Bruise age measurement team

The bruise age measurement team in the lab, from left: Alexa Shumaker, Ghazal Moghaddami, Alexandra Janowski, Claudia Oroz, Samantha Davidson and Nattakanan “Gigi” Rotwiang. 

With a major research university right in our backyard, a strong military presence and innovative companies throughout the metro region, there’s often a plethora of interesting science and technology news to be found in Southern Arizona. Here’s a breakdown of the most interesting recent developments.

Technology against child abuse. An all-woman team of University of Arizona engineering students is creating a device to measure the age of bruises. The project began in 2018 when Dr. Dale Woolridge, director of the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center, contacted Urs Utzinger, associate department head for UA biomedical engineering undergraduate affairs, about creating a device that determines the age of a bruise by measuring the way it reflects light. As bruises age, they change colors, generally from blue or purple to yellow. This new device will contain a spectrometer, two microprocessors and a display screen. Social workers and physicians will use the device by taking a base measurement of the person’s regular skin, then measure the bruise itself, and compare the two. While this device was originally made to help children by determining when the child was bruised, and therefore who bruised the child, this device could also be used in “workers compensation cases, domestic violence situations or other circumstances where a person can’t answer questions about who or what caused their bruises.”

FAA Certifies Universal Avionics Device. Universal Avionics, a Tucson-based aircraft technology company, recently received a Supplemental Type Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. This newly certified device is a touchscreen display unit for the “InSight Display System.” Using touchscreen technology, the device eliminates the need for external panels in the cockpit, saving room in an already cramped and complicated workspace. According to Universal Avionics, the EFIS Control Display Unit “is now available in touchscreen or non-touchscreen versions. Both ECDU models combine multiple InSight System controls, including the flight displays, FMS, radios, traffic, and terrain into a centralized control device.”

Vector Rocket Tours through Tucson. Vector Launch, a Tucson-based space technology company which hopes to launch satellites into space faster than ever before, toured it’s new rocket through town on Thursday, April 11. This came as part of Vector transporting its “Mission 1001 rocket” from Huntington Beach, California into Tucson as preparation for its first suborbital launch. Part of the transportation was to show Vector rockets’ unique mobile launch technology, which gives “complete launch site freedom, providing customers with anywhere, anytime launch services.”

An Alternative to Opioids. New research from pain specialists at the UA and Banner Medicine may provide options other than opioids for patients with non-cancer chronic pain. Opioid use in the US is currently described as an epidemic, with national deaths involving opioids rising from roughly 10,000 in 2002 to over 70,000 in 2017. This caused overall life expectancy to fall from 78.7 to 78.6 years. A UA study measured the difference between trained pain physicians reducing pain versus opioid use in patients with “chronic non-cancer pain.” The study asked patients to rate their pain from zero to 10, and found “the average pain score decreased by almost 34 percent” when pain physicians are introduced. In addition, patients were able to reduce their total opioid use by about 55 percent. Doctors at pain clinics help patients manage chronic pain by combining medications with physical, behavioral and psychological therapies.