As founding director of UCSF's Fetal Treatment Center, Harrison is internationally renowned for his expertise and innovation in pediatric and fetal surgery. Widely regarded as the "father of fetal surgery," Harrison, over the last three decades, concentrated his lab efforts to establish the developmental pathophysiology of correctable birth defects in animal models, and develop and test techniques for fetal intervention (including maternal-fetal anesthesia), prior to clinical application. Now, a decade into the new century, the pioneering spirit continues and manifests in a new direction of innovation-i.e., original thought combined with the first presentation of work that leads to a milestone in the advancement of surgical care. Harrison's current research focuses on pediatric orphan device development, particularly devices employing the use of magnetic force. His most recent work has earned him one of three prestigious stimulus grants awarded by the FDA to fund a pediatric device consortium at UCSF.
Over the last six years, the Harrison lab has explored the use of magnetic force to correct a variety of problems and deformities. They began with the Magnetic Mini-Mover Procedure (3MP) to correct pectus excavatum in children, and tested the Magnimplant device in an FDA-sponsored trial with an FDA-approved IDE. In addition to the Magnetic Mini-Mover, they are continuing to develop and test:
- The Magnamosis device which uses specially designed magnets to create a secure compression anastomosis between any two pieces of intestine
- A magnetic internal-control contraction device to assist in laparoscopic surgery
- The Robo-Implant device, which uses magnetic coupling to activate and lengthen and shorten an internal growing rod for treatment of scoliosis and for limb lengthening.
In the course of developing and testing these magnetic implant treatments, the Harrison Lab most recently began considering the use of magnetic force for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. The concept is simple. In the same way that they implant a titanium-encased rare earth magnet on the sternum in patients with pectus excavatum and then, later, the patients use an external magnet orthotic device to gradually pull the 'sunken chest' out, Harrison et al are considering the possibility of implanting a similar magnet on the hyoid bone and letting the patient use an external orthotic magnetic device to pull the hyoid forward and open the airway when sleeping. With this approach the patient is unaffected while awake during the day and the implanted device is essentially invisible.
Under the auspices of the UCSF Pediatric Device Consortium, the mission of the Harrison Lab is to facilitate the development, production, and distribution of pediatric medical devices by:
- Encouraging innovation and connecting qualified individuals with pediatric device ideas with potential manufacturers
- Mentoring and managing pediatric device projects through the development process, including product identification, prototype design, device development, and marketing
- Connecting innovators and physicians to existing Federal and non-Federal resources
- Assessing the scientific and medical merit of proposed pediatric device projects
- Providing assistance and advice as needed on business development, personnel training, prototype development, and post-marketing needs