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.


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.


Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation awards five novel biomedical projects with $105,000 in Round-1 2018 Pilot Funding


PITTSBURGH (June 27, 2018) … The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Medical Innovation (CMI) awarded grants totaling $105,000 to five research groups through its 2018 Round-1 Pilot Funding Program for Early Stage Medical Technology Research and Development. The latest funding proposals include a new vascular access device for use with stent grafts, an artificial tricuspid valve for treatment of right-heart disease, a shoe insert for treatment of foot pain, a biological treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, and a biofeedback system for mobility rehabilitation training. CMI, a University Center housed in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE), supports applied technology projects in the early stages of development with “kickstart” funding toward the goal of transitioning the research to clinical adoption. Proposals are evaluated on the basis of scientific merit, technical and clinical relevance, potential health care impact and significance, experience of the investigators, and potential in obtaining further financial investment to translate the particular solution to healthcare. This is our seventh year of pilot funding, and our leadership team could not be more excited with the breadth and depth of this round’s awardees,” said Alan D. Hirschman, PhD, CMI Executive Director. “This early-stage interdisciplinary research helps to develop highly specific biomedical technologies through a proven strategy of linking UPMC’s clinicians and surgeons with the Swanson School’s engineering faculty. AWARD 1: “E-mag system for Rapid Cannulation of Fenestrated Stent Grafts to Reduce Radiation Exposure” For the development of a vascular stent graft system that will magnetically guide cannulation of endograft branches. Bryan W. Tillman, MD, PhDDivision of Vascular Surgery Department of Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Youngjae Chun, PhDAssociate Professor, Industrial Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 2: “Valved stent conduit for the treatment of severe advanced tricuspid regurgitation” For the development of an artificial tricuspid valve that will treat decreased right ventricular performance due to cardiac disease. Catalin Toma, MDAssistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Heart and Vascular Institute Youngjae Chun, PhD Associate Professor, Industrial Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering AWARD 3: “PopSoleTM Foot Off-Loading Device” For the development of a shoe insert that will reduce foot pain due to fat pad atrophy in the feet. Jeffrey Gusenoff, MD Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Beth Gusenoff, DPM Department of Plastic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Kurt Beschorner, PhD Associate Professor, Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering Seyed Reza Moghaddam, PhDBioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering Steven Donahoe, MSBioengineering, Swanson School of EngineeringAWARD 4: “Local Induction of Tolerogenic T cells to Ameliorate Inflammation in Inflammatory Bowel Disease”For the development of a potent IBD therapy with fewer side effects than current medical therapy. R. Warren Sands MD, PhDT32 Clinical and Research Fellow, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School Steven R. Little PhD William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor and Chair, Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Swanson School of Engineering David G. Binion MD, AGAF, FACGProfessor of Medicine, Clinical and Translational Science Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, University of Pittsburgh Medical SchoolAWARD 5: “MOVISU-FIT: Mobile Wearable System for Real Time Visual Feedback and Gait Training”For the development of a system to provide real-time visual feedback to patients working on gait corrections during mobility rehabilitation training. Goeran Fiedler PhDAssistant Professor, Rehabilitation Science and Technology, UPMC William Clark, PhD Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Swanson School of Engineering David Brienza, PhD Professor, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Krista Kutina, DPT Researcher, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Alicia Koontz, PhD Associate Professor, Veterans Administration Hospital April Chambers, PhD Research Assistant Professor, Bioengineering, Swanson School of Engineering ### About the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical InnovationThe Center for Medical Innovation is a collaboration among the Swanson School of Engineering, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Innovation Institute, and the Coulter Translational Research Partnership II (CTRP). CMI was established in 2011 to promote the application and development of innovative biomedical technologies to clinical problems; to educate the next generation of innovators in cooperation with the schools of Engineering, Health Sciences, Business, and Law; and to facilitate the translation of innovative biomedical technologies into marketable products and services. Over 60 early-stage projects have been supported by CMI with a total investment of over $1 million since inception.
Akhil Aniff, CMI Fellow

BioE Alumna Sharlene Flesher Talks With Gizmodo UK About Neural Engineering Research


Sharlene Flesher (BioE PhD '17) contributes to Gizmodo UK's article about research from Johns Hopkins University's Department of Bioengineering. Current prosthetic limbs aren’t yet capable of transmitting complex sensations like texture or pain to the user, but a recent breakthrough by scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, in which a synthetic layer of skin on an artificial hand transmitted feelings of pain directly to the user, takes us one step closer to that goal. Pain sucks, but we’d be lost without this extremely valuable sensation. “Pain helps protect our bodies from damage by giving us the sensation that something may be harmful, such as the sharp edge of a knife,” Luke Osborn, a co-author of the new study and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, told Gizmodo. “For a prosthesis, there is no concept of pain, which opens it up to the possibility of damage. We found a way to provide sensations of pain in a meaningful way to the prosthesis as well as the amputee user.” Working with JHU neuroengineer Nitish Thakor, Osborn and his colleagues developed a system called e-dermis—a skin-like layer that gives prosthetic limbs the capacity to perceive touch and pain. Pressure applied to the e-dermis is transmitted to the user’s brain via an electric nerve stimulator implanted in the arm above the prosthesis, allowing the system to emulate actual sensations. In tests of the e-dermis system, a volunteer amputee said he could tell the difference between objects that were rounded or sharp, saying the sensation of pain registered a three out of 10 in terms of severity. This study was published today in Science Robotics. Read the full story and Flesher's comments at GizmodoUK.


ChemE Graduate Student Alexandra May Receives Willem Kolff Award at ASAIO Annual Meeting

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (June 19, 2018) …The American Society for Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) selected Alexandra May, a chemical engineering graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, as a finalist for the Willem Kolff Award at its 64th annual meeting. The award, named after the late Dutch physician who invented the original artificial kidney, recognizes the top abstracts at each annual meeting. May is a graduate student in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Cardiovascular Bioengineering Training Program and works in the Medical Devices Laboratory under the direction of William Federspiel, a William Kepler Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering at Pitt. The lab develops clinically significant devices for the treatment of pulmonary and cardiovascular ailments by utilizing engineering principles of fluid flow and mass transfer. May’s research focuses on the development of the Pittsburgh Pediatric Ambulatory Lung (P-PAL), an artificial lung device developed to bridge pediatric acute or chronic lung failure patients to transplant. The P-PAL integrates the blood pump and gas exchanging hollow fiber membrane bundle into a single compact unit and provides 70 percent to 90 percent of the patient’s oxygenation needs. The compact design of the P-PAL provides children with increased mobility pre-transplant, a factor which has been shown to improve post-transplant outcomes. The ASAIO Annual Meeting was held June 13-16, 2018 in Washington, D.C. May’s abstract titled Acute in vivo Performance of a Pediatric Ambulatory Artificial Lung was awarded second place out of approximately 300 accepted abstracts, and she presented her work during the conference’s opening general session. “Alex deserves this recognition,” said Federspiel. “She is an extremely hard worker and devoutly dedicated to our mission of improving the lives of kids with respiratory failure.” ###

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