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.

Jan
9
2020

Advancing Neural Stimulation: Kozai Designs a Wireless, Light-Activated Electrode

Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 9, 2020) … Neural stimulation is a pioneering technology that can be used to recover function and improve the quality of life for individuals who suffer from brain injury or disease. It serves an integral role in modern neuroscience research and human neuroprosthetics, including advancements in prosthetic limbs and brain-computer interfaces. A challenge that remains with this technology is achieving long-term and precise stimulation of a specific group of neurons. Takashi D-Y Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, recently received a $1,652,844 award from the National Institutes of Health (1R01NS105691-01A1) to develop an innovative solution to address these limitations. “Implantation of these devices causes a reactive tissue response which degrades the functional performance over time, thus limiting device capabilities,” Kozai explained. “Current electrical stimulation implants are tethered to the skull, which leads to mechanical strain in the tissue, and in turn, causes chronic inflammation and increases the possibility of an infection.” Kozai, who leads the Bio-Integrating Optoelectric Neural Interface Cybernetics Lab in the Swanson School of Engineering, will use the NIH award to develop a wireless in vivo stimulation technology that will enable precise neural circuit probing while minimizing tissue damage. In this design, the electrode will be implanted in the brain and activated by light - via the photoelectric effect - with a far-red or infrared laser source, which can sit outside of the brain. “This use of photostimulation removes the mechanical requirements necessary in traditional microstimulation technology and improves spatial selectivity of activated neurons for stable, long-term electrical stimulation,” Kozai said. His group found that photostimulation drives a more localized population of neurons when compared to electrical stimulation under similar conditions. When used, the activated cells were closer to the electrode, which indicates increased spatial precision. The proposed technology will be smaller than traditional photovoltaic devices but larger than nanoparticles to improve device longevity. “With this project, we hope to develop advanced neural probes that are capable of activating specific neurons for long periods of time and with great precision,” Kozai said. “This technology could significantly impact neuroscience research and ultimately the treatment of neurological injury and disease in humans.” ###

Jan
6
2020

Take heart: Pitt study reveals how relaxin targets cardiovascular disease

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Jan. 6, 2020) … As a healthy heart ages, it becomes more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. Though researchers have discovered that relaxin, an insulin-like hormone, suppresses atrial fibrillation (AF), inflammation, and fibrosis in aged rats, the underlying mechanisms of these benefits are still unknown. In a recent Scientific Reports paper, University of Pittsburgh graduate student Brian Martin discusses how relaxin interacts with the body’s signaling processes to produce a fundamental mechanism that may have great therapeutic potential. The study, “Relaxin reverses maladaptive remodeling of the aged heart through Wnt-signaling” (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-53867-y) was led by Guy Salama, professor of medicine at Pitt, and Brian Martin, a graduate student researcher from the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Bioengineering. “Relaxin is a reproductive hormone discovered in the early 20th century that has been shown to suppress cardiovascular disease symptoms,” said Martin. “In this paper, we show that relaxin treatment reverses electrical remodeling in animal models by activating canonical Wnt signaling - a discovery that reveals a fundamental underlying mechanism behind relaxin’s benefits.” A better understanding of how relaxin interacts with the body may improve its efficacy as a therapy to treat cardiovascular disease in humans. As the U.S. population ages, the rates of these age-associated diseases are expected to rise, requiring better treatment for this leading cause of death. According to a report from the American Heart Association, the total direct medical costs of cardiovascular disease are projected to increase to $749 billion in 2035. “A common problem in age-associated cardiovascular disease is altered electrical signaling required for proper heart contraction,” Martin explained. “When ions in the heart and their associated channels to enter or exit the heart are disrupted, complications occur.” “Natural, healthy aging has been shown to be accompanied by changes in structure and function,” Salama added. “For example, aged cardiomyocytes start to express embryonic contractile proteins and fewer voltage-gated Na+ channels by unknown mechanisms. The reversal of some aspects of the aging process by relaxin is mediated by the reactivation of Wnt canonical signaling which may partly explain mechanisms of the aging process.” The group’s study found that relaxin upregulated the prominent sodium channel, Nav1.5, in cells of heart tissue via a mechanism inhibited by the Wnt pathway inhibitor Dickkopf-1. “Wnt signaling is thought to be active primarily in the developing heart and inactive later in life,” Martin said. “However, we show that relaxin can reactivate Wnt signaling in a beneficial way to increase Nav1.5.” Increased Nav1.5 is associated with better electrical signaling in the heart may reduce susceptibility to cardiac rhythm disorders. “Further, we show that relaxin can also reverse the age-associated reduction in cell adhesion molecules and cell-cell communication proteins,” he continued. “In summary, relaxin appears to reverse problematic reductions or pathological reorganization of vital cardiac signaling proteins.” While these data provide new insight into relaxin’s mechanisms of action, further work is needed to understand the precise steps required for relaxin to alter Wnt signaling and if steps can be taken to directly alter Wnt signaling to provide its beneficial effects. ### Image caption: “Left ventricular tissue sections (7-µm thick) from aged rat hearts (24 months old) were labeled with the nuclear stain (DAPI-blue) and an antibody against β-catenin (green). Rats were treated with Relaxin (0.4 mg/kg/day for 2-weeks) (left panel) or with the control vehicle (sodium acetate) (right panel) and the tissue sections were imaged by confocal microscopy (600X magnification). Relaxin treatment (left) produced a marked positive remodeling of aged ventricles with a reduction of cell hypertrophy, improved organization of myofibrils and cell membrane compared to untreated, control aged hearts (right).” Credit: Dr. Guillermo Romero.

Dec
17
2019

Three Bioengineering Graduate Students Receive American Heart Association Fellowships

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 17, 2019) … Three students from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering received 2020 American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowships, which provides up to two years of project support for aspiring academic and health professionals. “The Swanson School of Engineering has placed an emphasis on encouraging and helping  PhD students to compete for the prestigious national predoctoral fellowships because this effort is highly relevant from both educational and professional development perspectives,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering. “This is the largest number of AHA fellowships the Department of Bioengineering PhD students have received in a single year, and I am proud of the research accomplishments of each of these students. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of these students as independent investigators.” Ali Behrangzade (PI: Jonathan Vande Geest) Behrangzade works in the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Laboratory (STBL) where they have extensive experience in design, optimization, manufacturing and in vivo evaluation of tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs). These grafts are used in a coronary artery bypass procedure which is required for most patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). The surgery requires autologous vessels, which are blood vessels harvested from the patient’s own body, however, these vessels are not always suitable because of prior harvesting or pre-existing vascular disease. One of the major causes of graft failure in reconstructive CABG surgery is intimal hyperplasia (IH). This pathological condition is characterized by the thickening of the inner layer of a blood vessel due to an undesired mechanical and biological environment. As part of Behrangzade’s TEVG project, he will create an optimized TEVG-patch system and surgically connect it to an artery (anastomose) to evaluate the performance in an animal model. “Our approach will be to use a combined experimental and computational strategy to design, fabricate and assess the ability of a mechanically and geometrically optimized biopolymer TEVG-patch to maintain the homeostatic biomechanical environment (solid and fluid) in an end-to-side anastomosis,” said Behrangzade “We hypothesize that this will reduce the incidence of IH and therefore improve the patency rate of bypass procedures. The optimized graft-patch will then be fabricated and implanted into a rabbit carotid artery end-to-side anastomosis model to assess the function of the graft-patch system in vivo. The results of this study will potentially make significant improvements in the outcome of CABG surgery.” Soroosh Sanatkhani (PI: Sanjeev Shroff and Prahlad Menon) Sanatkhani is involved in multiple cardiovascular research projects under the supervision of Sanjeev Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering, and Prahlad Menon, adjunct assistant professor of bioengineering. His primary research is focused on hemodynamics indices and shape-based models of the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart to enhance stroke prediction in atrial fibrillation (AF). “In this study I plan to create two novel, patient-specific indices to improve the prediction of stroke in AF patients,” said Sanatkhani. “The first index is a hemodynamics-based calculation of residence time in LAA, which represents the probability of clot formation in the LAA and consequently a metric for stroke risk. The second index will quantify the LAA appearance (shape), which will help us correlate the probability of stroke with geometrical features of LAA” According to Sanatkhani, this project should result in a new and significantly improved method to predict stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation, which will enhance the clinical management in these patients Danial Sharifi Kia (PI: Marc Simon and Kang Kim) Sharifi Kia’s research is focused on right ventricular biomechanics in pulmonary hypertension, under the supervision of Marc Simon and Kang Kim, associate professors of medicine and bioengineering. The heart-lung system in the human body handles carrying blood from the heart to the lungs. Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a disease that results from the arteries in the heart-lung system getting restricted, which leads to high blood pressure in these arteries and the heart. As a result, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood, eventually leading to heart failure - the main cause of death for nearly 70 percent of PH patients. Despite many developments, to date, lung transplantation remains the only cure for PH and current imaging techniques are often not able to effectively track the structural alterations in the heart of PH patients. “We are currently working on a newly developed drug called Sacubitril/Valsartan (Sac/Val) that has shown great potential for heart failure treatment,” said Sharifi Kia. “We test the effectiveness of treatment with this drug in PH by using an animal model of PH in rats. Furthermore, we will also be developing a novel high-frequency ultrasound imaging technology to visualize the fiber architecture of the heart of PH patients with enough resolution. "Since Sac/Val is already FDA-approved, results of this study can be quickly translated into the clinic and provide a treatment option for PH patients,” he continued. “Additionally, the proposed imaging technology may improve monitoring of structural changes in the heart of PH patients.” ###

Dec
11
2019

National Academy of Inventors elects William J. Federspiel as Fellow

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 11, 2019) … With 12 issued U.S. patents in the medical device industry and five more pending, University of Pittsburgh Professor William J. Federspiel is among 168 distinguished academic inventors to be named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), the organization announced on December 3, 2019. Federspiel, the John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering in the Swanson School of Engineering, directs the Medical Devices Lab in the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine. His lab primarily develops much needed clinical devices for the treatment of lung failure, including most recently, compact wearable artificial lungs for adults and children suffering from acute and chronic lung disease. “I am honored and humbled to be named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors,” he said. “Our work in the lab and its translation into the clinic has demonstrated that critical care patients can be treated with the innovative medical devices that we have invented. This honor would not have been possible without the help of an outstanding team of bioengineers over the years and my long-time designer and fabricator, Brian Frankowski. We continually improve upon our technology so that we can best address the needs of critical care patients with pulmonary disease.” Federspiel’s research in artificial lung technology eventually led him to co-found ALung Technologies, a Pittsburgh-based medical device startup company that develops technology for treating respiratory failure. He serves as head of the scientific advisory board for the company, which is currently undergoing clinical trials for their Hemolung® Respiratory Assist System (RAS), a dialysis-like alternative for or supplement to mechanical ventilation which removes carbon dioxide directly from the blood in patients with acute respiratory failure. The Hemolung RAS originated in the Federspiel lab and has already helped more than 500 patients. The demonstrated worldwide need for the Hemolung is over one million patients per year. “I am proud to have Bill as part of our bioengineering faculty,” said Sanjeev G. Shroff, distinguished professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt. “His long-standing interest in and commitment to developing novel respiratory support devices has culminated in technology that has saved the lives of critically ill patients, and his innovations will continue to impact the medical community for many years to come. He is most deserving of this prestigious recognition.” In addition to his U.S. patents, Federspiel has 60 foreign patents issued and pending, and eight completed licenses. He has published over 120 peer reviewed journal articles, prepared nine books/book chapters, and serves as an editorial board member for three journals. He is also an elected Fellow of several prestigious professional organizations such as the Biomedical Engineering Society, the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs. The NAI Fellows Program highlights academic inventors who have demonstrated a spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society. Election to NAI Fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded solely to academic inventors. To date, NAI Fellows hold more than 41,500 issued U.S. patents, which have generated over 11,000 licensed technologies and companies, and created more than 36 million jobs. In addition, over $1.6 trillion in revenue has been generated based on NAI Fellow discoveries. Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research, was also recently elected fellow for the National Academy of Inventors. He pioneered the first set of practical computer tools for nondigital integrated circuit design and commercialized these via his startup, Neolinear, Inc. Acquired in 2004, the Neolinear team is today the nucleus of Cadence Design Systems’ large Pittsburgh research and development site. He also pioneered novel computer architectures for high-speed speech recognition, which is today available commercially from his startup Voci Technologies, Inc. Voci, located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, currently delivers the world’s fastest appliances for enterprise voice analytics, helping a wide range of companies listen to their customers and translate these conversations into useful business intelligence. Rutenbar, who has secondary faculty appointments in computer science and electrical and computer engineering, holds 14 U.S. patents, has started two companies and has created more than 100 jobs. He has published almost 200 papers in elite journal and conference venues and has been cited nearly 11,000 times, according to Google Scholar. The complete list of NAI Fellows is available on the NAI website. About the National Academy of Inventors The National Academy of Inventors is a member organization comprising U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutes, with over 4,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 250 institutions worldwide. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. The NAI has a close collaborative relationship with the USPTO and is one of three honorific organizations, along with the National Medals and National Inventors Hall of Fame, working closely with the USPTO on many discovery and innovation support initiatives. The NAI publishes the multidisciplinary journal, Technology and Innovation. www.academyofinventors.org

Dec
10
2019

The Swanson School’s Fall 2019 Design Expo Showcases Creativity in Engineering

All SSoE News, Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (Dec. 10, 2019) … Twice each year, students from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering gather at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall to showcase their innovations at the Design Expo. Student teams use this opportunity to present research from their Capstone Design courses or highlight concepts and prototypes from the School’s Product Realization and Art of Making courses. More than 75 student projects were exhibited at the event on Dec. 5, 2019. This year’s Expo aligns with Pitt’s Year of Creativity, which highlights a unifying feature across all University departments - creativity is required not only in artistic endeavors but also for identifying inventive ways to solve real-world problems. The Design Expo highlights how creativity and innovation in engineering can impact the lives of others. Judges from industry selected the best project from each of the participating courses, and attendees casted votes for the "People's Choice" Award. New this year - as part of the Year of Creativity - a prize will be awarded for the most creative project. “The Design Expo is the Swanson School’s signature competition that shines a light on our students’ high-level academic performance and ingenuity,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Nickolas A. Dececco Professor of Industrial Engineering and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “Our winners have truly demonstrated their engineering abilities. I am always impressed with the quality of work that I see at this event, and I look forward to what the future holds for this year’s winning innovations.” OVERALL WINNERS Best Overall Project AOM-3: TupperWhere: A Compact Sustainable Food ContainerJamie BarishmanJosh LneBridget MoyerBobby Rouse People’s Choice Award AOM-1: It’s Your Turn: Empowering People with Fine-Motor DisabilitiesNatasha GilbertMaureen HartMadison HenkelmanShirley JiangSydney LeonardDanielle Wu Year of Creativity Award AOM-3: TupperWhere: A Compact Sustainable Food ContainerJamie BarishmanJosh LneBridget MoyerBobby Rouse DEPARTMENT WINNERS 1st Place Bioengineering BIO-6: Post-Partum Hemorrhage TrainerTyler BrayJessica BrownMarlo GarrisonMaddie HobbsAlly McDonaldJake Meadows 2nd Place Bioengineering BIO-7: Patient Specific Endovascular TrainerDaniella Carter (Nursing)Elliott HammersleyMaddie JohnsonSara KenesLiam MartinCeline Rivera (Nursing)Cassie Smith 3rd Place Bioengineering BIO-3: Nurse-Assistive Patient Rotation Mechanism for Pressure Sore ExaminationPatrick BohseJordan Cobb (Nursing)Julie ConstantinescuChristy HeislerHaiden McDonald 1st Place Civil and Environmental Engineering CEE-5: PWSA - ClearwellTristan AbrahamTimothy ChebuskeAndrew DawsonRachel FayChristina RogersMason Unger 2nd Place Civil and Environmental Engineering CEE-1: Pittsburgh International Airport - New BuildingSeth AppelCole BurdenAdam ChidiacLiam StubanasMark Vrabel 1st Place Electrical and Computer Engineering ECE-4: Electric Vehicle to Grid: Microgrid IntegrationNate CarnovaleAqilah Mahmud ZuhriElizabeth RagerSeth SoStephen Wilson 2nd Place Electrical and Computer Engineering ECE-5: LUMINBen BirkettAustin ChampionChristopher EngelJared LinBrian McMinn 3rd Place Electrical and Computer Engineering ECE-6: ParkITJustin AndersonBen HarrisParker MaySam PetersonRob Schwartz 1st Place Industrial Engineering IE-3: GraneRx Performance DashboardAdvisor: Caroline KolmanMarlee BrownSean CallaghanAlex HartmanAdam Sneath 2nd Place Industrial Engineering IE-7: Tiered Approach for Increasing Inventory Accuracy of Raw Materials at AccuTrexAdvisor: Jayent RajgopalZach DissenMaiti KeenDina PerlicJenna RudolphConnor Wurst 1st Place Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science MEMS-1: Hockey Skate Laces Tension Retaining Device and Adaptation for Use with Athletic ShoesAdvisor: Brad Pelkofer – Panther LacesDaniel GunterDavis HerchkoKaylee LevineDavid Maupin 2nd Place Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science MEMS-9: Unripe Fruit Removal System for TomatoHarvesting RobotAdvisor: Mr. Brandon Contino – Four GrowersGabriel FruitmanJames MaierJoshua Pope 3rd Place Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science MEMS-10: Development of a System to Test Anterior Cruciate Ligament FailureAdvisor: Dr. Patrick SmolinskiAustin BussardAlexander HourietSydney LeonardGriffin Monahan 1st Place Product Realization PR-2: Body Camera Range ExtenderAmedeo HirataJoshua LineRyan BarrettTyler Smith 2nd Place Product Realization PR-1: Alarm and Safe IntegrationAlex DziakLindsey LauruneAlex BuonomoGaby Robinson 1st Place Art of Making AOM-3: TupperWhere: A Compact Sustainable Food ContainerJamie BarishmanJosh LneBridget MoyerBobby Rouse 2nd Place Art of Making AOM-1: It’s Your Turn: Empowering People with Fine-Motor DisabilitiesNatasha GilbertMaureen HartMadison HenkelmanShirley JiangSydney LeonardDanielle Wu 1st Place Medical Product Prototyping MPP-3: Acetone BreathalyzerBrinden EltonPhillip Harding 2nd Place Medical Product Prototyping MPP-2: ET3Nikki CwalinaLiam McNamaraBryce Norwood Click here to view the full collection of photos.

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