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Meet the UNC alumna whose company is trying to prevent seizure tongue injury

PATI Clinic Display Rendering.png

UNC alumna Ashlyn Sanders created NeuroVice LLC, a company working to create the Photo Realistic Rendering of a Protector Against Tongue Injury device. Photo courtesy of Ashlyn Sanders. 

While getting her master's degree at Duke University, UNC alumna Ashlyn Sanders received a diagnosis that shocked her.

"A couple weeks into the program, I had a really bad seizure incident which I had never had before,” Sanders said. “After pushing from my family, I ended up getting a full diagnostic exam, which included an MRI where they found a Chiari malformation.” 

A Chiari malformation is a rare incurable neurological condition that affects the brain. Sanders had never had a seizure before and had no idea she had any kind of brain condition. 

Now, she's launched a company and product that will help others like her. 

Sanders created NeuroVice LLC, a medical technology company. NeuroVice is working to create a device that will help prevent tongue injury during seizures. 

Sanders said the device, called PATI — short for Protector Against Tongue Injury — can be used by first responders or by individuals who become aware a seizure is coming.

“Typically before a seizure, a person will experience an aura, which is a physical or sensory change to the body which alerts the person that they will have a seizure," Sanders said.

Once the person experiences their aura, they administer the device, carried in a portable kit with a wrist band. Once the seizure is over, she said they will discard it and restock their kit with a new one.  

Sanders hopes to acquire and license the technology in the future. 

“My ultimate goal is to improve the lives of millions of people around the world who are suffering from seizures and these oral injuries that really haven’t been looked at in the market,” she said. 

Robyn Sanders, Ashlyn’s sister, said she is proud of what her sister has been able to accomplish — and that she was proud to see Charles Barkley invest in the product.

“The fact that she was able to get a high profile investor who also sees the promise in this I think speaks to the impact it will have and what it does have for those who suffer from these conditions,” she said. 

Faith Cantway, who will be a part of the focus groups for the device, said she found the product after doing research for her son Nicolas, who suffers from seizures. 

“We found out about the PATI via an internet search after one of Nicolas's severe tonic-clonic seizures in which he was biting his tongue and grinding his teeth,” she said in an email.  

After the seizure, Nicolas couldn't eat solid or flavorful foods until he was healed, Cantway said. He was in a lot of pain.

"I began searching and felt desperate and knew someone had to have a preventative measure but not one person in the Epilepsy forums had heard of any such product," Cantway said.

Then she stumbled on an article that mentioned Sanders. Now, she said the device will help give her family a sense of peace. 

“Our hope is that the product will be available ASAP and will help Nicolas and countless others who not only brave through a life with seizures, but also face consequences that tongue biting brings,” she said in the email.

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