You can get an acute open wound to heal more quickly by applying negative pressure—suction, in other words. The theory is that suction helps draw away bacteria, keeping a wound cleaner. And there are powered pumps made specifically for this "negative pressure wound therapy." The problem is that they're too expensive to be used widely in a place like post-quake Haiti, for example.
So Danielle Zurovcik, a student at MIT, has created a simple alternative:
The device, a cylinder with accordion-like folds, is squeezed to create the suction, and then left in place, connected to the underside of the wound dressing by a thin plastic tube. At that point, it requires no further attention: "It holds its pressure for as long as there's not an air leak," Zurovcik explains.Her plastic pumps can be molded locally and cost $3 to make, as opposed to the $100 per day it costs to rent an electric negative pressure therapy pump. She's still fine-tuning the design, but her initial trials during the Haiti disaster relief effort were encouraging.