Cast21 gets big break at pitch competition
MechSE senior Jason Troutner has co-founded an innovative start-up intent on creating better casts for broken arms. Called Cast21, the company recently won the Saint Louis University “Real” Elevator Pitch Competition.
“It was nice because it was our first real validation of our idea as a business,” Troutner said. “We’ve had our technology validated by experts in engineering but we didn’t have any indication from outsiders in business and investing that there really was a big market potential to our product.”
The team’s goal was to create a more comfortable, breathable cast that will heal broken bones quickly and effectively. They came up with a lattice structure cast made out of plastic that has two electronic attachments.
The first attachment is aimed at reducing muscle atrophy and eliminating physical therapy time. When a wrist comes out of a traditional cast, the muscle mass is visibly smaller. Cast21’s electrical muscle stimulation sends small electric shocks to stimulate the muscles so they don’t decrease in mass.
The second attachment applies vibration therapy to the broken area. The vibrations will be small enough not to displace or further damage the bone, but will speed up the recovery process.
“The body knows to grow both muscle and bone and it senses that those muscles and bone are being used,” Troutner said. “So if you’re not using the bone at all it will heal, but not as quickly as when it senses these small vibrations.”
The two electrical attachment only need to be applied for about 20 minutes per day.
Another benefit of Cast21’s design is that the lattice structure covers the affected area, but—unlike traditional plaster casts—leaves much of the skin exposed, so the wearer can shower, swim, and exercise as much as they want.
“(Being in a cast is) not fun and I have more than a few personal complaints with what the casting process does,” said Troutner, who has ample experience with casts, thanks to time spent in gymnastics. “So many of the problems that come from being in a cast aren’t—as I see it and the rest of Cast21 sees it—necessary to the recovery process.”
His Cast21 co-founders are bioengineering senior Ashley Moy and electrical and computer engineering senior Justin Brooks.
Right now, the group is focusing on wrist fractures, but Troutner said they plan to design other types of casts in the future. This semester the group is going to develop more of the business side of Cast21 by entering business competitions and applying for grants, accelerators, and incubators.
Troutner is planning to stay another year at the University to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering but hopes to one day work on Cast21 full time.
“Ideally if everything goes well, we will all be working on this full-time once we finish our degrees,” he said. “We don’t know for sure when that will be but we are hoping for the best.”