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.


Bioengineering names Soroosh Sanatkhani its 2018 Wes Pickard Fellow

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (August 13, 2018) … Soroosh Sanatkhani, a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, was named the 2018 Wes Pickard Fellow by the Department of Bioengineering. Recipients of this award are selected by the department chair and chosen based on academic merit. Sanatkhani began his studies in automotive engineering at Iran University of Science & Technology. He then joined the graduate program in Mechanical Engineering at Sharif University of Technology where he focused on bio-fluids, fluid dynamics, and hemodynamics - the study of the dynamics of blood flow. This research helped build his background in bioengineering, and after receiving his master’s degree, he was awarded a scholarship to join the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt. Sanatkhani is involved in multiple cardiovascular research projects under the supervision of Sanjeev G. Shroff, Distinguished Professor and Gerald E. McGinnis Chair of Bioengineering at Pitt, and Prahlad G. 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. In 2017, he was selected as the Swanson School’s Berenfield Fellow, which helped fund foundational elements of his current research. “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 and decrease the risk of stroke. “The Wes Pickard Fellowship will be a valuable complement to the mentorship and training I receive from Drs. Shroff and Menon,” said Sanatkhani. “My exposure to cardiovascular research throughout these projects has helped me realize that I would like to dedicate my research career to this field. This fellowship will help me continue my ongoing project on improving stroke risk prediction in atrial fibrillation.” About Wesley Pickard: Mr. Pickard is an alumnus of the Swanson School of Engineering and earned his bachelor's degree in mining engineering at Pitt in 1961.  He retired from Synergy Inc, a DC based consulting firm as the CFO. Over a period of 33 years, Pickard helped the company grow from five staff members to more than 200 with revenues of approximately $25 million when it was sold in 2005. His support of Pitt includes the establishment of this fellowship, and he was recently inducted into the Cathedral of Learning Society at Pitt—a giving society that honors some of our most generous alumni. In 2010 Mr. Pickard was named the University of Pittsburgh Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Alumnus. He also received the Pitt Volunteer of Excellence Award in 2012 and was named a “Significant Sig” in 2017 by Sigma Chi Fraternity.  In 2018 he was selected as the overall honoree representing the entire Swanson School at the 54th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet. ###


Bioengineering names Ali Behrangzade its 2018 Leonard H. Berenfield Fellow

Bioengineering, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (August 13, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh Department of Bioengineering selected Ali Behrangzade, a graduate student in the Soft Tissue Biomechanics Lab, for its Leonard H. Berenfield Graduate Fellowship in Bioengineering. This competitive fellowship is awarded to one student each academic year. Recipients of this award receive one year of funding for cardiovascular research performed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. They retain the title of Berenfield Fellow throughout their PhD studies and occasionally meet with the award’s donor. Behrangzade earned his BSc and MSc degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Tehran. During his master’s, he focused on experimental and computational fluid mechanics. He is currently pursuing a PhD in bioengineering under advisor Jonathan P. Vande Geest, professor of bioengineering. Behrangzade is working on functional tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) that will be used for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. According to a 2015 American Heart Association report, coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs in 32.2 percent of males and 18.8 percent of females over the age of 80, and most of these patients require CABG surgery. Autologous vessels are blood vessels obtained from the same individual and used in CABG surgery. However, these vessels are not always suitable because of prior harvesting or pre-existing vascular disease. “Since current alternatives for autologous vessels lead to failure of the grafts via intimal hyperplasia - thickening of the inner layer of a blood vessel - and graft thrombosis, a functional TEVG is required for CABG surgery,” said Behrangzade. “As part of this project, I’m studying vasoactivity - the contraction and dilation of a blood vessel in response to different stimuli - of these vascular grafts which is a necessary feature of a functional TEVG.” “Vasoactivity contributes to the regulation of blood pressure by a contraction/dilation process. Since smooth muscle cells (SMCs) play the key role in vasoconstriction/vasodilation, I am investigating the responsiveness of the SMC-seeded vascular graft to different chemical stimuli,” explained Behrangzade. “The ultimate goal of this research is to provide a functional TEVG as a reliable alternative for autologous vessels for CABG surgery, which will lead to less failure and can benefit patients and the healthcare system. About Leonard H. Berenfield:Leonard H. Berenfield received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1964. In 1965, after one year at Westinghouse, he moved to Warren, Pa. to use his engineering knowledge to help grow Berenfield Steel Drum Co. – the family steel drum manufacturing business. The firm’s continued growth led to reorganization as Berenfield Containers, Inc. in 1985 with Mr. Berenfield assuming the role of President. Further expansions of existing plants over the years and the acquisition of plants in Harrisburg, N.C. and Pine Bluff, Ark. as well as new factories to diversify the product line into fibre drums established the company’s legacy. Mauser USA purchased Berenfield Containers in 2016. Mr. Berenfield was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and is an active volunteer. He has held posts in several nonprofit and industry boards including the American Heart Association, the United Way, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Hebrew Union College, the Steel Shipping Container Institute, the International Fibre Drum Institute, and the Industrial Steel Drum Institute. In 2018, he was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Swanson School’s  Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. ###


Integrated Sensor Could Monitor Brain Aneurysm Treatment

Bioengineering, Industrial

POSTED WITH PERMISSION FROM GEORGIA TECH. ATLANTA (August 2, 2018) ... Implantation of a stent-like flow diverter can offer one option for less invasive treatment of brain aneurysms – bulges in blood vessels – but the procedure requires frequent monitoring while the vessels heal. Now, a multi-university research team has demonstrated proof-of-concept for a highly flexible and stretchable sensor that could be integrated with the flow diverter to monitor hemodynamics in a blood vessel without costly diagnostic procedures.The sensor, which uses capacitance changes to measure blood flow, could reduce the need for testing to monitor the flow through the diverter. Researchers, led by Georgia Tech, have shown that the sensor accurately measures fluid flow in animal blood vessels in vitro, and are working on the next challenge: wireless operation that could allow in vivo testing. The research was reported July 18 in the journal ACS Nano and was supported by multiple grants from Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, the University of Pittsburgh and the Korea Institute of Materials Science. “The nanostructured sensor system could provide advantages for patients, including a less invasive aneurysm treatment and an active monitoring capability,” said Woon-Hong Yeo, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “The integrated system could provide active monitoring of hemodynamics after surgery, allowing the doctor to follow up with quantitative measurement of how well the flow diverter is working in the treatment.”Cerebral aneurysms occur in up to five percent of the population, with each aneurysm carrying a one percent risk per year of rupturing, noted Youngjae Chun, an associate professor in the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Aneurysm rupture will cause death in up to half of affected patients. Endovascular therapy using platinum coils to fill the aneurysm sac has become the standard of care for most aneurysms, but recently a new endovascular approach – a flow diverter – has been developed to treat cerebral aneurysms. Flow diversion involves placing a porous stent across the neck of an aneurysm to redirect flow away from the sac, generating local blood clots within the sac.“We have developed a highly stretchable, hyper-elastic flow diverter using a highly-porous thin film nitinol,” Chun explained. “None of the existing flow diverters, however, provide quantitative, real-time monitoring of hemodynamics within the sac of cerebral aneurysm. Through the collaboration with Dr. Yeo's group at Georgia Tech, we have developed a smart flow-diverter system that can actively monitor the flow alterations during and after surgery.”  Repairing the damaged artery takes months or even years, during which the flow diverter must be monitored using MRI and angiogram technology, which is costly and involves injection of a magnetic dye into the blood stream. Yeo and his colleagues hope their sensor could provide simpler monitoring in a doctor’s office using a wireless inductive coil to send electromagnetic energy through the sensor. By measuring how the energy’s resonant frequency changes as it passes through the sensor, the system could measure blood flow changes into the sac.“We are trying to develop a batteryless, wireless device that is extremely stretchable and flexible that can be miniaturized enough to be routed through the tiny and complex blood vessels of the brain and then deployed without damage,” said Yeo. “It’s a very challenging to insert such electronic system into the brain’s narrow and contoured blood vessels.”The sensor uses a micro-membrane made of two metal layers surrounding a dielectric material, and wraps around the flow diverter. The device is just a few hundred nanometers thick, and is produced using nanofabrication and material transfer printing techniques, encapsulated in a soft elastomeric material.“The membrane is deflected by the flow through the diverter, and depending on the strength of the flow, the velocity difference, the amount of deflection changes,” Yeo explained. “We measure the amount of deflection based on the capacitance change, because the capacitance is inversely proportional to the distance between two metal layers.”Because the brain’s blood vessels are so small, the flow diverters can be no more than five to ten millimeters long and a few millimeters in diameter. That rules out the use of conventional sensors with rigid and bulky electronic circuits.“Putting functional materials and circuits into something that size is pretty much impossible right now,” Yeo said. “What we are doing is very challenging based on conventional materials and design strategies.”The researchers tested three materials for their sensors: gold, magnesium and the nickel-titanium alloy known as nitinol. All can be safely used in the body, but magnesium offers the potential to be dissolved into the bloodstream after it is no longer needed.The proof-of-principle sensor was connected to a guide wire in the in vitro testing, but Yeo and his colleagues are now working on a wireless version that could be implanted in a living animal model. While implantable sensors are being used clinically to monitor abdominal blood vessels, application in the brain creates significant challenges.“The sensor has to be completely compressed for placement, so it must be capable of stretching 300 or 400 percent,” said Yeo. “The sensor structure has to be able to endure that kind of handling while being conformable and bending to fit inside the blood vessel.”The research included multiple contributors from different institutions, including Connor Howe from Virginia Commonwealth University; Saswat Mishra and Yun-Soung Kim from Georgia Tech, Youngjae Chun, Yanfei Chen, Sang-Ho Ye and William Wagner from the University of Pittsburgh; Jae-Woong Jeong from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Hun-Soo Byun from Chonnam National University; and Jong-Hoon Kim from Washington State University. CITATION: Connor Howe, et. al., “Stretchable, Implantable, Nanostructured Flow-Diverter System for Quantification of Intra-aneurysmal Hemodynamics” (ACS Nano, 2018). http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.8b04689 ### A proof-of-concept flow sensor is shown here on a stent backbone. (Credit: John Toon, Georgia Tech)   With gloved fingers for scale, a proof-of-concept flow sensor is shown here on a stent backbone. (Credit: Woon-Hong Yeo, Georgia Tech)
John Toon, Director of Research News, Georgia Tech

Pitt bioengineer receives $390K NIH grant to develop imaging technology that may improve brain implant design

All SSoE News, Bioengineering

PITTSBURGH (July 18, 2018) … Chronic brain implants are long-term devices used to record brain activity or stimulate neurons with electrical pulses and are a crucial component of neuroprosthetics. The performance of these devices depends on the host tissue response, which is often inflammatory and results in device performance degradation. Takashi Kozai, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, was awarded an NIH R21 grant to improve device design by investigating the role of oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells in this process. Kozai will work with Franca Cambi, professor of neurology at Pitt, to develop in vivo imaging technology that will explore how these cells cause negative tissue response to chronic brain implants. Supported by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Kozai and Cambi received a two-year, $386,645 award for their research. Kozai and his collaborators recently published work that reveals the importance of the brain’s glial cells. Oligodendrocytes and oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) are a type of glia or connective tissue in the central nervous system that play an important role in brain injury and neuronal activity, including the body’s response to brain implants. Oligodendrocytes are crucial for normal signaling in the brain. They produce proteins that help neurons grow, form synapses, and may even help neurons survive traumatic injuries. They play a key role in myelination, a process where oligodendrocytes wrap a fatty substance around the neuron’s axon to help insulate electrical signals and allow neural signals to move more rapidly. “Oligodendrocytes, like neurons, consume enormous amounts of energy,” explained Kozai. “Neurons require the energy to maintain membrane potential, while oligodendrocytes require energy to maintain high production levels of protein and lipids. As a result oligodendrocytes and neurons are one of the first cell types to die following brain injury.” “Because the oligodendrocytes provide growth factors and support for neurons, the idea is maybe if we can help to oligodendrocytes to survive after injury, they can, in turn, help the neurons to survive,” said Kozai. They plan to apply a similar logic to OPCs, which are a subtype of glia that are of particular interest because they have the capacity to differentiate into oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, or neurons during tissue repair. Kozai said, “If we can maintain a healthy environment for OPCs, maybe they can help replenish the oligodendrocyte and neuronal population, instead of turning into scar tissue forming astrocytes.” Kozai and Cambi hope to gain insight by getting a more detailed look at the life span of these cells using multiphoton imaging and neural engineering technology. Kozai said, “Much of the work on oligodendrocytes and OPCs has been carried out with post-mortem immunohistochemistry and molecular assays in disease models. As such, we only get a snapshot of the dead cells in their last moments, instead of seeing how and when they got there so that we can identify when and where to apply treatments and employ intervention strategies.” By using in vivo imaging techniques like multiphoton imaging and pinpointing brain injury using neural engineering technology, Kozai and Cambi can map out the spatiotemporal relationships between oligodendrocyte loss, neuronal cell death, and OPC tissue repair and identify targets for intervention strategies, not just for brain implants, but also many neurodegenerative diseases. ###


Psychology and Engineering Team Up for Longitudinal Look at Brain Aging Disparities


Reposted from PittWire. Read the original article here. Pitt professors of psychology Anna Marsland and Peter Gianaros have received a five-year Research Project Grant from the National Institutes of Health to revisit decade-old data from Pittsburgh residents. They’re trying to understand what aspects of health and the social environment matter for brain aging among middle-aged people. The work is part of a larger project that was initiated by Stephen Manuck, Distinguished University Professor of Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine, called the Adult Health and Behavior Project. Now, Marsland and Gianaros are teaming up with associate professor of bioengineering and radiology Tamer Ibrahim, director of the Radiofrequency (RF) Research Facility, to bring as many of the initial participants back into the lab for testing as possible, 10 and 15 years after they were originally seen. The unique imaging technology developed in the RF Research Facility will let Marsland and Gianaros use an unconventional form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain in a level of detail that ordinary MRI techniques can’t achieve. With this new level of detail, the psychology-engineering team can link current features of brain health to prior information about inflammation, heart health and many other factors that influence memory, thinking, attention, and other phenomena sensitive to aging. Being able to predict brain aging starting in midlife could be critically important for prevention and intervention — helping reduce health disparities that follow a social and economic gradient, said Marsland. “We’re trying to encourage participants to stay involved.” Said Gianaros: “It’s important for us to show them how much we care about them and how important they are. If we see them one time, that’s great; they’ve made a contribution to science. But our interest is really more dynamic in how people change in their life. A snapshot is not the same thing as a movie.” Left to right: Pitt professors of psychology Anna Marsland and Peter Gianaros and associate professor of bioengineering and radiology Tamer Ibrahim are working together on a project studying brain aging.

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