.

This is great! (5, Interesting)

thesaurus (1220706) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197641)

A use for all those cars we Americans won't buy now! We can bail out Detroit and save babies at the same time.

Someone pitch the idea to the car companies (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197963)

Hell, the American Big Three are desperately looking for some good PR, after getting spanked out of Washington. A reformed Rick Wagoner could say, "I've given up taking joy rides in the corporate jet, and am now saving babies."

TFA mentions that they rummage around in junk yards for parts: Detroit probably has butt-loads of new parts that they will never need. The UAW will clean up their image by using volunteers to do the assembly for free.

As soon as they do this, the German auto companies will respond with a better engineered model, and the Japanese with a fuel efficient hybrid.

Oh, remember to disable the airbag before you put the baby in.

Re:This is great! (1)

waferbuster (580266) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198061)

Support the automotive industry bailout!

Won't somebody just think of the children!

I love projects like this.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197643)

It's a reminder of what can be done with old-fashioned, low-tech stuff, and that breakthroughs can remain a down-and-dirty job and you don't need millions of dollars in funding to get one.

Re:I love projects like this.. (1)

saider (177166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198483)

Who paid for the engineers' and all the testing and certifications for that device?

That is what eats up the cost with all these medical devices, not the cost of parts.

Cool (5, Informative)

skiphoppotamus (1159029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197657)

I work at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in the ICN and I can tell you from first hand every day experience that creating affordable incubators that can be brought into lesser hospitals would dramatically help what is an increasingly high premature birth rate here in the Midwest.

Re:Cool (3, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197805)

I get the feeling that better prenatal care of the mother would prevent a lot of those premature births. A lot more than better incubators, I'm sure.

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198423)

[citation needed]

Re:Cool (1)

gunnarstahl (95240) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198679)

So much to the question if you should trust your feelings. If you really care, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premature_birth [wikipedia.org]

And I know from first-hand experience that prematire birth can happen without giving you a chance to intervene.

Yt,

Gunnar

Re:Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197807)

I work at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in the ICN... creating affordable incubators would dramatically help what is an increasingly high premature birth rate here in the Midwest.

I've never worked at a hospital and can tell you that creating affordable incubators will do absolutely nothing to help what is an increasingly high premature birth rate in the Midwest ;)

Re:Cool (2, Interesting)

mad flyer (589291) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197849)

And you want the fun part of that... here in Japan. The Red Cross refuse donation other than... MONEY...
I'm in an old maternity clinic where they stopped deliveries as the owner is getting too old for this kind of 24h a day duty cr@p and so we have inpatient beds, newborn beds (all heavy duty japanese made, stuff that can survive a nuke). Brand new incubator and delivery table. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING WAS REFUSED.
Seems that the japanese Red Cross suffer the common local problem known formerly only by politicians... You cant buy blow and prostitute with hardware donations...
So everything will be scrapped. Ain't life great.

Re:Cool (1)

DDLKermit007 (911046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197913)

The Japanese have this weird hangup about 2nd hand stuff. Boggles my mind, but I love it when I'm in Japan. Few want the stuff, and the original owners were anal-retentive Japanese so are generally practically new after a few years use! End up with near mint condition stuff for less than what would show heavy use stateside.

Let those Red Staters die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197861)

Let those Red Staters and their deformed children die.

What does this really mean? (1, Insightful)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197667)

Sounds to me like this is a statement more of price gouging on medical equipment more than the ingenuity of the scientists (not to belittle their effort).

Re:What does this really mean? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197793)

price gouging on medical equipment

Nope. I've worked in medical imaging from time to time in my career, and you'd be shocked to learn what kind of costs are imposed by government regulations. An 8-bit, 1024x1024 monochrome CRT can cost $15K easily, and it's not because the vendor wants it to cost that much.

-jcr

Re:What does this really mean? (3, Informative)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197867)

Thats because the stringent testing that is required for medical devices. If we're talking about devices that doesn't play any pivotal role in medical treatment, it often doesn't require the verification and stringent testing and would cost significantly less(alot of the cost for devices are on clinical tests). Imagine if you use a off the shelf monitor for a multi-million dollar imaging machine, and it failed to display a small cancerous anomaly correctly ...
This article doesn't really say anything about the current state of medical devices, it just simply costs alot to build and verify they work in an acceptable manner for medical purposes. I don't think the machines talked about in these article will ever be adopted in the west. I doubt the reliability of these components will be up to scratch compare to the regular prenatal care machines BUT for third world countries where the medicial facilities are so poor, its probably worthy to think about adopting these machines as a temporary stop gap and thats probably the point of this exercise.

Re:What does this really mean? (3, Informative)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197901)

Thats because the stringent testing that is required for medical devices.

That's what the FDA would like you to believe, but in my experience, that's bullshit. The costs go into the insane amount of red tape and hoop-jumping that it takes for FDA to grudgingly acknowledge that you've done your homework and the product performs as advertised.

-jcr

Re:What does this really mean? (2, Insightful)

Davemania (580154) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197939)

I've had experience with regulations and biomed industries, not just the FDA, but european etc etc. Theres a reason why companies have to do all these regulation and testing for medical devices, the more intrusive or critical the device it is, the more testing and verification is needed. (Not that it ever catches every single bug or design flaw) but a safety mechanism is needed (for recall, tracking manufacturing, design etc etc) and to show that the these company have at least taken common problems into considerations. I have no doubt there is probably some red tapes in all the regulation agency, but there is a reason why critical medical devices cost so much. This isn't some FDA or CE conspiracy to jack up the price (at least most of it).

Re:What does this really mean? (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198257)

This isn't some FDA or CE conspiracy to jack up the price (at least most of it).

Their purpose isn't to drive the costs up, that's just a side effect of giving them far more power than they should ever have had.

-jcr

Re:What does this really mean? (2, Insightful)

saider (177166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198543)

Most FDA regulations are in place because someone died from a malfunction. The FDA is a very reactionary organization. They do not think ahead, they are trying to prevent a repeat of past problems. The problem is, there have been many problems that we do not want to repeat.

Car parts ? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197683)

Well, at least those kids get a good start..

-1 misses the point? (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197693)

Um, the problem isn't a lack of repairmen Mr Malkin - it's a lack of electricity. A problem which this incubator doesn't fix. (No, the motorcycle battery isn't a fix. It's a backup. With no electricity, this incubator dies just as dead as a high tech one.)

Re:-1 misses the point? (3, Insightful)

nonsequitor (893813) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197753)

I think you missed the point. The point is that this can be repaired with car parts by a mechanic and is more robust than the higher tech units. Having cheaper more robust technology is important for developing nations since it allows first world countries to help bootstrap improvements to their quality of life. While I can't speak to how many hospitals are lacking electricity, I would say this is going to enrich the lives of many people around the world and is definitely a good thing.

Re:-1 misses the point? (2, Informative)

Slashdotvagina (1434241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197813)

Um, the problem isn't a lack of repairmen Mr Malkin - it's a lack of electricity. A problem which this incubator doesn't fix. (No, the motorcycle battery isn't a fix. It's a backup. With no electricity, this incubator dies just as dead as a high tech one.)

Not a problem. A small motorcycle internal combustion engine could run continuously to provide electricity via a generator. Now all that's required are babies that breathe carbon monoxide.

Re:-1 misses the point? (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197925)

Any baby can do that for at least a few minutes.

Re:-1 misses the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198327)

MY GOD YOU'RE A GENIUS!
We can evolve the human race, one incubator at a time!

Now what will you do, Mr G. Warming?
Where's your poisonous gases now?!
Humans 1
Nature 0

Re:-1 misses the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197975)

Interestingly, a while back someone invented a way to have a car engine create electricity.

I know, it's pure magic.

However, if you are already using car parts to build an incubator, I'll bet you could use the rest of the parts to make a pretty good generator.

Finally..... (4, Funny)

budword (680846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197719)

A slashdot story that cries out for a car analogy.

Re:Finally..... (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197961)

Look at it this way: If the incubator was a car...

Ok, that's all.

Mission Criticality (2, Interesting)

_Hellfire_ (170113) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197723)

My daughter was born 7 weeks premature and spent 2 weeks in an incubator. As a side effect of spending so much time with her in the neonatal unit, I got to know what every switch and readout on her machine did. It was a very impressive piece of equipment designed to do one thing very well - keep a helpless human alive.

I would hazard a guess as to say that the insides of the machine are built with all sorts of hardware redundancy checks inside to ensure that its critical mission is carried out no matter what (I'm pretty sure it even had a UPS); which probably contributes somewhat to the high cost. That and the liability aspect inherent with any machine that keeps humans alive (from auto-respirators to space-suits).

I am fortunate enough to live in a country with a high standard of health care, and my daughter's stay in her expensive machine saved her life; however if a lower cost alternative that does the core functions of the expensive machines can be built for countries that are not as well off as we are, I am all for that. Expensive machines are also expensive to maintain, and if the TCO can be lowered to the point that poorer countries can operate them comfortably, that's got to be a benefit. It just goes to show that ingenuity knows no bounds.

Post-apocalyptic computing (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197731)

This gives me hope.

Some day, someone will find a way of creating a computer from wood and stone. And then I won't feel inferior to car mechanics because of my uselesness in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

(Yes, I know a car is more useful than a computer in the first months, but years of gaming must have prepared me for fending the radioactive zombies till a new order is established.)

Re:Post-apocalyptic computing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198583)

You don't even need the wood: http://xkcd.com/505/

xkcd is like the Monty Python of the internets- there's a sketch for every occasion.

sad (1)

Tyrannousdotnet (1432371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197755)

too bad it couldnt be made out of neonatal incubator parts instead.

Re:sad (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197887)

What I need is a car made out of neonatal incubator parts. Because I definitely want good climate control.

A grand for parts... (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197771)

... and probably forty grand for costs of FDA compliance.

-jcr

Re:A grand for parts... (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197897)

Why would you seek FDA compliance for a device like this? It's like seeking approval for a steak knife as an emergency tracheotomy tool.

Re:A grand for parts... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197933)

Why would you seek FDA compliance for a device like this?

I wouldn't, but it's the FDA that decides what they'll regulate.

-jcr

I'm one of those repairmen... (5, Interesting)

hedgemage (934558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197785)

After being laid off from the high-tech industry a few years back, I ended up working as a maintenance man at a large retirement facility. Our facility includes independent living, assisted living, and full-time managed care.
Since we're a not-for profit facility, there's a lot of incentive to do things in a cost effective manner, but at the same time, safety and well being of our residents is paramount. I've found myself having to repair all manner of medical equipment with little or no help from the manufacturer or seller. Things as simple as wheelchairs and walkers, to moderately complex like lift chairs and adjustable beds, to stuff like oxygen generators and emergency nurse-call equipment.
My employer would never be able to afford vendor reps to fix all this stuff, and so its left to myself and the rest of our small department. I'm the only one with a college education, and the only one from a high-tech background. The other guys have backgrounds in things like HVAC and carpentry. Simply put, the cost of health care equipment has far outstripped the ability for many facilities to support it and still provide affordable care. I was used to working with engineers, programmers, and big budgets until recently. The future of health care is not more tech, but taking the tech we have and making it cheaper and easier to maintain.

Economy of scale (3, Insightful)

inalienable (670771) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197835)

I didn't RTFA, but what a lot of commenters seem to be missing is the concept of economy of scale. The great idea here seems to be that using "off the shelf", mass-produced car parts to create an incubator with equal functionality to that of a standard incubator saves a great deal of money. Plus, the car parts have been better tested and are apparently more reliable. So this is kind of like building a software system by combining lots of preexisting, well-tested components rather than custom designing everything in-house.

Too much legal liability. (3, Insightful)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197839)

I can't see it happening.

The medical industry is all about litigation. If you invent something that saves peoples lives, then of the 100 people it saves, there might be someone who dies anyway, because of device failure and you can be sure that some lawyer's already prefilled out the lawsuit against you and is just waiting for an opportunity.

A friend of mine invented a very simply device that measured skin resistance and could be placed over someone's torso (like a blanket) to look for internal bleeding. This isn't just some inventor guy, he works as an engineer in one of Australia's top universities.

As soon as the university lawyers found out it had a medical application, they killed the project.

There's no doubt it would have saved lives, but the sad truth is that the university involved would actually rather see those people die than risk the litigation of being sued if anyone tried to prove that someone actually died of the device if it was somehow misused by a paramedic at the scene of an accident.

And I don't think it's likely to change. There's too much money invested in keeping medicine esoteric and away from everyone else too allow too many companies in to dilute the spend of sick people.

Maybe it's a rant, but it's a sad truth that I beleive. Doctors are pretty much the only people who seem to get away with doing this kind of research but even then I've read of far too many doctors who are persecuted because they came up with some kind of new treatment/device.

I'm guessing that car-parts-incubators is just radical enough to get anyone who tries to market it into trouble. Even if it saved a million livess, it would bring a thousand lawsuits and while I'm sure if some parents saw an infant die because of a lack of incubators, they would say these are needed, but if an infant dies while it's in an incubator, they'll look for someone to blame. Not that commercial units are any more reliable. But what judge is going to beleive that a $1000 unit was just as good as a $40,000 unit?

Please excuse my cynicism. It's just that I've observed this more than a few times.

GrpA.

Re:Too much legal liability. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197873)

Bonehead, this is intended for use in the developing world, not lawyer-land.

Re:Too much legal liability. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197941)

Please excuse my cynicism.

Noting to excuse. The FDA probably kills more people than the DOD.

-jcr

Re:Too much legal liability. (1)

theredshoes (1308621) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198091)

I agree with you. Some babies will die regardless if the incubator is 1K or 40K. It is a part of being human and doctors are not completely infallible, I wish it wasn't like that, but it is unfortunately.

When my husband died, his cardiologist would not sign off on the death certificate, I had to get his PCP to sign off on it. To this day I am still very angry about that. He had passed his stress level tests three months previous and was doing very well. The doctor took him off of heart medication I feel now that it was too soon for him to be taken off of it in hindsight. The amount of grief I felt about that fact kills me still. But, I am not a doctor and I do not know how to save lives.

At the same time, his cardiologist was one of the best in our area, and it was his call, I still feel that my husband received very good care in the end. I certainly would not have sued his cardiologist. The thing about life and death is that it is still a mystery. Some procedures will work wonders on one person and be detrimental for another.

There is nothing wrong with developing less expensive ways to save lives as long as it falls within a safe range of standards.

car parts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197845)

Hey, there is hope after all. They can use car parts from gas guzzler's like hummers. Those should be worthless very soon and the kids will love'em.

No big deal (4, Funny)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197931)

White trash have been incubating their kids and dogs in sealed cars in parking lots around the world for years.

Re:No big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198725)

*sigh* "White Trash".... bigot.

pinball (0, Offtopic)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26197955)

They wanted me to build them a neonatal incubator, so I took their plutonium and gave them a shiny casing full of used pinball machine parts!

Shows how over priced some equpitment is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26197989)

anyone that thinks these incubators really need to cost 40k USD is crazy. A lot of medical equipment is over billed.

Perhaps we need more tiers of this stuff. maybe most people people don't need the 40k version but there is that one kid a year that will die without it. So buy a bunch of the cheap ones and a couple of the expensive ones. Best of both worlds.

Scientists? (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198025)

The NYTimes ran a story this week about a group of scientists who have built a neonatal incubator out of automobile parts

I think you have scientist confused with engineer.

Re:Scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26199253)

Why? Scientists cant build things in their spare time?

Hamster Wheel (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198027)

Just hook them up to a hamster wheel- the running will keep them warm. Plus it will build their muscles. No need for a muffler, if you get them exposed to all the toxins early enough they will grow up nice and monstrous (good for NBA/NFL ticket sales). And just think how many cars we will be saving from silly reuse when we can encapsulate homeless people in them and then present them to French art critics as "Still Life in Auto".

Grand Theft Incubator (1)

deanston (1252868) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198031)

Perhaps we can create games that's not only entertaining but challenge the gamers to create things or find solutions that can benefit the society.

This is great (0, Redundant)

johno.ie (102073) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198033)

If this really works there might even be enough people around to eat all that surplus food that's available in 3rd world countries. Not to mention the water and energy surpluses that we've been trying to get rid of for decades. People even try to dispose of their excess water by flushing it down the toilets in some countries.

What a bunch of geniuses, durr. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198241)

Almost any medical device or drug can be made dirt cheap if you throw enough safety considerations out of the window.

Or do these guys want to tell me that those $1000 also include R&D (just how many hours did they spend designing it?), biocompatibility testing (I don't think most materials used in cars undergo this by default), electrical/mechanical/chemical hazard analysis, etc.

Also, they're comparing the parts&labor price of their contraption to the list price of an actual incubator. Sorry guys, you fail accounting, big time. The parts&labor cost of the incubator is probably in the sub-$10k range (I wouldn't be surprised if it was very, very close to their $1000, even). The other >$30k are R&D, testing, support, etc, and of course a fat profit.

Re:What a bunch of geniuses, durr. (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198347)

The other >$30k are R&D, testing, support, etc, and of course a fat profit.

Based upon the typical behaviour of most businesses in the health services business sector, I'd say it's more likely that the per machine cost of parts&labor, (including R&D, testing and support) comes to about $1000, The remainder is a fat profit.

. The fact that a couple of guys can whip up what is essentially a free replacement, is an indictment of our health services industry but should come as no surprise to anyone who has looked at the true costs of providing such services.

Re:What a bunch of geniuses, durr. (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198567)

The ten highest paid Pharmeitcal company CEOs together earned $200,000,000 in 2008 (yes, that's two hundred million split amongst ten people in one year). The top twenty earners make that number over 300M. That means every person in the USA who bought any form of medication gave one dollar of that to one of twenty people. That's why we don't have cheap drugs in the USA, NOT becuase of pure research and development costs, but becuase of fat-cat greed.

How much of the pharma companies executive compensation is included in what they euphamistically refer to as R&D expenditure?

Re:What a bunch of geniuses, durr. (1)

bondsbw (888959) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198857)

If you didn't give that dollar to the CEO, it's not like the company will take a dollar off the cost. They know you'll pay it.

My question is, why do these large companies feel compelled to give one person as much money as 500 workers combined? What could that one person possibly be doing that is worth so much money to the company?

I'm not saying that a CEO should only be paid $40K, but let's get real... the company would profit much more by cutting his salary to the 6 figure range plus stock options.

Re:What a bunch of geniuses, durr. (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199557)

The high cost of equipment creates a barrier to adoption of the devices. Can't afford it? Tough, you'll have to do without. That's a basic free-market element.

As a physician or health-care provider, you'd be faced with a choice - do nothing, and suffer a X% infant mortality rate; or hack something together out of available components that does the job, reducing the infant mortality rate by Y%. What's the correct choice? That'll depend on what X and Y are. Beyond that, there are social implications (like being prosecuted for bypassing health regulation laws.)

Supplier? (1)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198267)

Now, where those new (OEM) parts, third party parts or did they go to the local junk yard to get parts?

No more lame excuses to the state troopers... (1)

Vexler (127353) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198303)

[From a courtroom transcript]

Prosecutor: So according to your earlier testimony, the defendents were travelling in the breakdown lane at a high rate of speed. Am I correct?

Trooper: Yes, that's correct.

Prosecutor: So what happened when you pull them over and approached the operator of the vehicle?

Trooper: The male defendent stated that the female defendent was his wife, and that she was going into labor. I offered to help them after I issued their citation, but they refused.

Prosecutor: They refused? How?

Trooper: I read it on Slashdot about a way to rebuild autoparts into a neonatal unit, and since the defendents were driving a 4Runner I thought I could help them out so they wouldn't continue to break the law.

Prosecutor: So what happened then?

Trooper: They thought I was too smart to be a state trooper, so they both burst out laughing and said that I should get a real job. Then they continued down the breakdown lane at a high rate of speed. That's when I called for backup.

I know this guy (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198353)

who is an uncurable petrolhead. It's like he was born in the engine compartment of an automobile.

Where does the power come from? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198403)

The power could be generated by using humans as an energy source like in The Matrix.

insurance (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198405)

but the incubator they have developed can be built for less than $1,000

Until you include the insurance against being sued. In America anything medical has to be insured against enormous law suits. It s unrelated to the risk of causing damage to pateints. It is very closely related to the potential profit from lawyers.

And the FA approval orocess could reasonably be expted to add $1,000,000 to the cost of each unit if you are not careful.

Re:insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26199359)

Why would they even think of using this in America?

the probable cost of product liability insurance (1)

DotDotSlashDot (1207864) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198655)

$45,000 per unit

I think I saw this on TV once (1)

davidbrit2 (775091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26198767)

It was on an episode of Red Green. Pretty good one, too.

Safety Features --- Cost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26198963)

The reason why conventional medical kit is so expensive is because of the mid-boggling level of safety that must be designed in and tested in every posible combination of fault scenarios.

How does this contraption fare in that respect? Reliability of car headlights, fans relays etc? Abysmal compared wuith ordinary industrial standards, let alone safety-critical medical kit.

Just what we need (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 5 years ago | (#26199563)

More people, especially children, living in poverty stricken countries. And, more reasons for those fake charities to beg for money.

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