Casts are itchy and have weird smells, and your world is basically over if they get wet. At the Hello Tomorrow start-up summit on Thursday in Paris, Cast21 presented its solution, a sort of exoskeleton for your broken bones. If the company manages to convert early interest into financial backing, it could help usher in a future where dealing with broken bones is a little more bearable.
This new cast is modeled to provide the most support with the least material. This design allows it to be just as durable as traditional casts without requiring people to surround their broken or fractured limbs with a tight, damp mixture of hard fiberglass and soft padding. Cast21 says each cast is tailored to its wearer and takes just 20 minutes to create with a silicone sleeve filled with a fast-hardening liquid solution.
A new cast might not seem like exciting medical technology at a time when companies are using 3D-printing to make vital organs and reattaching nerves using similar processes. But those critics probably haven’t dealt with an itchy cast recently.
Some 6 million Americans break bones each year, making for a lot of people who could benefit from a cast that doesn’t require an additional splint.
Cast21 offers another benefit over other medical tech that relies on 3D-printing: It doesn’t require any special equipment. Doctors can slide the silicone sleeve around the broken limb, fill it with the liquid, and then send their patients out to go about their normal lives. This makes the cast more realistic for small practices without 3D-printers.
The company says on its website that it eventually wants to use electrical pulses to help speed up the body’s natural healing process. Cast21 had humble beginnings — it started as a project between two University of Illinois students — and it’s still supported mostly by donations. Its product has a similar humility: While it’s not the most advanced tech on the market, it is also more attainable than more futuristic products, and that means it’s likely to help more people.
It’s a truism that the best products scratch an itch. Cast21 took that to heart, and soon it could be taken to broken limbs across the country.