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At Children’s Hospital, engineer is a key post

Mechanical engineer Pierre Dupont has designed a robotic implant to repair esophageal atresia, a birth defect that prevents infants from eating normally.
Mechanical engineer Pierre Dupont has designed a robotic implant to repair esophageal atresia, a birth defect that prevents infants from eating normally.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

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Pierre Dupont is trying to solve a medical problem almost no one has ever heard of.

About 1,000 American children are born every year with an incomplete esophagus. Their mouth doesn’t connect to their stomach, so they can’t eat.

For the most difficult cases — about 50 children a year — the best current treatment is to put them to sleep for several weeks, while slowly stretching two stubs of tissue until they can be attached in the middle to make a complete esophagus.

But Dupont thinks a motorized device implanted under the child’s rib cage could do most of the work without putting the child in a coma. How he even got to solve this problem is, on its own, pretty unusual in medicine.

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