Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Department of Bioengineering combines hands-on experience with the solid fundamentals that students need to advance themselves in research, medicine, and industry. The Department has a long-standing and unique relationship with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and other academic departments at the University of Pittsburgh as well as neighboring Carnegie Mellon University. Our faculty are shared with these organizations, offering our graduate and undergraduate students access to state-of-the-art facilities and a wide array of research opportunities. We currently have 190 graduate students who are advised by some 100 different faculty advisers, pursuing graduate research across 17 Departments and five Schools. Our undergraduate class-size of approximately 50 students per year ensures close student-faculty interactions in the classroom and the laboratory.

The main engineering building is located next to the Medical Center in Oakland, an elegant university neighborhood with museums, parks, and great restaurants. Beautiful new facilities have also been built, a short shuttle ride from the main campus, along the Monongahela River, replacing the steel mills that once were there. Our department is growing rapidly, both in numbers of students and faculty, and in the funding and diversity of our research. The Pittsburgh bioengineering community is a vibrant and stimulating alliance of diverse components for which our department forms an essential and central connection.


Something on Your Mind?


  PITTSBURGH (November 9, 2015) … With the potential to allow quadriplegics to operate robotic limbs, to reverse damage caused by Parkinson's disease, and to map the pathways of the 100 billion neurons of the brain, microelectrode arrays-or electronic brain implants-are key to the human-computer interface. Two National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants totaling $4.7 million to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering will help to further research in improving how the implants perform in the brain and survive the body's immune responses. Implants come in many shapes and sizes and contain anywhere from one to hundreds of electrodes in a single array. Large arrays allow for better connectivity with the brain, but they also have a greater risk of triggering the body's defense mechanisms. This causes inflammation of the neural tissue, which can significantly reduce the quality of the implant's signals over time. Even though it won't cause harm to the patient, the body's rejection of foreign substances is one of the major obstacles limiting the usage of microelectrode arrays. Researchers at Pitt's Neural Tissue/Electrode Interface and Neural Tissue Engineering (NTE) Laboratory have been developing ways to integrate the implants with the host neural tissue. Last summer, Xinyan "Tracy" Cui, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering and director of the NTE Lab, received an NIH grant to research a method of disguising microelectrode arrays by coating them with biological molecules the brain won't recognize as intruders.   Today, two more grants from NIH will expand the NTE Lab's research into other areas of microelectrode array technology. Cui will serve as principle investigator of "Inhibition of Neural Electrode-Mediated Inflammation and Neuronal Cell Death." The study will receive $3.1 million over five years and will uncover the role of the caspase-1, an enzyme activated at the earliest detectable moment after ischemia, trauma, and other neurodegenerative conditions. "Caspase-1 is a key mediator of both inflammation and programmed cell death, both of which are thought to degrade neural recording and stimulation performance," said Cui. "Once we identify it as a major pathway, we can disrupt it. In this new study, we are going to use two-photon live animal imaging in conjunction with molecular and electrophysiological methods to study the cellular response around the electrode implant site in real-time." Takashi "TK" Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at Pitt, will lead the two-photon imaging, which can capture images at a deep level of tissue in live animals. Although this form of microscopy has become popular in neuroscience and biology, it has not been widely used to examine the interaction between electrode implants and brain tissue. "We are very lucky to have TK's expertise with live imaging at our lab," said Cui. Kozai established the Bio-Integrating Optoelectic Neural Interface & Cybernetics Lab (BIONIC Lab) at Pitt. He recently joined tenure-stream faculty after completing his post-doctoral research with Cui and will serve as the principal investigator of the other NIH grant study awarded this year. "Mechanisms behind Electrode Induced BBB Damage's Impact on Neural Recording" will receive about $1.6 million for five years. Kozai will examine the damage to the brain caused by blood-brain barrier (BBB) injury from probe implantation. BBB injury has been found around implanted electrodes, but the extent and the cause-and-effect mechanism underlying BBB damage and neural recording failure has not been established. After mapping the brain vasculature with two-photon microscopy, Kozai will implant one group of electrodes that pass through large arterioles and another group that avoids major blood vessels. By comparing the performance of electrodes in the two situations and tracking dynamic changes with two-photon microscopy, Kozai will be able to determine the impact of BBB damage on signal degradation recorded from the implants.   The co-Investigators on these two grants are Dr. Alberto Vazquez (Radiology), Dr. Robert Friedlander and Dr. Diane Carlisle (Neurosurgery), and Dr. Simon Watkins (Center for Biological Imaging). About the NTE Lab Research at the NTE Laboratory focuses on the understanding and modulation of interactions between neural tissue and smart materials and biosensors. Past studies have contributed to a fundamental understanding of topics applicable to a variety of fields, particularly neural electrode and tissue interface, neural tissue engineering, implantable biosensors, and drug delivery. NTE Lab members collaborate with researchers in many different disciplines.   ### For more information about funded positions at the Cui and Kozai labs visit http://www.bioniclab.org/job-opportunities and http://engineering.pitt.edu/Sub-Sites/Labs/CUI/Home/Job-Opportunities/.  
Matt Cichowicz

Society of Women Engineers recognizes four Pitt engineering students with scholarships and Outstanding Collegiate Member Award

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, MEMS, Diversity, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (November 3, 2015) - The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recognized four students from the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering at its annual conference, WE15, in Nashville, Tenn. on Oct. 23, 2015 during the formal awards banquet.  Dhanalakshmi (Dhanu) Thiyagarajan BioE '15 was honored for her impact on the Society as well as the engineering community with the SWE Outstanding Collegiate Member award. The award also recognizes Dhanu's continuing dedication to SWE's mission - "striving to highlight the impact and importance of women in engineering across the globe, leading by example, and demonstrating that a career in engineering can be a fulfilling, rewarding pursuit for women of any background." Additionally, mechanical engineering junior Mahalia Bradford won the Bayer Scholarship; civil and environmental engineering senior Rebecca Glucksman captured the Bechtel Corporation Scholarship; and chemical and petroleum engineering senior Julie Fornaciari received the Cummins Scholarship. "Pitt's student awardees and our other collegiate members have had a tremendous impact on the Society and as well as their campuses," said Colleen Layman, president of SWE. "Involvement in SWE from the collegiate level is so important to driving home our mission to change the perception of careers in engineering and inspire more women to reach their full potential in the field." (Photo: Dhanu Thiyagarajan) ###  
Paul Kovach

Pitt chemical engineering researcher Ipsita Banerjee working to mass-produce stem cells

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

University of Pittsburgh News Release PITTSBURGH- Human stem cells hold great promise for medicine. They can be used therapeutically, they can help model disease, and they can be used to help discover new drugs. But it is very difficult to culture enough cells to meet the demand. Ipsita Banerjee, associate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and of bioengineering within the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering, recently received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to explore an idea she has that would allow the manufacture of human pluripotent stem cells-these are the ones that can become virtually any tissue-on an industrial scale. At present, Banerjee says, culturing stem cells is a delicate proposition, with only a 30 percent chance of survival. Current methods are limited by the low viability of initial cell-seeding populations and a tendency for the cells to be heterogeneous, a problem when uniformity is required. Banerjee and co-investigator Prashant Kumta, professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School, think that by creating a biomimetic hydrogel encapsulation system to mimic the cell-to-cell interaction without which stem cells die, they'll be able to overcome these obstacles. "It's kind of a simple idea, but it hasn't been done," Banerjee says. "I thought someone must have done it, at least with other kinds of cells, but no one has." The capsules she and Kumta plan to create will use an as-yet-unidentified peptide to convince individual cells they're in the company of others, enhancing survival. "[A cell] will think that it is in contact with another cell and will not activate the cell-death pathway," Banerjee says. If they find the right peptide and their theories about stem cell behavior and viability are confirmed, Banerjee and Kumta are hopeful that their method of stem-cell cultivation will allow labs around the world to generate enough stem cells to meet demand. "Our method is cheap and simple," Banerjee concludes. "If we're right, just about anyone in any lab will be able to reproduce it."  (Photo: Dr. Banerjee (right) with PhD Candidate Saik Kia Goh) ###  
Joe Miksch

Pitt bioengineer receives NIH grant to study regeneration of diseased aortas


PITTSBURGH (October 1, 2015) … Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), caused by the loss of elastin, a critical protein for blood vessel function, is responsible for approximately 10,000 American deaths every year. Through a grant from the National Institutes of Health, vascular bioengineering researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering are proposing a new strategy for delivering therapeutic cells to the diseased cells into order to restore elastin levels and regenerate the aorta. Funded through the NIH's competitive Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21) program, the research is being led by David A. Vorp,Associate Dean for Research at the Swanson School and the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering. The proposal, "Outside-In Regenerative Therapy for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm," will receive $439,220 in direct and indirect funding through April 2017, and is a collaborative effort with Dr. John Curci, a vascular surgeon at Vanderbilt University. "Elastin is a highly elastic protein that allows soft tissues in our body - including blood vessels - to stretch and contract, but it is susceptible to the effects of aging, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking," Dr. Vorp explained. "Therefore, abdominal aortic aneurysms greatly impact the elderly, especially men, and, if left untreated, can ultimately result in structural failure or rupture of the aortic wall and, many times, death." According to Dr. Vorp, the research will focus on development and delivery of mesenchymal stem cells to the outside of the aneurysm and will be tested in an established rodent model of the disease. Following treatment, the researchers will study whether the stem cells slow, halt or even reverse the structural degeneration of the AAA. The results could eventually lead to an effective treatment for humans using a patient's own stem cells. "Few diseases present greater potential for regenerative cellular therapy than AAA, and the possibility of reconstitution and strengthening of the aorta is very exciting," Dr. Vorp said. "By delivering stem cells to restore elastin, we can effectively treat a life-threatening disease without complex invasive surgery." About David Vorp In addition to his roles at the Swanson School, Dr. Vorp also holds secondary appointments in Pitt's departments of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Surgery, and the Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute. He serves as a Director of the Center for Vascular Remodeling and Regeneration, a Co-Director of the Center for Medical Innovation, as well as the Director of the Vascular Bioengineering Laboratory. The research in Dr. Vorp's lab focuses on the biomechanics, "mechanopathobiology," regenerative medicine, and tissue engineering of tubular tissues and organs, predominantly the vasculature. He is currently studying the biomechanical progression of aortic aneurysms by modeling the mechanical forces that act on the degenerating vessel wall, and is also designing a small diameter tissue engineered vascular graft to treat cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Vorp has published more than 105 peer-reviewed research manuscripts and has been awarded over $7 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Whitaker Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, and other sources. He has several patents in the field of vascular bioengineering and is a co-founder of the start-up Neograft Technologies, Inc., a company that applies technology developed in Dr. Vorp's laboratory relating to biodegradable support for arterial vein grafts. Dr. Vorp is an elected Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has held leadership positions in BMES (Board of Directors and Secretary of the Society), ASME (Chair of the Bioengineering Division's Executive Committee ), and is currently the President of the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology. Dr. Vorp is also a member of several other prestigious organizations, such as the American Heart Association and the North American Vascular Biology Organization. His most recent honors include the 2013 Carnegie Science Award in the category of Life Sciences, and being elected to the 50-member World Council of Biomechanics for 12 years (2014-2026). ###


International engineering society ASME establishes new award and medal in honor of Pitt’s Savio L-Y.Woo

Bioengineering, MEMS

NEW YORK/PITTSBURGH (September 30, 2015) … A University of Pittsburgh professor who himself has received numerous national and international accolades - among them an Olympic gold medal - will now have an award medal struck in his honor. Established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) on the recommendation of its Bioengineering Division, the award celebrates the career and achievements of bioengineering trailblazer Savio L-Y. Woo, Ph.D., a Distinguished University Professor of Bioengineering in the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering and the founder and director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC) at Pitt. The ASME Savio L-Y. Woo Translational Biomechanics Medal will be a Society-level award to recognize ASME members who have translated meritorious bioengineering science to clinical practice through research, education, professional development, and service to the bioengineering community. Dr. Woo, an ASME Life Fellow and former chair of the Bioengineering Division, is a pioneer in translational biomechanics who has conducted research in the healing and repair of tissues for more than 40 years. Dr. Woo joined the University of Pittsburgh faculty in 1990 after spending 20 years as professor of surgery and bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. He and his research teams have authored more than 320 original research papers in refereed journals, as well as 146 book chapters and review articles, and their work has had a significant impact on the management of ligament and tendon injuries. "The medal is really a recognition of the success of many: my prized pupils that I have taught (and they have taught me!); my junior colleagues that I have mentored; my good and kind friends and co-workers that I am fortunate to know and to learn from; and most importantly, my supportive and loving family: Pattie, Kirstin, Jonathan, Adam, Zadie and Arden," Dr. Woo said. Prior to the creation of the Woo Medal, ASME had three awards honoring contributions to the field of bioengineering: the Y.C. Fung Young Investigator Award, the Van C. Mow Medal for mid-career researchers, and the H.R. Lissner Medal for career achievement. Unlike those awards, which focus on research contributions to bioengineering and engineering, the new award is intended to recognize the significant contributions of bioengineers whose work has resulted in the development of a medical device or equipment, contributed to new approaches of disease treatment, or established new injury treatment modalities. "Savio is a world-renowned and respected researcher, academic, mentor and colleague, and is tremendously deserving of this honor," noted Gerald D. Holder, PhD, the Swanson School's U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering. "His research in translational biomechanics and orthopaedics has significantly advanced the entire field, and we are indeed proud to have him as a member of our faculty." "Dr. Woo has been a leader in improving orthopedic surgery and patient outcomes through scientific research and engineering design," said Sara E. Wilson, Ph.D. , director of the Bioengineering Graduate Program and associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Kansas and chair of the ASME Bioengineering Division. "This award recognizes the unique contributions of those that bridge the gap between research and clinical practice." "It was very special for me to take part in establishing this legacy in honor of Dr. Savio L-Y. Woo," added Jennifer S. Wayne, Ph.D. , the former chair of the Bioengineering Division who spearheaded the effort to establish the award. "It forever acknowledges what he has accomplished for the bioengineering field and the ASME Bioengineering Division." The award received the full support of the Bioengineering Division's leadership, with David A. Vorp, PhD, associate dean for research and the William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering; and Matthew J. Gounis, PhD, associate professor of radiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, both recent chairs of the Bioengineering Division, having crucial parts in the approval process. Candidates for the new award must be active members of the Bioengineering Division. The award consists of $1,000, a bronze medal, a certificate, and a travel expense supplement to attend the award presentation. Nominations for the first Woo Medal are being accepted through Oct. 1. The Bioengineering Division expects to present the first award next summer, during the Summer Biomechanics, Bioengineering and Biotransport (SB3C) Conference in National Harbor, Md. To learn more about the Savio L-Y. Woo Translational Biomechanics Medal, or for information on how to submit a nomination, visit www.asme.org/about-asme/honors-awards/achievement-awards/savio-ly-woo-translational-biomechanics-medal . About ASME ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world. For more information visit www.asme.org. About Dr. Savio L-Y. Woo Dr. Savio L-Y. Woo is a Distinguished University Professor of Bioengineering and the Founder and Director of the Musculoskeletal Research Center (MSRC), a diverse multidisciplinary research and educational center in the Department of Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 1990 after spending 20 years at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as a Professor of Surgery and Bioengineering. Dr. Woo is a pioneer in bioengineering and is renowned for his 40+ years of translational research in healing and repair of tissues. Together with his team, they have authored 320 original research papers in refereed journals as well as 146 book chapters and review articles. Their work has significantly impacted the management of ligament and tendon injuries including clinical paradigm shifts that have led to improved patient outcome.   More recently, Dr. Woo's research has focused on two areas: 1) measurement of the properties of ligaments and tendons and joint mechanics and 2) functional tissue engineering (FTE) and regeneration of ligaments and tendons. His laboratories are organized to investigate the cellular and molecular responses to mechanical stimuli to improve the outcome of ligament and tendon healing. Also, he has pioneered the use of robotic technology to study the function of ACL and to improve ACL reconstruction procedures. When combining it with biplanar fluoroscopy, he and his team will be able to better characterize mechanisms of ACL injury and find better ways for its prevention. Currently, Dr. Woo is exploring the use of biodegradable magnesium (Mg) and Mg alloys for ligament regeneration. Dr. Woo has educated over 465 orthopaedic surgeons, post-doctoral fellows and students from all around the globe including, Japan, Germany, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, Korea, Canada, England, Norway, India, Thailand, Hong Kong SAR, and China. He has also mentored 37 junior faculty members. Dr. Woo has been a leader in Bioengineering and Orthopaedics. He has served as Chair of ASME's Bioengineering Division, United States National Committee of Biomechanics, and the World Council for Biomechanics as well as President for The Orthopaedic Research Society, American Society of Biomechanics, and International Society for Fracture Repair. He has also founded the International Symposium on Ligaments and Tendons (ISL&T) and World Association for Chinese Biomedical Engineers (WACBE). Dr. Woo has been inducted into the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine), the National Academy of Engineering, and the Academia Sinica, only one of four persons who have gained all three of these honors. He has also received the highest honors from many professional societies, including the Kappa Delta Award, the Herbert R. Lissner Medal, the O'Donoghue Sports Injury Research Award, the Giovanni Borelli Award, the Muybridge Medal, and the prestigious Diamond Award for Distinguish Achievement from the University of Washington, among others. Most recently, he was given the IEEE Gold Medal for Innovation in Healthcare Technology from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 1998, Dr. Woo received the Olympic Prize for Sports Science from the International Olympic Committee and the first Olympic gold medal at the Nagano Games in Japan. ###
Paul Kovach

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