Device enables world's first voluntary gorilla blood pressure reading

Nov 10, 2009
The Georgia Tech team that developed the Gorilla Tough Cuff and a Zoo Atlanta trainer position the pressure cuff casing inside the rectangular mesh trap so that a gorilla's blood pressure can be measured. Credit: Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta recently became the first zoological institution in the world to obtain voluntary blood pressure readings from a gorilla. This groundbreaking stride was made possible by the Gorilla Tough Cuff, a blood pressure reading system devised through partnership with the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Created as a senior design project by biomedical engineering undergraduates David Sotto, Nisha Bhatia, Stephanie Drewicz and Scott Seaman, the prototype has now been successfully tested on one of Zoo Atlanta's 22 western lowland gorillas. The students also had guidance from Hanjoong Jo, the Ada Lee and Pete Correll Professor in Biomedical Engineering and the Division of Cardiology; and Professor Franklin Bost, the Coulter Department director of design instruction.

"Zoo Atlanta is home to the nation's largest collection of gorillas, so there is an ongoing responsibility to contribute to the zoological community's understanding of their care," said Dennis Kelly, President and CEO. "We are proud to have spearheaded an effort that will ultimately benefit gorillas living in captive settings around the world."

The Gorilla Tough Cuff operates in the same manner as the mechanism familiar to humans, with the patient slipping an arm into a cuff. As the cuff inflates, the reading is measured and displayed on a monitor. The student design team's biggest set of challenges, however, was constructing a durable, comfortable cuff large enough to fit an adult male gorilla weighing upwards of 300 pounds.

The was comprised of a blood pressure cuff bolted to a casing made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. The casing was zip-tied to a rectangular mesh trap and the trap was temporarily attached to the gorilla cage. The pressure cuff tubing was connected to an off-the-shelf veterinary blood pressure monitor located outside of the gorilla cage.

"We also built a safety mechanism into the device so that the gorillas would not be injured if they became alarmed or frightened and tried to remove their arm from the cuff," said Sotto, who is currently a graduate student at Georgia Tech.

Once the prototype was complete, the Tough Cuff had its first tester: Ozzie, a 48-year-old male western lowland gorilla. Gorillas aren't typically keen on the idea of inserting their arms into inflatable cuffs: Ozzie's accomplishment is the result of months of patience and diligent voluntary positive reinforcement training on the part of Zoo Atlanta's Primate Team.

Ozzie slides his arm into the durable, yet comfortable, Gorilla Tough Cuff. As the cuff inflates, Ozzie's blood pressure is measured and displayed on a monitor. Credit: Zoo Atlanta

One of four geriatric gorillas living at the Zoo (the others are Shamba, 50; Choomba, 48; and Ivan, 47), Ozzie is at an age where he may be subject to health concerns similar to those experienced by mature humans. Cardiac disease is the leading cause of mortality in adult male gorillas living in captive settings, and the new system will enable veterinarians to more effectively monitor precursory signs such as high blood pressure.

"This is a great step forward in the medical management and care of captive ," said Dr. Sam Rivera, Associate Veterinarian at Zoo Atlanta. "Our Veterinary and Primate Teams are extremely fortunate to have the biomedical engineering department at Georgia Tech and Emory University as a resource."

The Gorilla Tough Cuff has already been demonstrated for veterinarians and animal care professionals from numerous other accredited zoos. The device could ultimately prove invaluable to the more than 100 institutions around the world currently housing the species.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology

Explore further: Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Teaching captive gorillas the ropes

Nov 13, 2006

The Columbus Zoo in Ohio uses humans as surrogate mothers to baby gorillas so the babies can learn nurturing and become caring parents themselves.

Study garners unique mating photos of wild gorillas

Feb 12, 2008

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have released the first known photographs of gorillas performing face-to-face copulation in the wild. ...

World's most endangered gorilla fights back

Dec 05, 2007

In the wake of a study that documented for the first time the use of weaponry by Cross River gorillas to ward off threats by humans, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced today new field surveys to better protect this ...

Gorillas classified as critically endangered

Sep 12, 2007

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has released its newly revised Red List of Threatened Species. One notable change is the elevation of western gorillas to the highest threat status, Critically Endangered. ...

Recommended for you

Rare new species of plant: Stachys caroliniana

Nov 21, 2014

The exclusive club of explorers who have discovered a rare new species of life isn't restricted to globetrotters traveling to remote locations like the Amazon rainforests, Madagascar or the woodlands of the ...

Mysterious glowworm found in Peruvian rainforest

Nov 21, 2014

(Phys.org) —Wildlife photographer Jeff Cremer has discovered what appears to be a new type of bioluminescent larvae. He told members of the press recently that he was walking near a camp in the Peruvian ...

The unknown crocodiles

Nov 21, 2014

Just a few years ago, crocodilians – crocodiles, alligators and their less-known relatives – were mostly thought of as slow, lazy, and outright stupid animals. You may have thought something like that ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.