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 187 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.

Jun
1
2020

BioE Graduate Student Awarded 2020 GPSG Leadership and Service Award

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 1, 2020) — The University of Pittsburgh Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG) presented Haley Fuller, vice president of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Engineering Graduate Student Organization (EGSO), with the 2020 GPSG Leadership and Service Award. Fuller is a second-year graduate student in bioengineering. The Award recognizes current Pitt graduate and professional students’ service or leadership to the University, surrounding community, and world at large. Fuller joined EGSO when she matriculated in 2018 and, within the first two months, fulfilled the Communications Officer position, which is normally held by more senior students. Driven to be more involved, she ran for and was elected Vice President of EGSO within her second year as a graduate student. She also joined the Pitt chapter of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), where she was selected as first-year representative for her class. “When I moved to Pittsburgh from the Washington, DC, area, I was eager to make friends and get involved with my new graduate program right off the bat. EGSO accomplished exactly this for me, as well as has provided academic and professional support over the past two years of my involvement,” said Fuller. “Since EGSO is an interdepartmental organization run entirely by student volunteers, I was immediately greeted at the door by the most enthusiastic, self-driven individuals across various engineering disciplines who have since become both my friends and scientific collaborators.” In addition to her work in EGSO and BMES, Fuller serves as a program facilitator for Investing Now, an initiative that introduces Pittsburgh high school students to STEM disciplines. The role requires training throughout the spring semester in preparation for teaching self-directed two-hour sessions, four days a week, through the month of July, all while continuing her own research in Warren Ruder’s Synthetic Biology and Biomimetics Laboratory at Pitt. “Working alongside like-minded students has driven me to become involved in other organizations across campus, as well as encouraged me to pursue projects on campus in which I’ve gotten the chance to interact directly with faculty members to influence institutional direction for the future of the university,” said Fuller. Before arriving at Pitt, Fuller earned a B.S. in Biological Systems Engineering with a Biomedical Focus and spent three years working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the High-throughput and Robotics lead and bioprocess engineer at the Vaccine Research Center (VRC). “Haley has already demonstrated her leadership and commitment to service during her brief period here at the University of Pittsburgh, and resident of the community,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, associate dean for academic affairs and EGSO faculty mentor. “She has the self-awareness to understand the gaps in the system and speak up for those unable or too shy to do so.”
Maggie Pavlick
May
27
2020

Exploring the Neurological Male-Female Divide in Dementia

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (May 27, 2020) … Fifty million people worldwide are living with dementia, a broad term for diseases and conditions characterized by progressive cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, afflicts 5.8 million Americans, and nearly two-thirds are women. Despite the staggering disparity among the sexes, researchers have yet to discover how biological factors affect this disease. University of Pittsburgh faculty Bistra Iordanova believes that disease treatment is not a one-size-fits-all approach. She received a $2,581,762 R01 award from the National Institutes of Health to study how sex differences contribute to cognitive impairment and dementia. “We believe that the brain vascular system -- the network of blood vessels that circulate oxygen and glucose throughout the brain -- plays an important role in dementia,” said Iordanova, a bioengineering assistant professor in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “The vascular system affects cognitive impairment and dementia of both men and women with Alzheimer’s disease; however, research shows that the pathways, severity and presentation seem to be different,” she continued. These findings have illustrated the disparity among the biological sexes in Alzheimer’s disease, but a complete understanding of these differences remains elusive. “One reason it is difficult to understand the sex-based distinctions in dementia is because in a significant portion of the human studies, the gender is regressed out, and the data are pooled together to increase the effect size,” said Iordanova. “Also, until recently, the bulk of animal studies exclusively used males in an effort to keep costs low.” In this project, she will take a closer look at the brain to see how sex differences influence the connection between neural activity and changes in cerebral blood flow. She will also examine the flow of energy within the brain in real-time and how hormonal changes during aging may affect the energy consumption of the brain. “Our approach will examine the gene expression of individual cells and use brain imaging to determine the specific cell types that contribute to neurovascular resilience,” said Iordanova. “We hope that our data will uncover personalized molecular targets for therapy and improve treatment of dementia.” While Iordanova’s project looks specifically at dementia, a personalized medicine approach can be applied to other diseases as well, including COVID-19. The novel coronavirus has had different severity and presentation among not only older and younger individuals, but also among men and women. “It is important to track this information and try to understand why more men are dying from COVID-19 than women,” said Iordanova. “Much like with Alzheimer’s research, this pandemic is treated as though all humans have exactly the same physiology, and it may benefit treatment to have a person-specific approach.” # # # Image caption: A two-photon image of brain vasculature (red), neurons (green) and Alzheimer's plaques (blue). Credit: Bistra Iordanova.

May
18
2020

David Gau Receives National Cancer Center Fellowship for Kidney Cancer Research

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (May 18, 2020) … According to the American Cancer Society, kidney cancer is among the top ten most common cancers in men and women. More than 73,000 new cases and nearly 15,000 deaths are predicted for in the US for 2020. Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) -- the most common subtype of tumor associated with kidney cancer -- accounts for more than 75 percent of cases. David Gau (Math BS ‘11, BioE BS ‘11, PhD ‘18), a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, will use a fellowship from the National Cancer Center to study the role of a protein in ccRCC progression. He will work with Partha Roy, associate professor of bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, and Walter Storkus, professor of dermatology and immunology in the School of Medicine. “Twenty to thirty percent of patients with clear cell renal cell carcinoma will have cancer metastasis by the time of diagnosis and a third of those treated will have recurrence,” said Gau. “Our lab wants to look at the underlying mechanisms associated with this disease so that we can help develop more effective treatments.” A common theme of this type of cancer is the highly vascularized nature of the tumor environment, that is, an abundance of blood vessels in the tumor area. In this project, the research group will look at how to control a process called angiogenesis - the formation of new blood vessels. “Anti-angiogenic treatments to limit vessel formation in the tumor initially work well in patients, but many will have cancer progression due to innate resistant mechanisms to current anti-angiogenic agents,” explained Gau. “We want to evaluate the role of the protein Profilin1 in ccRCC progression.” According to Gau, current research suggests that increased Profilin1 expression in ccRCC is correlated with poor patient prognosis, and preliminary data suggests that it plays a key role in vessel formation, which would make it a candidate for a potential new therapeutic target. “Our lab has previously developed Profilin1 inhibitors, which will also be tested as a potential therapy for kidney cancer,” he said. “Completion of this project would demonstrate direct impact of Profilin1 and regulation of vessel formation in clear cell renal cell carcinoma and provide foundational evidence for targeting Profilin1 as a potential treatment for kidney cancer.” # # #

May
14
2020

ALung Announces Commercial Development of its Breakthrough Next Generation Artificial Lung

Covid-19, Bioengineering

Reposted from Business Wire. Click here to view the original press release. PITTSBURGH–(BUSINESS WIRE)– April 4, 2020 ALung Technologies, Inc., the leading provider of low-flow extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) technologies for treating patients with acute respiratory failure, announced the recent initiation of commercial development of its next generation artificial lung, which expands the Company’s focus on highly efficient gas exchange devices and also broadens its applicable market. The Company’s current product, the Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System (RAS), is the only fully comprehensive extracorporeal carbon dioxide removal (ECCO2R) system specifically designed and manufactured for this therapy, as compared to complex competitive products that are modifications of existing technologies designed for other purposes. The Hemolung continues to be the most highly efficient and simple to use ECCO2R system on the market today. The next generation Hemolung RAS is based upon intellectual property recently licensed to ALung from the University of Pittsburgh. Developed by Professor William Federspiel, PhD and colleagues at the Swanson School of Engineering and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, this new technology platform significantly enhances gas exchange efficiency while reducing the deleterious hematologic effects from extracorporeal blood circulation. The licensed research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health and the Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Federspiel has an equity holding in the company and is compensated as an advisory board member. “The next generation Hemolung RAS is a direct result of the continued collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh and ALung Technologies. This collaboration, spanning 20+ years, has resulted in a rich pipeline of innovation for ALung that will accelerate the development of highly efficient, simple to use artificial lung devices for the treatment of acute respiratory failure. The foundation of our next generation system is an integrated artificial lung cartridge/blood pump that will be unparalleled in the industry as the most efficient carbon dioxide removal and oxygen delivery system, which will address the needs of acute respiratory failure patients that require ECCO2R and/or ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation). All of this will again be consolidated in a comprehensive, easy to use system without all of the complexities represented in competitive systems,” stated Peter M. DeComo, Chairman and CEO of ALung Technologies. Jeremy Kimmel, PhD, Vice President of New Technology at ALung Technologies stated, “Professor Federspiel and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh have rapidly advanced this technology toward commercial readiness through state of the art computational, in vitro and in vivo testing, including successful 7-day and 30-day large animal studies. ALung has initiated commercial development of the next generation Hemolung RAS to provide clinicians with the flexibility to support patients across the full spectrum of acute and acute-on-chronic respiratory failure using a single integrated device. The system design will accommodate bedside therapy as well as portability and wearability, further enhancing device usability and expanding potential clinical indications.” Key features and benefits of the next generation Hemolung RAS will include: Patent-pending technology that generates superior blood flow uniformity to maximize gas exchange efficiency. A custom designed centrifugal pump integrated with a low surface area (0.65 m2) gas exchange membrane without the need for additional components (e.g. heat exchanger, pressure ports) that will reduce operational complexity of the system. Low flow ECCO2R (250 – 700 mL/min) as well as full ECMO (2 – 4 L/min) using a single integrated pump and gas exchange membrane. The highest efficiency oxygenation of any ECMO device on the market providing full oxygen saturation at ≤4 L/min blood flow with membrane surface area of 0.65 m2. COPD affects 30 million Americans1 and is the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cancer and heart disease.2 Acute exacerbations, defined as a sudden worsening of COPD symptoms, are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in COPD patients. ARDS is estimated to affect more than 10% of intensive care unit patients globally, has a mortality rate as high as 45% and requires invasive mechanical ventilation in the majority of cases.3,4 Combined, these disorders represent a significant need and a global market for innovative respiratory assist devices. The COVID-19 pandemic is a recent example of such a dramatic need. Currently, the Hemolung RAS has European marketing clearance (CE Mark). In addition, it is the only system that has been studied for safety and efficacy in two large landmark pivotal trials; the FDA approved VENT-AVOID trial and the U.K. REST trial. The Hemolung RAS was recently granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by FDA for the treatment of acute respiratory failure caused by COVID-19. About ALung Technologies ALung Technologies, Inc. is a privately held Pittsburgh-based developer and manufacturer of innovative lung assist devices. Founded in 1997 as a spin-out of the University of Pittsburgh, ALung has developed the Hemolung RAS as a dialysis-like alternative or supplement to mechanical ventilation. ALung is backed by Philips, UPMC Enterprises, Abiomed, The Accelerator Fund, Allos Ventures, Birchmere Ventures, Blue Tree Ventures, Eagle Ventures, Riverfront Ventures, West Capital Advisors, and other individual investors. For more information about ALung and the Hemolung RAS, visit www.alung.com. For more information on the VENT-AVOID trial, and a list of enrolling sites, please visit clinicaltrials.gov. For more information about the REST Trial, please visit UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – REST Trial Project Website. For more information on the use of the Hemolung RAS for COVID-19 patients, please visit https://www.alung.com/covid-19/covid-19-us/ CAUTION: The Hemolung RAS is an Investigational Device and limited by United States law to investigational use. This press release may contain forward-looking statements, which, if not based on historical facts, involve current assumptions and forecasts as well as risks and uncertainties. Our actual results may differ materially from the results or events stated in the forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, certain events not within the Company’s control. Events that could cause results to differ include failure to meet ongoing developmental and manufacturing timelines, changing GMP requirements, the need for additional capital requirements, risks associated with regulatory approval processes, adverse changes to reimbursement for the Company’s products/services, and delays with respect to market acceptance of new products/services and technologies. Other risks may be detailed from time to time, but the Company does not attempt to revise or update its forward-looking statements even if future experience or changes make it evident that any projected events or results expressed or implied therein will not be realized. References 1. https://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is-COPD/COPD-Facts/Statistics.aspx 2. http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/research/copd-trend-report.pdf 3. Bellani. Epidemiology, Patterns of Care, and Mortality for Patients With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Intensive Care Units in 50 Countries. JAMA. 2016;315(8):788-800. 4. Walkey A. Acute respiratory distress syndrome: epidemiology and management approaches. Clinical Epidemiology 2012:4 159–169.

May
4
2020

Innovating for Impact with Health Technology Entrepreneurship

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

Equipped with a degree in bioengineering, four years of research and development experience, and an award-winning design process, Jacob “Jake” Meadows (BioE ’20) is prepared to embark on a new journey to the United Kingdom, thanks to a Fulbright scholarship. Initially inspired to help individuals with fine motor control issues, Meadows and his classmate Tyler Bray (BioE ‘20) spent the last two years working on their project to help older individuals and people with movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease. “In the Art of Making course, Tyler and I learned how to create solutions to complex real-world problems with human-centered design” said Meadows, a recent University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering alumnus. “Since then, we’ve worked with over 100 individuals with Parkinson’s, physical therapists, and physicians to continue developing a wearable device that detects and alerts poor posture.” The project, Posture Protect, has since received a series of awards and funding, including Best Overall Project at the Swanson School Design Expo and first place at the Innovation Institute’s Startup Blitz. Meadows and Bray also participated in the University’s student accelerator, Blast Furnace, and were part of the first cohort of the University’s new student startup incubator, the Forge. Continuing this project outside of the classroom also motivated Meadows, Bray, and their mentor Joseph Samosky, assistant professor of bioengineering, to start Classroom to Community, a program that seeks to bridge the gap between academic projects and real-world impact. As Design & Innovation Manager, Meadows helped grow the program to support six student teams comprising more than 30 students in a collaborative community space on the fourth floor of Benedum Hall called “Studio 437.” Meadows also worked in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at Pitt, where he helped build products to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities. On campus, he was involved in student organizations and served as president of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and as the public relations chair of the Biomedical Engineering Society. Meadows will use the Fulbright scholarship to attend University College London (UCL), where he will pursue a one-year master’s degree in entrepreneurship with the goal of starting a health technology company that focuses on healthy aging. “Studying in London, one of the world's leading centers of entrepreneurship, will empower me with an international Meadows at a user outreach session at the Fit4Boxing Gym in Allison Park after one of the RockSteady Parkinson’s Boxing classes. network of people that are excited to make health technology more accessible, affordable and effective,” said Meadows. “These relationships will enable me to begin a career dedicated to improving the lives of older individuals and people with chronic conditions through international collaboration.” He plans to connect with the Global Disability Innovation Hub, an organization at UCL whose goal is to challenge how the world thinks about disability through co-design, collaboration and innovation. He will also continue participating in the “maker movement” by joining UCL’s Institute of Making. “I care a lot about inclusive design, and I am excited to continue promoting it in both engineering and entrepreneurship,” he said. Meadows’ creativity doesn’t stop at health technology design. In addition to his studies, he hopes to explore different regions of the U.K. and continue to practice another passion -- photography. “I am excited to explore the culture, architecture and landscapes of the United Kingdom through the lens of my camera alongside fellow photographers I meet in Britain,” he said. When Meadows returns to the U.S., he plans to continue addressing issues in aging by starting a health technology company that will combine empathetic design and advanced technologies to benefit the public good. He hopes that this experience will give him the global perspective needed to apply different approaches to medical care and help individuals age in a healthy way. “My studies in the UK will ultimately help me promote the global shift in health technology from expensive and intimidating to affordable and empowering,” he said. # # #

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