Biomedical Engineering Utilizes Coulter Foundation Award to Improve Treatments, Diagnostic ProcessesPosted 04/05/07
By Andrea Arco
In November 2006, the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation awarded the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia one of nine $4.5 million Translational Research Partnership Awards in Biomedical Engineering. The partnership serves to mobilize some of U.Va.’s greatest strengths — a leading BME Department, world-class medical center, well-respected Darden Graduate School of Business and innovative Patent Foundation — to transform the way research discovery is moved from the laboratory to the clinic and the marketplace. The goal of this partnership is to focus on outcomes that improve patient care.
Since receiving the award, the BME Department has worked to support research projects that are explicitly translational in nature, and in the process, test and validate models of translational research that can be widely adopted. Specifically, the department has selected four projects for funding, which are described below. The translational nature of these projects has been reinforced by requiring that they be led jointly by investigators from the department of biomedical engineering and clinical practitioners.
2006-2007 Funded Projects (Inaugural Year)
Adipose Stem Cells for the Healing of Chronic Wounds
Adipose stem cells from human fat share many of the same characteristics and behaviors as bone marrow-derived cells, with the added advantages of abundance, ease of harvest, expendability and appeal. Shayn Peirce-Cottler (BME) and Adam Katz (plastic and reconstructive surgery) are developing a novel cell-based wound dressing that uses a patient’s own adipose stem cells or a donor’s cells to re-boot the body’s healing mechanism. This kind of cell-based therapy for the treatment of chronic wounds offers a novel, multifaceted approach to complex, multi-factor problem.
Development and Application of Therapy-Directed Classification of Malignant Gliomas: “iSNAP” — Immunohistochemical Signaling Network Analysis Platform
Despite a relatively low incidence rate, malignant gliomas account for 1 percent to 2 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths, and the median survival rate after diagnosis is 15 months. The extreme heterogeneity of these brain tumors cries out for an individualized approach. Jason Papin (BME) and James Mandell (pathology) are developing a computational tool to make unbiased diagnoses and better predictions of ideal drug targets. “iSNAP” will enable the classification of tumors based on pathway activation status and the prediction of responses of individual patients to specific chemotherapies. Since this early stage project tackles in a general sense the complex web of signaling in cancer, the application will expand to other cancers within the framework.
Ear Tube Insertion Device
Shayn Peirce-Cottler (BME) and Brad Kesser (otolaryngology) are improving patient safety and expediting surgery by building a better ear tube insertion device for surgical treatment of chronic OME, or chronic fluid in the middle ear. The new device replaces a tray full of instruments with an easy to use, one-handed device that performs the two key tasks in a single pass — tube insertion and fluid suction. A first-generation device was developed in 2006 as a BME undergraduate design project.
Real-Time Cardiac Stress Testing
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful tool. However, when it comes to ischemic heart disease, existing imaging techniques are limited. Craig Meyer (BME) and Chris Kramer (radiology/non-invasive cardiology) are developing an MRI stress test of the heart using real-time imaging at 30 frames per second — a demanding goal that will be met by combining highly-parallel MRI with spiral kspace scanning techniques. A reliable MRI stress test — capable of providing real-time, consistent, high-quality, and highly detailed images of contraction during ischemic stress — will significantly improve the noninvasive evaluation of ischemic heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.
“The idea is to begin to conduct research from the start with the recognition of its downstream clinical impact,” says Tom Skalak, professor and chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department. “This requires a change in culture as well as the development of systems to support this culture.”
This Coulter Foundation Partnership Award will provide $580,000 each year for the next five years and will support multiple translational research projects involving BME faculty and clinical co-investigators. At the end of the five-year period, partner institutions may be considered for a substantial endowment to sustain the program.
E-News Online, March 2007