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  Current News: 2014 | News Archive: 2013 | News Archive: 2012

CURRENT BME NEWS: 2014
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Emory Summer Scholar Competes in Jeopardy!
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Josiah Takang who is conducting research in the biomedical imaging lab of Xiaoping Hu (Professor and Director of the Biomedical Engineering and Technology Center) has earned a coveted spot to compete in the 2014 Jeopardy! Teen Tournament. Josiah is a 16-year-old summer research scholar at the Institute on Neuroscience (ION)@Yerkes located at Emory.

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Welcome Gabriel Kwong, new Assistant Professor at BME
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Gabriel Kwong received his Doctor of Philosophy in Bioengineering from California Institute of Technology and prior to joining us in August of 2014 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Kwong's research seeks to leverage advances occurring at the scientific interfaces to address major challenges in biology and medicine, such as engineering nanoparticles for urinary monitoring of diseases and paper-based tests for global health applications.

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Altered States
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Ed Botchwey, an Associate Professor at BME who also runs a tissue-engineering lab at the Petit Institute, recently published with his colleagues in the journal Blood, "Sphingolipid Metabolism in Sickle Cell Disease.” This represents a sharp turn for Botchwey and his colleagues, who shed new light on causes for some of the disease’s pervasive and devastating symptoms, while offering new hope for patients who struggle with the disease, people like his sister.

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The Engineer's Mind
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

You know this one: “The optimist sees the glass as half-full and the pessimist sees the glass as half-empty, but the engineer sees a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.” It’s an old joke that demonstrates, anecdotally, how engineers think, which is something that Joe LeDoux, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), has been very interested in.

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5 Young Healthcare Entrepreneurs Have Figured Out that Age is Just a Number
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Partha Unnava, Founder of the Better Walk Crutch and undergraduate student at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, was one of five entrepreneurs published in the MEDCITY News.

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Project ENGAGES: It Takes a Community
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Project ENGAGES, an ambitious high school education program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is evolving kind of like a bioengineered system, where organically-informed human innovation enhances the natural process.

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Welcome Eilaf Ahmed, new Assistant Professor at BME
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Welcome Eilaf Ahmed, new Assistant Professor at BME Eilaf Ahmed received her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Washington and prior to joining us in August of 2014 she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ahmed’s research seeks to integrate creative tools from synthetic organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, and biology to develop novel, functional and well–defined macromolecular structures. Ahmed will have a 25% joint appointment in BME and 75% in the Department of Chemistry.

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Welcome Jaimie Concord, new Development Assistant at BME
Posted: Tue, July 29, 2014

Jaimie Concord joins us from Valdosta State where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and worked in undergraduate recruiting. Currently she is finishing her Master's in Public Administration and will support the development efforts of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Chris Rozell Named 1 of 6 international Recipients of the James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Initiative Scholar Award in Studying Complex Systems
Posted: Tue, July 15, 2014

An associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) since 2008, Rozell is the second faculty member from ECE and the fourth faculty member from Georgia Tech to receive this honor. Past recipients include Robert J. Butera (ECE, 2000), Joshua S. Weitz (School of Biology, 2008), and Martha A. Grover (School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 2011).

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Georgia Tech in the Spotlight at White House Maker Faire
Posted: Tue, June 24, 2014

Georgia Tech was in the spotlight on June 18 during the White House’s first Maker Faire. The project chosen to represent Tech was the Better Walk crutch, which competed in the 2014 Inventure Prize. The brainchild of biomedical engineering major Partha Unnava, Better Walk is a name to keep an eye on and an example of how a good idea and some engineering know-how have the potential to make a difference in the lives of thousands of people.

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Tom Barker Leads Special Issue on Natural or Biologically Inspired Building Blocks for Biomaterials Design
Posted: Tue, June 24, 2014

In Acta Biomaterialia, an international journal that publishes peer-reviewed original research reports, review papers and communications in biomaterials science, BME researchers Tom Barker, M.G. Finn, Todd McDevitt, Krish Roy, and Johnna Temenoff were among those published.

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First ‘Bring Your Child/Grandchild to Work Day’ a Hit with BME Community
Posted: Tue, June 24, 2014

Brains and hearts and eyes – these are among the gooey, essential elements that helped make the first ‘Bring Your Child to Work Day’ (Friday, June 13) at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) a success. Well, that and face painting. And silly putty.

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Georgia Tech's Training Program for Rationally Designed, Integrative Biomaterials Gets Bigger
Posted: Tue, June 17, 2014

The Georgia Tech Training Program for Rationally Designed, Integrative Biomaterials, just got a substantial vote of confidence from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). GTBioMAT, designed to train pre-doctoral students in the development of the next generation of integrative biomaterials, was launched five years ago with a grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.

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McDevitt, Garcia, Lu and Stice labs' publication featured in Nature's Special Collection on Reprogramming
Posted: Tue, June 17, 2014

McDevitt, Garcia, Lu and Stice labs' publication featured in Nature's Special Collection on Reprogramming The ability to convert somatic cells to pluripotent cells or to a different developmental lineage holds great promise for stem cell-based therapy. In this Online Special on Reprogramming, Nature brings together a selection of articles from Nature Publishing Group that highlights the molecular mechanisms underlying reprogramming and the challenges to efficiently and reliably obtain clinically-relevant cell types.

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Younan Xi Appears on the "Highly Cited Researchers 2014" List
Posted: Tue, June 17, 2014

Highly Cited Researchers 2014 represents some of the world’s leading scientific minds. Over three thousand researchers earned the distinction by writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated by Essential Science Indicators? as Highly Cited Papers—ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication, earning them the mark of exceptional impact.

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James Rains Featured in the BME Capstone Expo Video 2014
Posted: Tue, June 17, 2014

The 2014 Capstone Design Expo featured more than 900 students and 170 teams from eight schools and three colleges tackling real-world problems. After winning first place, James Rains is featured in the BME Capstone Expo video.

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Disturbance In Blood Flow Leads to Epigenetic Changes In Atherosclerosis
Posted: Tue, June 3, 2014

A study from Hanjoong Jo's lab suggests why protective effects of good blood flow can persist over time. Disturbed patterns of blood flow induce lasting epigenetic changes to genes in the cells that line blood vessels, and those changes contribute to atherosclerosis.

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Engineering a Better Way to Rebuild Bone Inside the Body
Posted: Tue, June 3, 2014

A new technology under development at the Georgia Institute of Technology could one day provide more efficient delivery of the bone regenerating growth factors with greater accuracy and at a lower cost. The work was a joint effort of several labs that are part of Georgia Tech’s Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, including contributors from Marian Hettiaratchi, Johnna Temenoff, and Todd McDevitt.

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BME's Weiler is Part of Team Developing A Winning Idea for Breast Cancer Survivors
Posted: Tue, June 3, 2014

LymphaTech, a team that evolved from Georgia Tech's TI:GER program, is on a winning streak at national and international level. The team’s technology helps physicians determine the lymphatic health of breast cancer survivors.

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BBUGS Education and Outreach Committee Taking Science Off Campus
Posted: Tue, June 3, 2014

Torri Rinker, a BME Graduate Student in the Temenoff lab, and her colleagues, Denise Sullivan and Tom Bongiorno, are on the Education and Outreach committee extending the BBUGS life off campus through a series of programs and events. It’s a two-way educational experience that brings the world of stem cell engineering to high school students aimed at Atlanta area K-12 students.

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Students on a Mission to Make Golf More Accessible for Young Players
Posted: Tue, June 3, 2014

This year’s Bobby Jones Classic tournament at East Lake Golf Club launches the beginning of a new partnership for the Georgia Institute of Technology. The tournament is designed to increase accessibility to the sport for kings for a diverse, new, young crop of players, and it’s largely thanks to the legacy of an Atlanta legend sometimes known as The Emperor Jones.

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Four BME Faculty Recognized as Georgia's Top Medical Researchers
Posted: Wed, May 28, 2014

Ravi Bellamkonda, Ross Ethier, Todd McDevitt and Krish Roy were among the twenty researchers featured in the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2014 listing of Georgia’s Top Medical Researchers.

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McDevitt named Technical Lead of Georgia’s New Cell Manufacturing Consortium
Posted: Tue, May 13, 2014

In recognition of his pioneering work and international leadership in the field of stem cell manufacturing and engineering, Todd McDevitt, has been named Technical Lead on the Georgia Research Alliance’s Cell Manufacturing Consortium (CMC). Gov. Nathan Deal announced the appointment along with the $499,636 planning grant from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) last week. The CMC will leverage the capabilities of industry and academia to focus on the manufacturing of cells that can be used in therapies, medical devices and drug discovery.

Cell therapy manufacturing is projected to grow rapidly over the next decade, becoming a multibillion-dollar global industry. Groundbreaking techniques to address quality assurance, efficacy, production and cost will be needed to support long-term growth. 

McDevitt is the director of the Stem Cell Engineering Center at Georgia Tech, the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the Petit Faculty Fellow for the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. Greg Dane, an Industry Fellow with the Georgia Research Alliance, will lead the consortium’s development efforts. Steven Stice, GRA Eminent Scholar and director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia, will serve as an adviser.

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For more information about the NIST Advanced Manufacturing Technology Planning Grants:
http://www.nist.gov/director/amtech-050814.cfm

BME's Manu Platt Selected to Attend 2014 Indo-American Frontiers of Engineering Symposium
Posted: Tue, May 13, 2014

Manu Platt, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has been selected to attend the 2014 Indo-American Frontiers of Engineering which will be held May 19-21 in Mysore, India. About 60 outstanding engineers under the age of 45 will meet for an intensive 2-1/2 day symposium to discuss cutting-edge developments in four areas: Biomaterials, Water Resource Management in the Face of Climate Change, Green Approaches to Communications, and Engineering in the Context of Big Data. The event facilitates international and cross-disciplinary research collaboration, promotes the transfer of new techniques and approaches across disparate engineering fields, and encourages the creation of a transatlantic network of world-class engineers. Attendance at the meeting is by invitation-only following a competitive selection process.

Platt’s research focuses on tissue remodeling in arteries due to sickle cell disease or HIV infection, roles of proteases in tumor metastasis, and bone-marrow-derived cell based therapies.

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BME Teams Shine in Ideas To Serve Competition (I2S)
Posted: Wed, May 7, 2014

Congratulations to two teams of BME students for winning three honors at the Ideas to Serve Competition (I2S) in April. Team Flow MedTech (Christine Hang, Arnab Chakraborty and Yido Jang) won the top prize of $2,500 in the Advanced  Track with plans to revolutionize the medical implant field by becoming a leader in the treatment of cardiac defects and vascular problems through proprietary occlusal device technology. See pitch video.

The BME Health Reach team of Kelsey Roberts, Emma Mihevc won the $2,000 Best Domestic Solution and the $500 People’s Choice awards. BME Health Reach aims to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) topics to children who are missing school for prolonged periods due to illness.  Currently, BME Health Reach allows Tech students to teach sickle-cell anemia patients at two area hospitals. See pitch video.

Open to all Georgia Tech students and recent alumni, the I2S competition involves innovative business concepts that could help improve society or preserve the environment. The finals were held earlier this month at a poster showcase in the Technology Square Research Building.

Scheller College’s Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (ILE) started the annual I2S Competition in 2009. Dori Pap, assistant director of ILE says that “every year the projects are getting stronger, and more and more students are drawn to work on sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. It’s great to see that social and environmental innovation – something that ILE has been supporting for a long time – is not a niche endeavor anymore, but a mainstream goal. “We are proud to have a student body that is passionate about creating better communities around them and across the globe. They definitely have the skills to bring that change,” Pap adds.

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Global Biomedical Engineering Program Graduates First Atlanta Triple-Degree Doctorate
Posted: Tue, May 6, 2014

This May, Warren Gray will be the first Atlanta student to graduate from the Global Biomedical Engineering (BME) joint Ph.D. program, a partnership of Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Peking University (PKU). To honor this milestone, Emory invited Gray to serve as the Marshall in their commencement, carrying the banner for the school and leading the line of soon-to-be graduates to convocation.

Created by the Emory School of Medicine and Georgia Tech College of Engineering, the interdisciplinary BME program represents a collaboration between public and private universities that is both highly unusual and highly acclaimed — since its founding in 1997, the BME program has been ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Warren is the first to graduate from the Emory / Georgia Tech side; Three students from the PKU side of the program have also graduated.

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When Engineering is the Best Medicine
Posted: Tue, May 6, 2014

Dr. Kirk Kanter used to correct heart defects in the youngest children the way every other pediatric heart surgeon did. He’d enter the operating room, open the infant’s chest, look at the shape of the heart, and then — based on what he was seeing for the first time — make an on-the-spot judgment about the best surgical option.

Not anymore. While most surgeons still have to make last-minute decisions about rebuilding a heart that didn’t fully develop, Kanter knows what he’s going to do before he walks through the operating room door. Kanter figures it out ahead of time by using software conceptualized by Ajit Yoganathan, Regents’ Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Yoganathan is a leading researcher in cardiovascular fluid mechanics, the study of how blood flows through the heart, and it’s his expertise that clues Kanter in to the best surgical choice.

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Two Petit Institute Graduate Students Receive Philanthropic Educational Organization Award
Posted: Tue, May 6, 2014

Marian Hettiaratchi and Ariel Kniss, Ph.D. candidates in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, are two of 85 doctoral students nationwide selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) Sisterhood. Both were sponsored by the Georgia P.E.O. Chapter.

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Two Georgia Tech Graduate Students Named Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars
Posted: Tue, May 6, 2014

Two graduate students in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering have been named as Whitaker International Fellows and Scholars. Alice Cheng and James Wade will each be traveling abroad to broaden their research knowledge and learn new skills and techniques.

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The first biennial Academy of Medicine Distinguished Lecture hosted by the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Posted: Wed, April 30, 2014

BME is hosting its First Annual Distinguished Lecturer on Thursday May 1, 2014 @ 4PM at the Academy of Medicine in Midtown.  Jeff Hubbell, PhD from the Institute of Bioengineering at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne will speak about “Materials and Protein Engineering Approaches for Inducing and Regulating Immune Responses".

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Congratulations! BME Team Spot On Takes Capstone's Top Prize
Posted: Wed, April 30, 2014

At the Capstone Expo, BME Team Spot On (Allison Gainer, Elizabeth Morris, Rachel Patel, Tushar Goel, Stephen Waller) was awarded the prize for best overall project from 172 teams at the expo. The interdisciplinary team of BME's and ME's was sponsored by Smith and Nephew, who tasked Spot On with devising a better way to insert screws into intramedullary nails, that hold fractured femurs together. James Rains who is the Director for BME Capstone said, "The BME teams did a phenomenal job of immersing themselves in the clinical environment to identify true unmet needs and then developed creative solutions to address these needs. They generated a lot interest from medical device companies, physicians, patients, and venture capital investors firms... we are very excited!"

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Bellamkonda Awarded National Clemson Award for Applied Research
Posted: Wed, April 16, 2014

Ravi Bellamkonda, Ph.D., Wallace H. Coulter Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, will receive the 2014 Clemson Award for Applied Research in recognition of "significant utilization and application of basic knowledge in science to accomplish a significant goal in the biomaterials field." Bellamkonda’s research involves an exploration of the interplay of biomaterials and the nervous system for neural interfaces, peripheral and central nerve regeneration and targeted drug delivery brain tumor therapy.

Bellamkonda, who has built a distinguished career in the health and engineering fields, will be honored this week during the opening ceremonies of the Society of Biomaterials annual meeting, April 16-19 in Denver, Colorado.

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Mechanical Forces Affect T-Cell Recognition and Signaling, Researchers Show
Posted: Wed, April 16, 2014

“This is the first systematic study of how T-cell recognition is affected by mechanical force, and it shows that forces play an important role in the functions of T-cells,” said Cheng Zhu, a Regents’ professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We think that mechanical force plays a role in almost every step of T-cell biology.”

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Class Notes: Stem Cell Engineering with Classmates from Cali to MIT
Posted: Wed, April 16, 2014

The 10 graduate students are discussing stem cell population analysis, when it’s time. Before they can continue the discussion, Todd McDevitt, the instructor, has to do one thing — turn on the TV.

“That’s the beauty of this class, not only is the topic of stem cell engineering unique, but thanks to video conferencing technology, Georgia Tech students can now take a class with their peers from across the country,” said McDevitt, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

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Former Petit Scholar Najia Named Goldwater Scholar
Posted: Tue, April 1, 2014

Congratulations to Mohamad Ali Najia – winner of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship. Mohamad is one of two students at Georgia Tech, and 283 nationwide, to win a Goldwater Scholarship this year.

In his first semester, Najia joined Associate Professor Todd McDevitt’s "Engineering Stem Cell Technologies" laboratory, where he was worked with mentor Jenna Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate in Georgia Tech's BioEngineering Graduate Program. Najia’s research project, “Influencing encapsulated stem cell factor secretion through hypoxic conditioning,” was to design a culture environment that would generate a greater impact on tissue regeneration. Soon after joining the McDevitt lab, Najia was selected as a Beckman Coulter Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

The Scholarship Program honors Senator Barry Goldwater and is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Mohamad is double majoring in biomedical engineering and computer science. His career goals include earning a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, conducting research in genome engineering, and teaching at the university level.

Congratulations Mohamad for your outstanding accomplishments!

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Biomolecular Tweezers Facilitate Study of Mechanical Force Effects on Cells and Proteins
Posted: Tue, March 11, 2014

A new type of biomolecular tweezers could help researchers study how mechanical forces affect the biochemical activity of cells and proteins. The devices – too small to see without a microscope – use opposing magnetic and electrophoretic forces to precisely stretch the cells and molecules, holding them in position so that the activity of receptors and other biochemical activity can be studied. Arrays of the tweezers could be combined to study multiple molecules and cells simultaneously, providing a high-throughput capability for assessing the effects of mechanical forces on a broad scale. Details of the devices, which were developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University in Atlanta, were published February 19, 2014, in the journal Technology.

“Our lab has been very interested in mechanical-chemical switches in the extracellular matrix, but we currently have a difficult time interrogating these mechanisms and discovering how they work in vivo,” said Thomas Barker, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “This device could help biologists and biomedical engineers answer questions that cannot be answered right now.” Scientists have been able to study how single cells or proteins are affected by mechanical forces, but their activity can vary considerably from cell-to-cell and among molecules. The new tweezers, which are built using nanolithography, can facilitate studying thousands or more cells and proteins in aggregate. The researchers are currently testing prototype 15 by 15 arrays which they believe could be scaled up. “For me, it’s not sufficient to pull and hold onto a single protein,” said Barker. “I have to pull and hold onto tens of thousands of proteins to really use the technologies we have to develop molecular probes.”

At the center of the tweezers are 2.8- micron polystyrene microbeads that contain superparamagnetic nanoparticles. The tiny beads are engineered to adhere to a sample being studied. That sample is attached to a bead on one side, and to a magnetic pad on the other. The magnet draws the bead toward it, while an electrophoretic force created by current flowing through a gold wiring pattern pushes the bead away. “The device simultaneously pushes and pulls on the same particle,” Barker explained. “This allows us to hold the sample at a very specific position above the magnet.”

Because the forces can be varied, the tweezers can be used to study structures of widely different size scales, from protein molecules to cells – a size difference of approximately a thousand times, noted Wilbur Lam, an assistant professor in the Coulter Department. Absolute forces in the nano-Newton range applied by the two sources overcome the much smaller effects of Brownian motion and thermal energy, allowing the tweezers to hold the cells or molecules without constant adjustment. “We are basically leveraging microchip technology that has been developed by electrical and mechanical engineers,” Lam noted. “We are able to leverage these very tiny features that enable us to create a very sharp electrical field on one end against an opposing short magnetic field. Because there are two ways of controlling it, we have tight resolution and can get to many different scales.” “Because of the scale we are able to examine – both molecular and cellular – I think this will have a lot of applications both in protein molecular engineering and biotechnology,” Lam said. “This could be a useful way for people to screen relevant molecules because there currently aren’t good ways to do that.”

Beyond biological systems, the device could be used in materials development, microelectronics and even sensing. “This ability to detect discrete binding and unbinding events between molecular species is of high interest right now,” Barker added. “Biosensor applications come out of this naturally.”

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Gang Bao Honored for Outstanding Research Program
Posted: Tue, March 11, 2014

Congratulations to Gang Bao on his selection as the recipient of the 2014 Institute Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development. This is one of the most prestigious awards given out by Georgia Tech and celebrates Bao’s leadership and outstanding contribution in developing seminal research programs at Georgia Tech and Emory, and in particular, the Pediatric Nanomedicine program. Bao is the Robert A. Milton Chair in Biomedical Engineering and aCollege of Engineering Distinguished Professor.  Research in the Bao lab is centered on developing nanotechnologies and biomolecular engineering approaches for basic biological studies and medicine. Current methodology development includes the superparamagnetic nanoparticle probes, quantum dot bioconjugates, activitable molecular probes and molecular beacons for cellular and in vivo imaging, with applications in disease detection and mechanistic studies.  The Bao lab also develops novel strategies for drug/gene delivery using targeted nanoparticles, gene targeting approaches for treating single-gene disorders and other diseases using engineered nucleases, as well as bioinformatics tools and engineered nanodevices driven by biomolecular motors.

Congratulations to Lena Ting on her promotion to Professor with tenure effective Sept 1, 2014
Posted: Tue, March 11, 2014

It is with great pleasure that we ask you to join us in recognizing Lena Ting on her promotion to Professor. Dr. Ting joined the faculty of the Coulter Department as an Assistant Professor in 2002. In 2006 she received a Junior Faculty Teaching Award from Georgia Tech Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, and in 2007 she received the Arthur C. Guyton Award for Excellence in Integrative Physiology from the American Physiological Society. In 2008 she was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in the Emory University School of Medicine and was also a Miller Visiting Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Congratulations, Dr. Ting!

Brain Circuits Multitask to Detect, Discriminate the Outside World
Posted: Wed, March 5, 2014

A new study found that neural circuits in the brain rapidly multitask between detecting and discriminating sensory input, such as headlights in the distance. That’s different from how electronic circuits work, where one circuit performs a very specific task. The brain, the study found, is wired in way that allows a single pathway to perform multiple tasks.

“We showed that circuits in the brain change or adapt from situations when you need to detect something versus when you need to discriminate fine details,” said Garrett Stanley, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, whose lab performed the research. “One of the things the brain is good at is doing multiple things. Engineers have trouble with that.” The research findings were published online in the journal NEURON on March 5. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The distance at which a person can discern two headlights from a single light is controlled by the acuity of the body’s sensory pathway. For decades neuroscientists have assumed that the level of one’s acuity is controlled by the distance between areas in the brain that are triggered by the sensory input. If these two areas of the brain closely overlap, then two sensory inputs — two headlights in the distance — will appear as one, the thinking went. The new study, for the first time, used animal models and optical imaging to directly assess how acuity is controlled in the brain, and how acuity can adapt to the task at hand. One neuronal circuit can do different things and do them in a robust way, the study found.

“The general problem that is not well understood is how information about the outside world makes its way into our brain, into these patterns of electrical activity that ultimately let us perceive the outside world,” Stanley said. “This paper squarely goes after that link between what the brain is doing, how it’s activated and what that means for perception.”

Sensory information is encoded in the brain, much like gene sequences in DNA code for some physical representation. The brain has corresponding codes for when the visual pathway detects an object, like a coffee cup. There’s a representation in the brain to transform that input into sensation. Researchers had yet to adequately quantify the link between discerning whether an object exists and discriminating finer details about what that object is, Stanley said.  “Surprisingly, we don’t understand neural coding problems very well, either in normal physiology or in disease states,” Stanley said. “I think it’s great to be an engineer that works on this because engineers tend to love and think about very complicated systems.”

“Can we make individuals better at doing something? Can we have them detect things more rapidly or discriminate between things with better acuity?” Stanley said. “Using modern techniques, we believe that we can actually influence the circuit and have it selectively grab one kind of information from the outside world versus another.”

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May Wang Honored As EMBS Distinguished Lecturer
Posted: Tue, March 4, 2014

May Wang, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, has been appointed a Distinguished Lecturer for 2014-2015 for IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS). She was nominated and selected for this honor based on her expertise in: Biomedical and Health Informatics, Translational Medicine, Clinical Decision Support System. The IEEE EMBS Distinguished Lecturers Program provides high quality speakers to EMBS Chapters, Student Branch Chapters and Student Clubs. Speakers are chosen by the Distinguished Lecturer Program Committee, who recruits from the international community and industry to keep members on the cutting edge of trends and developments in biomedical engineering. EMBS is the world's largest international society of biomedical engineers. The organization's 9,100 members reside in some 97 countries around the world. Congratulations, Dr. Wang!

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Georgia ImmunoEngineering Consortium Aims to Improve Immune Response to Diseases
Posted: Thu, February 27, 2014

A new research partnership between Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology will apply the principles of engineering to study the immune system and develop new therapies that can improve the immune response to diseases. The Georgia ImmunoEngineering Consortium (GIEC) will bring together engineers, physicians, chemists, physicists, computational scientists, immunologists and clinical investigators to better understand how the immune system works and how to precisely modulate it to target challenging diseases. The research teams will focus on cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders (diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibrosis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.), and areas of regenerative medicine including transplantation, bone and cartilage repair, and treatments for spinal cord injuries.

"The immune system and its multi-faceted role in human health and disease form the cornerstone of medical research, says Ignacio Sanz, MD, co-chair of the consortium steering committee. Sanz is Mason I. Lowance Chair of Allergy and Immunology and director of the Lowance Center of Human Immunology at Emory, director of rheumatology in the Department of Medicine in Emory School of Medicine, and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. "This consortium not only combines the expertise of researchers throughout a variety of disciplines focused on the human immune response, but also reflects an increasing focus on engineering technologies and informatics in improving the diagnosis and treatment of challenging diseases."

"By joining our immense strengths in immunology and bioengineering, we aspire to become an international leader in immunoengineering science; develop new technologies for prevention, rapid diagnosis, and treatment of immune-related disorders and train the next generation of physicians and engineers in this cutting edge research," says Krishnendu Roy, PhD, co-chair of the consortium steering committee, director of the Center for ImmunoEngineering in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech and Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan professor of biomedical engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.  

Immunoengineering is the application of engineering tools and principles to better understand and monitor our immune system in health and in diseases. This knowledge is then used to develop more effective vaccines and therapies against a wide range of diseases like cancer, HIV, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis etc. and also to improve tissue regeneration, wound healing and transplantation, explain Sanz and Roy.

"Game-changing innovation and world-class scholarship occur at the boundaries of fields of study where collaborators bring different perspectives to challenging problems," says Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech. "This is the essence of the successful 17-year partnership between engineering and science at Georgia Tech, and medical science and clinical practice at Emory."  

A symposium will celebrate the consortium launch: Georgia ImmunoEngineering Symposium on Feb. 28, 2014, 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Emory Conference Center.

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Congratulations to Dr. Essy Behravesh
Posted: Thu, February 27, 2014

Dr. Essy Behravesh, has been chosen as the recipient of the 2014 Innovation and Excellence in Laboratory Instruction Award. This is a huge University-wide honor and recognition of Essy’s tremendous contribution to the department and to our students. Dr. Behravesh will receive his award at the Faculty Honors Luncheon on April 11th. Congratulations Essy!

Researchers Hijack Cancer Migration Mechanism to “Move” Brain Tumors
Posted: Tue, February 18, 2014

One factor that makes glioblastoma cancers so difficult to treat is that malignant cells from the tumors spread throughout the brain by following nerve fibers and blood vessels to invade new locations. Now, researchers have learned to hijack this migratory mechanism, turning it against the cancer by using a film of nanofibers thinner than human hair to lure tumor cells away.

Instead of invading new areas, the migrating cells latch onto the specially-designed nanofibers and follow them to a location – potentially outside the brain – where they can be captured and killed. Using this technique, researchers can partially move tumors from inoperable locations to more accessible ones. Though it won’t eliminate the cancer, the new technique reduced the size of brain tumors in animal models, suggesting that this form of brain cancer might one day be treated more like a chronic disease.

We have designed a polymer thin film nanofiber that mimics the structure of nerves and blood vessels that brain tumor cells normally use to invade other parts of the brain,” explained Ravi Bellamkonda, lead investigator and chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “The cancer cells normally latch onto these natural structures and ride them like a monorail to other parts of the brain. By providing an attractive alternative fiber, we can efficiently move the tumors along a different path to a destination that we choose.”

Details of the technique were reported February 16 in the journal Nature Materials. The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health; by Atlanta-based Ian’s Friends Foundation, and by the Georgia Research Alliance. In addition to the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, the research team included Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University.

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Todd McDevitt Elected to AIMBE’s College of Fellows
Posted: Tue, February 18, 2014

The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) announced its 2014 College of Fellows and Todd C. McDevitt, Ph.D., Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Associate Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, was chosen among this year’s inductees.

AIMBE’s College of Fellows comprises a select group of about 1,500 members who have made significant and transformational contributions to medical and biological engineering. The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers in the country.

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Genome Surgery
Posted: Fri, February 14, 2014

MIT Technology Review

Precise and easy ways to rewrite human genes could finally provide the tools that researchers need to understand and cure some of our most deadly genetic diseases.

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BME School Chair, Ravi Bellamkonda, Recipient of 2014 Clemson Award for Applied Research
Posted: Wed, January 22, 2014

Ravi Bellamkonda, Wallace H. Coulter Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, will receive the 2014 Clemson Award for Applied Research for his "significant utilization and application of basic knowledge in science to accomplish a significant goal in the biomaterials field."

Dr. Belllamkonda will be honored during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Annual Meeting and Exposition, April 16-19 in Denver, Colorado.

Nominator Arthur J. Coury, PhD had this to say about his colleague, “To know Professor Ravi Bellamkonda is to appreciate a gentleman respectful of the personalities, potential and contributions of all, yet personally intense in his focus on benefiting society at large.”

According to Society of Biomaterials, Dr. Bellamkonda is a thought leader and seminal contributor to the literature and the basic knowledge of interaction of polymeric materials and the nervous system. As a teacher, he recently received the ‘best professor’ award from undergraduate students in biomaterials education at GIT – an honor that has only been conferred upon four professors in the last twelve years.

Each year, the Society For Biomaterials solicits nominations for outstanding work in the Clemson Award categories. The history of these awards reflects the strong traditional ties between the Society For Biomatierals and Clemson University since 1974.

Dr. Bellamkonda, who has built a distinguished career in the health and engineering fields, is currently a Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Cancer Scientist. Dr. Bellamkonda’s research is focused on neural tissue engineering, targeted drug delivery for brain tumor therapy, and peripheral and central nerve regeneration.

NIH-funded summer program introduces pediatric bioengineering to undergraduates
Posted: Tue, January 21, 2014

A new summer training program at Emory University will introduce undergraduate students to research in the field of pediatric bioengineering. The program is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. The new program is a collaborative effort among the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, the Department of Pediatrics in Emory University School of Medicine, the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURE) in Emory College, and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

"This is one of the only training programs in the country focused solely on pediatric bioengineering," says Michael E. Davis, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and director of the Pediatric Center for Cardiovascular Biology at Emory and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Nearly $500,000 in funding over five years will allow 10 talented undergraduate students each year from around the United States to work for a pediatric engineering project over the summer. The students also will shadow clinicians to better understand childhood diseases and receive training in scientific reading, writing, and scientific processes.

Program Information: http://www.pedsresearch.org/news/article/pediatric-bioengineering-summer-training-program

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Going against the flow: halting atherosclerosis by targeting micro RNA
Posted: Thu, January 9, 2014

Researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech have developed a potential treatment for atherosclerosis that targets a master controller of the process. The results were published in the journal Nature Communications. In a twist, the master controller comes from a source that scientists had thought was leftover garbage. It is a micro RNA molecule, which comes from an unused template that remains after punching out ribosomes –– workhorse protein factories found in all cells. The treatment works by stopping the inflammatory effects of disturbed blood flow on cells that line blood vessels. In animal models of atherosclerosis, a drug that interferes with the micro RNA can stop arteries from becoming blocked, despite the ongoing stress of high-fat diet. The micro RNA appears to function similarly in human cells.

"We've known that aerobic exercise provides protection against atherosclerosis, partly by improving patterns of blood flow. Now we're achieving some insight into how," says senior author Hanjoong Jo, PhD. "Healthy flow tunes down the production of bad actors like this micro RNA. Targeting it could form the basis for a therapeutic approach that could be translated with relative ease compared to other drugs." Jo is John and Jan Portman professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The co-first authors of the paper are postdoctoral fellows Dong Ju Son, PhD and Sandeep Kumar, PhD. The research was supported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (HL095070, HL70531), the Center for Translational Cardiovascular Nanomedicine (HHSN268201000043C), the American Heart Association and the South Korean Ministry of Science, Technology and Education. Jo's work was supported as part of a World Class University Program at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, where he served as a visiting Distinguished Professor in the Bioinspired Science Department from 2009 to 2013.

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Imaging Technology Could Unlock Mysteries of a Childhood Disease
Posted: Thu, January 2, 2014

A new technique for studying the structure of the RSV virion and the activity of RSV in living cells could help researchers unlock the secrets of the virus, including how it enters cells, how it replicates, how many genomes it inserts into its hosts – and perhaps why certain lung cells escape the infection relatively unscathed. That could provide scientists information they need to develop new antiviral drugs and perhaps even a vaccine to prevent severe RSV infections.

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How to better spy on a childhood virus
Posted: Thu, January 2, 2014

Scientists at Georgia Tech say a new technique for tagging the genome and studying the RNA of a virus could help them discover better antiviral drugs and perhaps even more effective vaccines. Influenza, Ebola, and respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV) can be nasty little buggers, infecting their hosts with rash abandon and, especially when they attack young babies, even killing them. And the danger reaches beyond the very young. Pneumonia, for instance, is the leading cause of death in children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and RSV is the most common viral cause of pneumonia. As imaging techniques advance, researchers are being able to study these viruses in greater and greater detail. Now, according to a team of scientists at Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, and Emory, one new technique for studying RSV in microscopic detail could help them spy on the structure of the virus for days and help them better understand how it enters cells, how it replicates, why some lung cells manage to escape the wrath of the virus, and so on.

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BME Undergrad Honored at ASH Annual Meeting
Posted: Wed, January 1, 2014

BME undergraduate student Meredith Fay was honored with the American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2013 Outstanding Abstract Achievement Award for her research publication, White Blood Cell Mechanics Mediate Glucocorticoid- and Catecholamine-Induced Demargination. Outstanding Abstract Achievement Award winners receive an honorarium and annual meeting travel benefits.  “The 2013 abstract awards celebrate achievements from the next generation of talented researchers through recognition of the highest caliber trainee abstracts,” said ASH President Janis L. Abkowitz, MD, of the University of Washington. “It is a major accomplishment to be selected to present one’s work in this forum, and we anticipate hearing more about the discoveries made by this impressive group in the years to come.” The American Society of Hematology (ASH) (www.hematology.org) is the world’s largest professional society of hematologists dedicated to furthering the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders affecting the blood.

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BME NEWS ARCHIVE: 2013 Department of Biomedical Engineering: BME Clear

COE Cares Faculty Profile- Rudy Gleason
Posted: Tue, December 17, 2013

Rudy Gleason is a professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering with research interests that include cardiovascular mechanics, soft tissue growth and remodeling, and tissue engineering. He also has a passion for helping those in need in Ethiopia. Read more to find out where that passion comes from and how it meshes with his research interests.

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Wallace H. Coulter at 100: A Legacy of Biomedical Innovation
Posted: Tue, December 10, 2013

… This year, Wallace Coulter would have turned 100, and to celebrate the life and scientific legacy of Coulter, his namesake department is hosting a celebration on Dec. 5-6 at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “I have heard many wonderful stories about Wallace’s deep commitment to his team and his people and employees,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, who holds a Wallace H. Coulter Chair in the department. “I’d like to think that the Coulter Department has a similar environment of a team and a family.” Coulter studied electronics as a student at Georgia Tech in the early 1930s. The Coulter Foundation, through its philanthropy, helped establish the innovative academic department operated jointly by Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“There’s no question that the major gift by the Coulter Foundation was extremely important in building the biomedical engineering department to propel itself in a very short time to being a leading department in the country,” said Don Giddens, the founding chair of the Coulter Department and former dean of the College of Engineering. The biomedical research conducted today might not be possible without the invention of the Coulter Counter. The Coulter Counter transformed diagnostics in hospitals by allowing rapid counting of blood cells. As cells of different sizes go through the counter, the cells change the current that flows through the device. That change in current is used to very rapidly count blood cells, providing information that helps spot illnesses in patients.

The invention of the Coulter Counter was the foundation for the successful, multi-national Coulter Corporation. Wallace Counter also held 85 patents and positioned the Coulter Corporation as a leader in the diagnostics technology industry. In October 1997, the Coulter Corporation was acquired by Beckman Instruments, Inc. and the company is now known as Beckman Coulter, Inc.

Helping improve the lives of patients through commercializing biomedical research is a modern-day Coulter principle. “The old Coulter principle is how to count particles. The new Coulter principle, pioneered with single-minded focus by the Coulter Foundation, is helping us take engineering innovations from the lab and successfully commercialize them,” Bellamkonda said. “Wallace’s legacy vibrantly lives on through the work of his foundation.”

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Flanagans Support Novel, High-Impact Biomedical Research with Endowment; Todd McDevitt and Krishnendu Roy Recognized for Breakthrough Research and Leadership In Immunoengineering and Regenerative Medicine
Posted: Thu, November 14, 2013

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has approved the appointment of Krishnendu (Krish) Roy and Todd McDevitt to Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Faculty Professorships in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. These appointments, generously endowed by the Flanagans in 2011, serve to recognize and reward faculty that are conducting high impact research and are exemplary citizens of the Wallace H. Coulter department and Georgia Tech as a whole. Both Roy and McDevitt are bringing cutting-edge research and thought leadership to the burgeoning fields of immunoengineering and regenerative medicine.

McDevitt is an associate professor in the Coulter Department, a Petit Faculty Fellow in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and director of the Stem Cell Engineering Center at Georgia Tech. The objective of McDevitt’s research program is to develop enabling technologies for the directed differentiation of stem cells for regenerative medicine, disease models, and diagnostic applications. Much of his research focuses on the application of technologies to engineer stem cell fate, on stem cell bioprocessing and on engineering regenerative therapies from stem cells. McDevitt has garnered more than $9 million in funding, including a Transformative R01 award from the NIH and an NSF IGERT on Stem Cell Biomanufacturing. He received the 2010 Society for Biomaterials Young Investigator Award, a New Investigator Award from the American Heart Association and was recognized as one of the “40 Under 40” by Georgia Trend magazine. McDevitt graduated cum laude from Duke University, with a B.S.E. and a double major in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering. He received his Ph.D. in 2001 in Bioengineering from the University of Washington, where he worked for Patrick S. Stayton, and where he conducted post-doctoral research in the pathology laboratory of Charles E. Murry.

Roy joined the Coulter Department this summer as professor and is currently the director of the Center for Immunoengineering. He is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) and a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES). He received his B.S. from the Indian Institute of Technology, M.S. from Boston University and his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Following his Ph.D., he joined a start-up biotechnology company, Zycos Inc., where he served as a senior scientist in drug delivery research. He joined The University of Texas at Austin in 2002, where most recently he was professor of Biomedical Engineering. He also served as the director of the graduate program and as associate chair for education and outreach. His research interests are in the areas of immunoengineering with particular focus on material-directed cells signaling and immune cell generation and controlled drug and vaccine delivery technologies with applications in cancer and immunotherapies. Roy has received the Young Investigator Awards from The Society for Biomaterials (SFB) and the Controlled Release Society (CRS). He has been extensively funded by NIH, NSF, the Coulter Foundation, the Whitaker Foundation and the Cancer Prevention And Research Institute of Texas, among others. He serves as a member of the editorial boards for the Journal of Controlled Release and the European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics.

Cells Prefer Nanodiscs Over Nanorods
Posted: Tue, October 29, 2013

Understanding how the shape of nanoparticles affects their transport into cells could be a major boost for the field of nanomedicine by helping scientists to design better therapies for various diseases, such as improving the efficacy and reducing side effects of cancer drugs.

In addition to nanoparticle geometry, the researchers also discovered that different types of cells have different mechanisms to pull in nanoparticles of different sizes, which was previously unknown. The research team also used theoretical models to identify the physical parameters that cells use when taking in nanoparticles. “This research identified some very novel yet fundamental aspects in which cells interact with the shape of nanoparticles,” said Krishnendu Roy, who recently joined the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Roy conducted this research at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Profs. S. V. Sreenivasan and Li Shi, but is continuing the work at Georgia Tech.

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BME/Chemistry iGEM team to compete in World Championships
Posted: Tue, October 29, 2013

This year’s Georgia Tech iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) team was one of only 15 teams in North America chosen to compete in the World Championship Jamboree at MIT, Nov. 1 – 4. The team’s goal is to develop cells and platelets that display sensory-response behaviors and act as ‘smart’ biobots which can duplicate the function of cells responsible for repair and adaptation. The team was assembled in the summer of 2013 and has been working towards expressing human integrin sensors on the surface of E. coli cells, a feat that has not yet been accomplished. This is the first time in the four years of Georgia Tech's participation in iGEM that the team has been awarded the gold medal and advanced to the world championship. The team will travel to MIT in early November for the upcoming competition. Nearly 300 colleges and universities from around the world registered a team and participated in this competition. Out of the 65 registered teams in North America, only 13 undergraduate teams received a gold medal and advanced to the world competition.

The Georgia Tech iGEM team consists of seven undergraduate students: Jessica Siemer (BME), Spencer Cooper (BME), Tilak Balavijayan (BME), Haoli Du (BME), Jackson Jenkins (Chemical Engineering), Casey Haynes (BME), Rachel Blackstone (BME). The PI for the project is BME Associate Professor Thomas Barker; the team leader is Sr. Research Scientist Anton Brykin, and team instructors are graduate students Vince Fiore, Haylee Bachman. The International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) is the premiere undergraduate Synthetic Biology competition. Student teams are given a kit of biological parts at the beginning of the summer from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Working at their own schools over the summer, they use these parts and new parts of their own design to build biological systems and operate them in living cells. The iGEM Jamboree is the largest annual gathering of synthetic biologists.

Two BME Professors Receive "The Emory 1%" Award
Posted: Tue, October 29, 2013

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University is a joint department, equally part of the Emory School of Medicine and the Georgia Tech College of Engineering communities. As such, we offer the best of both internationally renowned institutions. The department is united through a dedication to improving the health and wellbeing of all by fostering the next generation of leaders in biomedical engineering worldwide. The Coulter Department is comprised of highly collaborative innovators in research and education with an emphasis on translational and interdisciplinary research.

Biomedical faculty members Drs. Hanjoong Jo and Ajit Yoganathan recently received the “The Emory 1%” award in recognition of their $2.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant on aortic valve mechanobiology. The overall goals of this application are to determine the role of mechanosensitive microRNAs in aortic valve endothelial function and aortic valve calcification using cultured endothelial cells and porcine aortic valve tissue exposed to shear conditions in vitro and ex vivo as well as mouse model of aortic valve disease.

Emory established the award as a way to recognize faculty who score in the top one-percentile or better on a federal grant application, or any research award that is percentiled during review.Both Jo and Yoganathan are professors in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech/Emory. Yoganathan is the first GT faculty member to receive such an award at Emory.

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Biomedical Engineering Professor Younan Xia Receives 2013 Nano Today Award
Posted: Tue, October 29, 2013

Biomedical Engineering Professor Younan Xia has been selected to receive the 2013 Nano Today Award. The award recognizes pioneering research in the field of nanostructured materials.  Xia is the Brock Family Chair and Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminenent Scholar in Nanomedicine at Georgia Tech and holds joint appointments in The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Xia will be presented with the award at the Nano Today Conference in December in Singapore.

He received a B.S. degree in chemical physics from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in 1987, a M.S. degree in inorganic chemistry from University of Pennsylvania in 1993, and a Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry from Harvard University in 1996. His group has invented a myriad of elegant approaches to the facile synthesis of metal nanocrystals with well-controlled sizes, shapes, structures, compositions, and properties, which did not exist previously. These novel nanocrystals open up a world of opportunities for many applications as diverse as plasmonics, surface-enhanced Raman scattering, electronics, photonics, photovoltaics, display, catalysis, fuel cells, and biomedical research, all of which will have a profound impact on the society.  He has co-authored more than 530 publications in peer-reviewed journals, together with a total citation of more than 63,300 and an h-index of 132. He has been named a Top 10 Chemist and Materials Scientist based on the number of citation per publication.

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Packaging stem cells in capsules for heart therapy
Posted: Tue, October 22, 2013

Stem cell therapy for heart disease is happening. Around the world, thousands of heart disease patients have been treated in clinical studies with some form of bone marrow cells or stem cells. But in many of those studies, the actual impact on heart function was modest or inconsistent. One reason is that most of the cells either don’t stay in the heart or die soon after being introduced into the body.

Cardiology researchers at Emory have a solution for this problem. The researchers package stem cells in a capsule made of alginate, a gel-like substance. Once packaged, the cells stay put, releasing their healing factors over time.



Researchers used encapsulated mesenchymal stem cells to form a "patch" that was applied to the hearts of rats after a heart attack. Compared with animals treated with naked cells (or with nothing), rats treated with the capsule patches displayed increased heart function, reduced scar size and more growth of new blood vessels a month later. In addition, many more of the encapsulated cells stayed alive.



"This approach appears to be an effective way to increase cell retention and survival in the context of cardiac cell therapy," says W. Robert Taylor, MD, professor of medicine and director of the cardiology division at Emory University School of Medicine and professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. "It may be a strategy applicable to many cell types for regenerative therapy in cardiovascular disease." The results were published October 10 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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Georgia Tech Launches New Immunoengineering Center
Posted: Wed, October 9, 2013

More than 15 faculty from seven different schools and departments join together to form the new Center for Immunoengineering at Georgia Tech. This new effort brings biomedical engineers, bioengineers, chemical engineers, chemists, biologists and mechanical engineers together to encourage new innovative approaches to study the immune system and to assess, predict and control immune response. Krish Roy, PhD, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and faculty member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (Petit Institute), will head the new center.

The mission of the Immunoengineering Research Center is to develop breakthrough engineering tools and methods for personalized and predictive health care of patients. The center will focus on three grand challenges: ability to rapidly provide a comprehensive immunological status of a patient, to quantitatively predict immune function in a patient and to precisely modulate and control the immune response of a patient.

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Tiny Bottles and Melting Corks: Temperature Regulates a New Delivery System for Drugs and Fragrances
Posted: Wed, September 18, 2013

Microscopic, bottle-like structures with corks that melt at precisely-controlled temperatures could potentially release drugs inside the body or fragrances onto the skin, according to a recently published study. Typical drug delivery systems act more like sponges than bottles. For example, drugs are absorbed into polymer particles and then allowed to diffuse out over time. The researchers hope that the new system may allow for greater control of drug delivery. Cargo would stay inside the hollow polymer particle when plugged with a solid cork. When the cork is melted by body heat, the drugs would quickly flow out of the particle bottle. “It’s just like when you open wine, you remove the cork,” said Younan Xia, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Xia also holds joint appointments in School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech.

The melting corks are made of fatty acids, derived from natural oils and fats. The length of the hydrocarbon chains on these molecules can be made longer or shorter to increase or decrease, respectively, the temperature at which they melt. This way, the fragrances in deodorants, for example, would be released only when a person gets hot and sweaty. The new system for temperature-regulated release was detailed in a recent online edition of the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition. The research was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award, and startup funds from Georgia Tech. Funds were also provided by the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KOSEF) and the Korean Ministry of Education and Science.

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Molecular beacons light path to cardiac muscle repair
Posted: Wed, September 11, 2013

Pure cardiac muscle cells, ready to transplant into a patient affected by heart disease.

That’s a goal for many cardiology researchers working with stem cells. Having a pure population of cardiac muscle cells is essential for avoiding tumor formation after transplantation, but has been technically challenging.  Researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech have developed a method for purifying cardiac muscle cells from stem cell cultures using molecular beacons.

Molecular beacons are tiny "instruments" that become fluorescent only when they find cells that have turned on certain genes. In this case, they target instructions to make a type of myosin, a protein found in cardiac muscle cells.

Doctors could use purified cardiac muscle cells to heal damaged areas of the heart in patients affected by heart attack and heart failure. In addition, the molecular beacons technique could have broad applications across regenerative medicine, because it could be used with other types of cells produced from stem cell cultures, such as brain cells or insulin-producing islet cells. The results are published in the journal Circulation.

"Often, we want to generate a particular cell population from stem cells for introduction into patients," says co-senior author Young-sup Yoon, MD, PhD, professor of medicine (cardiology) and director of stem cell biology at Emory University School of Medicine. "But the desired cells often lack a readily accessible surface marker, or that marker is not specific enough, as is the case for cardiac muscle cells. This technique could allow us to purify almost any type of cell." 

Gang Bao, PhD, whose laboratory has pioneered the design and use of molecular beacons, is co-senior author. Bao is Robert A. Milton chair, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The first authors are Emory postdoctoral fellow Kiwon Ban, PhD and Georgia Tech graduate student Brian Wile.

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Microparticles Create Localized Control of Stem Cell Differentiation; Reduce Growth Factor Use
Posted: Thu, July 18, 2013

Before scientists and engineers can realize the dream of using stem cells to create replacements for worn out organs and battle damaged body parts, they’ll have to develop ways to grow complex three-dimensional structures in large volumes and at costs that won’t bankrupt health care systems.

Researchers are now reporting advances in these areas by using gelatin-based microparticles to deliver growth factors to specific areas of embryoid bodies, aggregates of differentiating stem cells. The localized delivery technique provides spatial control of cell differentiation within the cultures, potentially enabling the creation of complex three-dimensional tissues. The local control also dramatically reduces the amount of growth factor required, an important cost consideration for manufacturing stem cells for therapeutic applications. The microparticle technique, which was demonstrated in pluripotent mouse embryonic cells, also offers better control over the kinetics of cell differentiation by delivering molecules that can either promote or inhibit the process. Based on research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, the developments were reported online July 1 in the journal Biomaterials and were presented at the 11th Annual International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting held in Boston June 12-15, 2013 .

By trapping these growth factors within microparticle materials first, we are concentrating the signal they provide to the stem cells,” said Todd McDevitt, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We can then put the microparticle materials physically inside the multicellular aggregate system that we use for differentiation of the stem cells. We have good evidence that this technique can work, and that we can use it to provide advantages in several different areas.”

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Steering stem cells with magnets
Posted: Tue, July 16, 2013

Magnets could be a tool for directing stem cells’ healing powers to treat conditions such as heart disease or vascular disease.

By feeding stem cells tiny particles made of iron oxide, scientists at Emory and Georgia Tech can use magnets to attract the cells to a particular location in the body after intravenous injection.

The results are published online in the journal Small and will appear in an upcoming issue. The paper was a result of collaboration between the laboratories of W. Robert Taylor, MD, PhD, and Gang Bao, PhD. Taylor is professor of medicine and biomedical engineering and director of the Division of Cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine. Bao is professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Co-first authors of the paper are postdoctoral fellows Natalia Landazuri, PhD, and Sheng Tong, PhD. Landazuri is now at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

The type of cells used in the study, mesenchymal stem cells, are not embryonic stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells can be readily obtained from adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat. They are capable of becoming bone, fat and cartilage cells, but not other types of cell such as muscle or brain. They secrete a variety of nourishing and anti-inflammatory factors, which could make them valuable tools for treating conditions such as cardiovascular disease or autoimmune disorders.

Iron oxide nanoparticles are already FDA-approved for diagnostic purposes with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Other scientists have tried to load stem cells with similar particles, but found that the coating on the particles was toxic or changed the cells’ properties. The nanoparticles used in this study have a polyethylene glycol coating that protects the cell from damage. Another unique feature is that the Emory/Tech team used a magnetic field to push the particles into the cells, rather than chemical agents used previously.

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Pediatric Center for Cardiovascular Biology Names New Director
Posted: Tue, July 9, 2013

Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have appointed Michael Davis, PhD, as director of the Center for Cardiovascular Biology (CCB) in the Emory + Children’s Pediatric Research Center. Davis is currently associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. He has a joint appointment in the Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, in Emory University School of Medicine. Davis’ research is focused on bioengineering and stem cell approaches to treating adult and pediatric heart disease. He has several federally funded research grants, three patents, and more than 40 published articles.

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Ravi Bellamkonda Named Biomedical Engineering Chair
Posted: Thu, June 20, 2013

The Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have selected Ravi V. Bellamkonda, a prominent biomedical scientist and engineer, to chair their joint department of biomedical engineering. He will begin as chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University in July.    

Bellamkonda, who has built a distinguished career in the health and engineering fields, is currently the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Chair in Biomedical Engineering and a Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar. He currently serves as the Georgia Tech associate vice president for research, and he is the new president-elect for the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

Bellamkonda’s appointment concludes a national search begun last year to fill the position, which is responsible for overseeing the department's academic and research programs in areas such as biomedical imaging, tissue engineering, cancer technologies, neuroscience, computer-assisted surgery and drug delivery. The department has 40 faculty members at Georgia Tech and Emory. More than 1,300 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in the program. “Ravi is an outstanding leader who has proven his dedication to the department. He is a brilliant researcher and is focused on evolving local and national collaborations to enhance research and education efforts,” said Gary S. May, dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Ravi Bellamkonda as chair of our nationally recognized joint department,” said Christian P. Larsen, dean of Emory University School of Medicine. “I am confident that as a proven educator, researcher, and leader in his profession he will guide our faculty and students to new levels of excellence.”

Bellamkonda’s recruitment also builds on a growing collaboration among the Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Emory Department of Pediatrics and the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory to build bioengineering programs for Pediatric Bioengineering and cancer diagnosis and treatment. Bellamkonda succeeds Larry McIntire, who is retiring after 10 years as chair of the joint department. Prior to joining Georgia Tech in 2003, Bellamkonda was an associate professor and associate chair for graduate education in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. He has also served as a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Bellamkonda was awarded his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1994.

His various awards include: Fellow of Biomedical Engineering Society and the Institute of Physics; and ‘Best Professor’ Award conferred by the undergraduate student body of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Bellamkonda was inducted as an AIMBE Fellow in 2006 and served on AIMBE’s board as vice president, at-large, before being elected to president-elect. Bellamkonda has published more than 175 books, chapters, articles, abstracts and proceedings. He is the founding scientist of two companies and has three U.S. patents with two additional ones pending.

"It is with a great sense of excitement that I look to helping lead this outstanding department and continuing its development as the best in the nation in biomedical engineering research and education," said Bellamkonda.  Bellamkonda’s research is focused on neural tissue engineering, targeted drug delivery for brain tumor therapy, and peripheral and central nerve regeneration.

Georgia Tech and Emory created the joint department of biomedical engineering in the fall of 1997. The collaborative relationship blends the expertise of medical researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine with that of the engineering faculty at Georgia Tech, and is the first of its kind between a public and private institution. The collaboration has resulted in a biomedical engineering program ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Emory, Georgia Tech receive first human exposome center grant in U.S.
Posted: Thu, June 20, 2013

Investigators at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, along with partners at the Georgia Institute of Technology, have received a $4 million grant over four years to establish the HERCULES Center at Emory University (Health and Exposome Research Center: Understanding Lifetime Exposures). The grant is the first exposome-based center grant awarded in the United States. The HERCULES Center is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health as an Environmental Health Sciences Core Center. This NIEHS initiative is designed to establish leadership and support for programs of excellence in environmental health sciences by providing scientific guidance, technology and career development opportunities for promising investigators.

The exposome is a relatively new concept that incorporates all of the exposures encountered by humans. It is proposed to be the environmental equivalent of the human genome and includes lifetime exposures to environmental pollutants in food, water, physical activity, medications, homes and daily stressors. Exposome research looks at the holistic view of the human body’s exposures, how the body responds to those exposures, and their combined effects.

“HERCULES is more than an acronym,” explains Gary W. Miller, PhD, professor and associate dean for research at the Rollins School of Public Health, and director of the HERCULES Center. “Sequencing of the human genome project was a Herculean task, and determining the impact of the complex exposures we face throughout our lives represents a similarly difficult challenge. The exposome itself represents all of the external forces that act upon us. We know that measuring the exposome will be extremely difficult, but very worthwhile.”

Scientists believe that when coupled with a growing understanding of genetics, the exposome will help uncover the causes of many complex disorders, such as autism, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease. Based at Emory’s School of Public Health, the HERCULES Center comprises 38 investigators from both Emory and Georgia Tech. The center aims to promote the importance of the environment at a level equivalent to that of genetics.

A key feature of the HERCULES Center is the Systems Biology Core headed by Eberhard Voit, PhD, in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology. Voit is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. The Systems Biology Core will provide expertise in computational approaches used to analyze and integrate large datasets. “Assessing the enormous complexity of the exposome means entering uncharted territory and a unique opportunity for exploring and applying concepts and computational technologies that are just emerging in the nascent field of systems biology,” says Voit, who is also the David D. Flanagan Chair in the biomedical engineering department. “We are very excited that Georgia Tech and Emory will venture into this new field together to learn and gain a greatly improved understanding of health and disease.

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A Biomedical Breakthrough Could Quicken the Clotting Process
Posted: Tue, June 11, 2013

Researchers at Georgia Tech have engineered “designer” blood clots­artificial platelets that could enhance the body’s natural clotting process and mitigate painful scarring. In animal trials, the platelets reduced clotting time by 30 percent. The clots offer particular potential for battlefront use; an injured soldier could inject the freeze-dried synthetic material on the field, using a device the size of an iPhone. Dr. Thomas Barker, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, runs the Matrix Biology and Engineering Lab, which developed the platelets.

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Georgia Tech Names Sathya Gourisankar to Direct New Biomedical Innovation and Development Program
Posted: Thu, June 6, 2013

Biomedical Engineer Brings 30 Years’ R&D Experience to New Master’s Degree Program

ATLANTA (June 6, 2013) – The Georgia Institute of Technology has named Sathya Gourisankar, Ph.D., as Director of the Master of Biomedical Innovation and Development (BioID) Degree Program. This new degree focuses education and clinical experience to transform unmet clinical needs into practical, usable technologies and products for improving patient care. The inaugural BioID class begins in Fall 2013 as part of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Gourisankar led the development and global commercialization of 10 significant medical device products for cardio-thoracic, abdominal surgical, peripheral arterial and ophthalmology clinical applications. His 30-year background in research and development (R&D) includes project management, pre-clinical and clinical biomaterials research, and regulatory submissions.

"Developing safe and effective medical devices calls for a unique blend of rigorous science, state-of-the-art innovation, regulatory compliance, quality assurance, ethical considerations and business interests. With the increasing demands of science, regulations and business being faced by the Medical Device industries, there is no better time than now for the launch of the BioID program. I am very excited to be involved with this unique program,” says Gourisankar.

As Director of the BioID program, Gourisankar will coordinate student recruitment and admissions, curriculum development, and program assessment with the Coulter Department’s Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, Professor Gilda Barabino.  In addition, he will be responsible for adjunct faculty recruitment and industry outreach initiatives to provide support for BioID student projects and the department's multidisciplinary capstone design initiative. 

Gourisankar earned a doctorate in biomaterials/chemical engineering from State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo, NY. His thesis focused on biomaterials, biocompatibility of implants, surface treatments and analysis. Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Gourisankar was a biomedical scientist and R&D manager at top medical device companies in the United States and abroad, including Alcon Laboratories, C.R. Bard and ITC in Bangalore, India.

The BioID program seeks to prepare students from multiple disciplines for careers in a wide range of medical specialties. Courses include: engineering design and development processes, FDA and ISO regulatory requirements, medical markets, clinical practice/protocols, strategy and planning, finance and economics, product costing, project management, ethics and sustainability. Graduates of this intensive 12-month master’s program will be well prepared to pursue and advance their careers in the field of biomedical engineering devices, technology development, and commercialization.

In 2012, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Coulter Department’s bachelor’s and Ph.D. biomedical engineering programs second in the nation. The BioID master’s program will build upon the strengths and global reputation of these existing programs.

A limited number of openings remain for the Fall 2013 class. For more information, please visit: www.bioid.gatech.edu



Anemia Testing Technology Wins Ideas to SERVE Competition
Posted: Tue, April 16, 2013

Anemo Check's technology to improve the accuracy and affordability of testing for anemia around the world won first place in the 2013 Ideas to SERVE (I2S) Competition at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.  Open to all Georgia Tech students and recent alumni, the I2S competition involves innovative business concepts that could help improve society or preserve the environment. The finals were held on April 10 following a poster showcase on April 5.  Erika Tyburski, who earned her BS at in biomedical engineering in 2012, leads Anemo Check. "I myself have mild anemia, so it made perfect sense for me to work on solving this problem," she says. "Thirty percent of the world will experience anemia at some point this year and most of the time anemia is completely curable if diagnosed in time."  Anemia, a condition marked by a deficiency of hemoglobin in the blood, can be caused by poor nutrition, malaria, pregnancy, blood loss, or sickle cell disease, resulting in such symptoms as fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, fever, brain damage, and death. Treatments for anemia include better nutrition, hydration, and iron supplementation.  Current diagnostic tests for the disorder are often inaccurate, says Tyburski, who began working on this technology through a senior industrial design project. "But with just one drop of blood, Anemo Check can provide clear reliable results for less than 25 cents per test. It is safe, simple and accurate anemia screening."

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Surface Diffusion Plays a Key Role in Defining the Shapes of Catalytic Nanoparticles
Posted: Tue, April 16, 2013

Controlling the shapes of nanometer-sized catalytic and electrocatalytic particles made from noble metals such as platinum and palladium may be more complicated than previously thought. Using systematic experiments, researchers have investigated how surface diffusion – a process in which atoms move from one site to another on nanoscale surfaces – affects the final shape of the particles. The issue is important for a wide range of applications that use specific shapes to optimize the activity and selectivity of nanoparticles, including catalytic converters, fuel cell technology, chemical catalysis and plasmonics. Results of the research could lead to a better understanding of how to manage the diffusion process by controlling the reaction temperature and deposition rate, or by introducing structural barriers designed to hinder the surface movement of atoms.

“We want to be able to design the synthesis to produce nanoparticles with the exact shape we want for each specific application,” said Younan Xia, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Fundamentally, it is important to understand how these shapes are formed, to visualize how this happens on structures over a length scale of about 100 atoms.”

The research was reported April 8 in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Controlling the shape of nanoparticles is important in catalysis and other applications that require the use of expensive noble metals such as platinum and palladium. For example, optimizing the shape of platinum nanoparticles can substantially enhance their catalytic activity, reducing demand for the precious material, noted Xia, who is a Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) eminent scholar in nanomedicine. Xia also holds joint appointments in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech. The research is part of a long-term study of catalytic nanoparticles being conducted by Xia’s research group. Other aspects of the team’s work addresses biomedical uses of nanoparticles in such areas as cancer therapy.

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New Nanotechnology Research Study Turns Brain Tumors Blue
Posted: Thu, March 28, 2013

Researchers from Georgia Tech and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have developed a technique that assists in identifying tumors from normal brain tissue during surgery by staining tumor cells blue. The technique could be critically important for hospitals lacking sophisticated equipment in preserving the maximum amount of normal tissue and brain function during surgery. Published this week in the journal Drug Delivery and Translational Medicine, the research was led by Dr. Barun Brahma, M.D., Children's neurosurgeon and biomedical engineer, and Ravi Bellamkonda, the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Chair in Biomedical Engineering at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Brahma initially approached the laboratory of Bellamkonda to see if it would be possible to manually distinguish a tumor from normal tissue during surgery without using complex equipment that might be unavailable to some health facilities. Bellamkonda’s lab developed a nanocarrier made of fat that carried a clinically approved dye called Evans Blue. The team demonstrated that these nanocarriers leak out of blood vessels in the tumor margin and stain brain tumors blue. Using tumor cells injected into a rat brain, the team proved nanocarriers are able to find their way to the brain tumor and selectively dye it blue while excluding normal brain tissue. Brahma, Bellamkonda and other collaborators are developing a range of nanotechnologies designed to treat brain tumors and traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Other authors on the article include researchers from the Bellamkonda lab and Phil Santangelo, assistant professor and optical imaging expert in the joint biomedical engineering department at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Mechanical Forces Play Major Role in Assembly and Disassembly of a Key Cell Protein
Posted: Wed, March 20, 2013

Researchers have for the first time demonstrated that mechanical forces can control the depolymerization of actin, a critical protein that provides the major force-bearing structure in the cytoskeletons of cells. The research suggests that forces applied both externally and internally may play a much larger role than previously believed in regulating a range of processes inside cells. Using atomic force microscopy (AFM) force-clamp experiments, the research found that tensile force regulates the kinetics of actin dissociation by prolonging the lifetimes of bonds at low force range, and by shortening bond lifetimes beyond a force threshold. The research also identified a possible molecular basis for the bonds that form when mechanical forces create new interactions between subunits of actin. The research was reported March 4 in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “For the first time, we have shown that mechanical force can directly regulate how actin is assembled and disassembled,” said Larry McIntire, chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and corresponding author of the study. “Actin is fundamental to how cells accomplish most of their functions and processes. This research gives us a whole new way of thinking about how a cell can do things like rearrange its cytoskeleton in response to external forces.” Cheng Zhu, a Regents’ professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering is a co-corresponding author of the paper.

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Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Ranks Second by U.S. News & World Report Graduate School Rankings
Posted: Thu, March 14, 2013

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University is once again ranked second among graduate schools in biomedical engineering, according to the 2014 U.S. News & World Report rankings released this week. This is the seventh consecutive year that the Coulter Department, a joint program of the Emory University School of Medicine and the Georgia Tech College of Engineering, has earned this distinction.

The Emory School of Medicine was ranked 22nd nationally among research-oriented medical schools, and 29th among primary care schools (up from 40th last year). Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering is ranked No. 5 and all 11 of the College’s engineering programs ranked within the top 10.

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Neural “Synchrony” May be Key to Understanding How the Human Brain Perceives
Posted: Tue, March 12, 2013

Despite many remarkable discoveries in the field of neuroscience during the past several decades, researchers have not been able to fully crack the brain’s “neural code.” The neural code details how the brain’s roughly 100 billion neurons turn raw sensory inputs into information we can use to see, hear and feel things in our environment. In a perspective article published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on Feb. 25, 2013, biomedical engineering professor Garrett Stanley detailed research progress toward “reading and writing the neural code.” This encompasses the ability to observe the spiking activity of neurons in response to outside stimuli and make clear predictions about what is being seen, heard, or felt, and the ability to artificially introduce activity within the brain that enables someone to see, hear, or feel something that is not experienced naturally through sensory organs. Stanley also described challenges that remain to read and write the neural code and asserted that the specific timing of electrical pulses is crucial to interpreting the code. He wrote the article with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Stanley has been developing approaches to better understand and control the neural code since 1997 and has published about 40 journal articles in this area. “Neuroscientists have made great progress toward reading the neural code since the 1990s, but the recent development of improved tools for measuring and activating neuronal circuits has finally put us in a position to start writing the neural code and controlling neuronal circuits in a physiological and meaningful way,” said Stanley, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

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Ravi Bellamkonda Serving as President-Elect of AIMBE
Posted: Thu, February 28, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) Board of Directors welcomed Dr. Ravi Bellamkonda, Ph.D. as its new President-Elect at AIMBE’s 2013 Annual Event in Washington, DC, on February 17, 2013.  Dr. Bellamkonda will begin his term as AIMBE President at the conclusion of AIMBE’s 2014 Annual Event. Dr. Bellamkonda is Professor, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Chair in Biomedical Engineering, GCC Distinguished Scholar, and Associate Vice President for Research at the Wallace H. Coulter Dept. of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Dr. Bellamkonda’s areas of research include: Neural Tissue Engineering, Targeted Drug Delivery for Brain Tumor Therapy, Peripheral & Central Nerve Regeneration, Electrode-Brain Interfaces, Long circulating contrast agents, and Polymeric Biomaterials.

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Sticky Cells: Cyclic Mechanical Reinforcement Extends Longevity of Bonds Between Cells
Posted: Wed, February 20, 2013

New research has revealed insights into how cells stick to each other and to other bodily structures, an essential function in the formation of tissue structures and organs. It’s thought that abnormalities in their ability to do so play an important role in a broad range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. The study’s findings are outlined in the journal Molecular Cell and describe a surprising new aspect of cell adhesion involving the family of cell adhesion molecules known as integrins, which are found on the surfaces of most cells. The research uncovered a phenomenon termed “cyclic mechanical reinforcement,” in which the length of time during which bonds exist is extended with repeated pulling and release between the integrins and ligands that are part of the extracellular matrix to which the cells attach.

Professor Martin Humphries, dean of the faculty of life sciences at the University of Manchester and one of the paper’s co-authors, says the study suggests some new capabilities for cells: “This paper identifies a new kind of bond that is strengthened by cyclical applications of force, and which appears to be mediated by complex shape changes in integrin receptors. The findings also shed light on a possible mechanism used by cells to sense extracellular topography and to aggregate information through ‘remembering’ multiple interaction events.” 

The cyclic mechanical reinforcement allows force to prolong the lifetimes of bonds, demonstrating a mechanical regulation of receptor-ligand interactions and identifying a molecular mechanism for strengthening cell adhesion through cyclical forces. “Many cell functions such as differentiation, growth and the expression of particular genes depend on cell interaction with the ligands of the intracellular matrix,” said Cheng Zhu, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the study’s corresponding author.  “The cells respond to their environment, which includes many mechanical aspects. This study has extended our understanding of how connections are made and how mechanical forces regulate interactions.”

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Designer Blood Clots: Artificial Platelets Could Treat Injured Soldiers on the Battlefield
Posted: Wed, February 20, 2013

When it comes to healing the terrible wounds of war, success may hinge on the first blood clot – the one that begins forming on the battlefield right after an injury. Researchers exploring the complex stream of cellular signals produced by the body in response to a traumatic injury believe the initial response – formation of a blood clot – may control subsequent healing. Using that information, they’re developing new biomaterials, including artificial blood platelets laced with regulatory chemicals that could be included in an injector device the size of an iPhone. Soldiers wounded in action could use the device to treat themselves, helping control bleeding, stabilizing the injury and setting the right course for healing. Formation of “designer” blood clots from the artificial platelets would be triggered by the same factor that initiates the body’s natural clotting processes. In animal models, the synthetic platelets reduced clotting time by approximately 30 percent, though the materials have not yet been tested in humans. “The idea is to have on the battlefield technologies that would deliver a biomaterial capable of finding where the bleeding is happening and augmenting the body’s own clotting processes,” said Thomas Barker, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Simultaneously, the material would help instruct the biochemistry and biophysics of the clot structure that would govern subsequent healing.” Barker presented information on the research Friday, Feb. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

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BME NEWS ARCHIVE: 2012 Department of Biomedical Engineering: BME Clear

Steve Potter Featured in GT Alumni Magazine
Posted: Thu, November 15, 2012

In Steve Potter’s office, two motifs quickly emerge: robots and brains. It’s a fitting pairing. Potter is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and the director of the Institute’s Laboratory for NeuroEngineering, and his research focuses on the intersection of neuroscience and engineering. Among his most noteworthy projects is the Hybrot, a culture of rat neurons connected to electrodes that can be stimulated to control a robot. Potter also has been recognized as a leader in education. This year he received the University System of Georgia’s top honor, the Regents’ Award for Excellence in Teaching. Potter gave the Alumni Magazine a tour of his office in the Whitaker Building.

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Blood Testing Predicts Level of Enzymes that Facilitate Disease Progression
Posted: Tue, November 6, 2012

Predicting how atherosclerosis, osteoporosis or cancer will progress or respond to drugs in individual patients is difficult. In a new study, researchers took another step toward that goal by developing a technique able to predict from a blood sample the amount of cathepsins—protein-degrading enzymes known to accelerate these diseases—a specific person would produce. This patient-specific information may be helpful in developing personalized approaches to treat these tissue-destructive diseases. “We measured significant variability in the amount of cathepsins produced by blood samples we collected from healthy individuals, which may indicate that a one-size-fits-all approach of administering cathepsin inhibitors may not be the best strategy for all patients with these conditions,” said Manu Platt, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The study was published online on Oct. 19, 2012 in the journal Integrative Biology.

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Primates’ Brains Make Visual Maps Using Triangular Grids, Study Shows
Posted: Wed, October 31, 2012

Primates’ brains see the world through triangular grids, according to a new study published online October 28 in the journal Nature. Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have identified grid cells, neurons that fire in repeating triangular patterns as the eyes explore visual scenes, in the brains of rhesus monkeys. The finding has implications for understanding how humans form and remember mental maps of the world, as well as how neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s erode those abilities. This is the first time grid cells have been detected directly in primates. Grid cells’ electrical activities were recorded by introducing electrodes into monkeys’ entorhinal cortex, a region of the brain in the medial temporal lobe. “The entorhinal cortex is one of the first brain regions to degenerate in Alzheimer’s disease, so our results may help to explain why disorientation is one of the first behavioral signs of Alzheimer’s,” said senior author Elizabeth Buffalo, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. “We think these neurons help provide a context or structure for visual experiences to be stored in memory.”

“Our discovery of grid cells in primates is a big step toward understanding how our brains form memories of visual information,” said first author Nathan Killian, a graduate student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “This is an exciting way of thinking about memory that may lead to novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.”

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Biomedical Engineers Gather in Atlanta to Share Health Science/Technology Research; Georgia Tech/Emory Collaborations Featured in Conference Highlights
Posted: Tue, October 23, 2012

Nearly 4,000 biomedical engineers, faculty and students from around the world will gather in Atlanta on October 24-27 for the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Conference.  This is the largest BMES meeting to date with a record number of abstracts submitted, 919 oral presentations and 1550 poster presentations representing a broad range of research tracks. More than 200 (122 oral and 85 poster presentations) research presentations at the conference come from the growing partnership between the Emory University School of Medicine and The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Engineering.

Conference Highlights include:

  • Inauguration of the Society’s first female African American President, Gilda Barabino, Professor and Vice Chair for Graduate Studies in the Coulter Department.
  • Presentation of the Pritzker Distinguished Lectureship Award to Ajit Yoganathan, Regent’s Professor and Vice Chair for Research for the Coulter Department.
  • BMES High School Scholars Lunch, where up to 100 high school students will be recognized as the best and brightest of the next generation of biomedical engineers.


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Study Suggests Immune System Can Boost Regeneration of Peripheral Nerves
Posted: Tue, October 2, 2012

Modulating immune response to injury could accelerate the regeneration of severed peripheral nerves, a new study in an animal model has found. By altering activity of the macrophage cells that respond to injuries, researchers dramatically increased the rate at which nerve processes regrew. Influencing the macrophages immediately after injury may affect the whole cascade of biochemical events that occurs after nerve damage, potentially eliminating the need to directly stimulate the growth of axons using nerve growth factors. If the results of this first-ever study can be applied to humans, they could one day lead to a new strategy for treating peripheral nerve injuries that typically result from trauma, surgical resection of tumors or radical prostectomy.

“Both scar formation and healing are the end results of two different cascades of biological processes that result from injuries,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and member of the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine Center at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “In this study, we show that by manipulating the immune system soon after injury, we can bias the system toward healing, and stimulate the natural repair mechanisms of the body.” Beyond nerves, researchers believe their technique could also be applied to help regenerate other tissue – such as bone. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and reported online Sept. 26, 2012, by the journal Biomaterials.

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Joseph Le Doux Invited to Attend NAE Frontiers Symposium
Posted: Tue, October 2, 2012

Joseph Le Doux, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in the Coulter Department, is among 72 faculty members from across the country and three from Georgia Tech selected to attend the National Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) symposium, which will be held October 14–17 in Irvine, California. The Frontiers of Engineering Education (FOEE) Symposium brings together some of the nation’s most engaged and innovative engineering educators in order to recognize, reward, and promote effective, substantive, and inspirational engineering education. It is designed to foster a sustained dialogue within the emerging generation of innovative faculty.

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iPhone Attachment Designed for At-Home Diagnoses of Ear Infections
Posted: Thu, September 20, 2012

Soon, parents may be able to skip the doctor’s visit and receive a diagnosis without leaving home by using Remotoscope, a clip-on attachment and software app that turns an iPhone into an otoscope. Pediatricians currently diagnose ear infections using the standard otoscope to examine the eardrum. With Remotoscope, parents would be able to take a picture or video of their child’s eardrum using the iPhone and send the images digitally to a physician for diagnostic review. Wilbur Lam, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, along with his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, is developing the device, with plans to commercialize it.

“Ultimately we think parents could receive a diagnosis at home and forgo the late-night trips to the emergency room,” said Dr. Lam, who is also a physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory School of Medicine. “It’s known that kids who get ear infections early in life are at risk for recurrent ear infections. It can be a very big deal and really affect their families’ quality of life.” Remotoscope's clip-on attachment uses the iPhone's camera and flash as the light source as well as a custom software app to provide magnification and record data to the phone. The iPhone’s data transmission capabilities seamlessly send images and video to a doctor's inbox or to the patient's electronic medical record.

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Coulter Department, Potter Recognized by Regents
Posted: Thu, September 20, 2012

The Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Steve Potter, associate professor in the Coulter Department, are recipients of the 2013 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Awards. This marks the first time that both awards have gone to the same department. The University System of Georgia (USG) Teaching Excellence Awards recognize both individual faculty and staff, and departments and programs for a strong commitment to teaching and student success.

The Coulter Department was recognized for its design and implementation of a problem-focused curriculum. “Problem-driven learning aims to develop empowered, self-directed inquirers who fearlessly seek and tackle local and global problems,” said Wendy Newstetter, who helped develop the award-winning BME curriculum and is now director of educational research and innovation for the College of Engineering. A team of BME faculty, including Newstetter, BME Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies Joe Le Doux and Director of Learning Sciences Innovation and Research Barbara Fasse, are scheduled to share their curriculum design approach in March 2013 during a workshop for faculty from across the state.

Potter, director of the Laboratory for NeuroEngineering, was recognized for his self-defined “real world” approach to teaching neuroscience courses. For example, students interview experts in the field and use what they learn from experts and readings to create new neuroscience articles for Wikipedia. “Nothing is more rewarding for me than to get an email from one of my former students telling me about where they are now and how much they still appreciate and use what they learned in a class of mine,” Potter said. “To get recognition from the USG for leaving a lasting influence on my students is icing on the cake.”

C. Ross Ethier Joins Coulter Department
Posted: Thu, August 23, 2012

C. Ross Ethier, an internationally recognized leader in the area of biomechanics and mechanobiology recently joined the Coulter Department as the new Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering. He is considered one of the world’s leading researchers in the study of glaucoma, arterial disease and osteoarthritis.

“Ethier’s recruitment adds new dimensions to the Coulter Department’s international reputation in biomedical engineering and biomechanics and we are delighted to welcome him to Atlanta,” said Larry McIntire, Wallace H. Coulter Chair and Professor. Ethier’s research has the potential to create a new paradigm for treating glaucoma, the second most common cause of blindness. His glaucoma research focuses on biomechanics of aqueous humor drainage in the normal and glaucomatous eye, and the mechanical and cellular response of optic nerve tissues to intraocular pressure.  Additionally, Ethier studies the hemodynamic basis of arterial disease and mechanobiology of osteoarthritis.  “Dr. Ethier’s strengths in applying his expertise in biomechanics to the understanding of glaucoma, arterial disease and osteoarthritis are world-class,” said C. Michael Cassidy, President and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance. “We anticipate that his work will lead to new treatments for these conditions that affect so many worldwide.” Ethier comes to Georgia from Imperial College London, where he was Professor and Head of the Department of Bioengineering.  He also directed the $17 million Medical Engineering Solutions in Osteoarthritis Center of Excellence, one of four Wellcome Trust/Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Centers in the UK.

Cathepsin Cannibalism: Enzymes Implicated in Disease Processes Attack One Another Instead of Harming Body Proteins
Posted: Mon, August 20, 2012

Researchers for the first time have shown that members of a family of enzymes known as cathepsins – which are implicated in many disease processes – may attack one another instead of the bodily proteins they normally degrade. Dubbed “cathepsin cannibalism,” the phenomenon may help explain problems with drugs that have been developed to inhibit the effects of these powerful proteases. Cathepsins are involved in disease processes as varied as cancer metastasis, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and arthritis. Because cathepsins have harmful effects on critical proteins such as collagen and elastin, pharmaceutical companies have been developing drugs to inhibit activity of the enzymes, but so far these compounds have had too many side effects to be useful and have failed clinical trials.

Using a combination of modeling and experiments, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have shown that one type of cathepsin preferentially attacks another, reducing the enzyme’s degradation of collagen. The work could affect not only the development of drugs to inhibit cathepsin activity, but could also lead to a better understanding of how the enzymes work together. “These findings provide a new way of thinking about how these proteases are working with and against each other to remodel tissue – or fight against each other,” said Manu Platt, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

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LINCR Initiates Neuro-Collaborations on Campus
Posted: Tue, August 7, 2012

Learning by Innovative Neuro Collaborations in Research (LINCR) is a new undergraduate research fellowship program created to unite disparate neuro-groups on campus. This first-of-its-kind program is sponsored bya $40,000 GTFire Grant, the fund for inspiring innovation in research and education at Georgia Tech. In the LINCR program brochure over 60 neuro-related groups on campus were identified by the Neuroscience Club (GTNeuro) to help students find faculty with shared interests. “I have been at Georgia Tech in the Laboratory for Neuroengineering for 10 years” says Dr. Steve Potter, the Director of the Laboratory for Neuroengineering “and I am sad to say that I don’t know half of these other neuro-faculty. This GT-FIRE proposal is a first step in trying to unify all of Tech’s Neuro-groups, which could certainly transform this campus into one sought after and recognized world-wide for its unique technology-driven approach to Neuroscience and Neuroengineering.” LINCR is entirely organized and run by students.

This year, three fellows and six laboratories are collaborating. Connor Crowley, a rising 3rd year biochemistry major who is working with Michelle LaPlaca, Ph.D. (BME) and Facundo Fernandez, Ph.D. (Chemistry and Biochemistry), is investigating the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Candace Law, a rising 3rd year BME major, has connected the labs of Steve Potter, Ph.D. (BME) and Christine Payne, Ph.D. (Chemistry and Biochemistry) on a project that looks into the use of nanoparticles for drug delivery to brain. Christopher Pace, a rising 3rd year electrical engineering major, is working between Maysam Ghovanloo, Ph.D, (ECE) and Garrett Stanley, Ph.D (BME), using electrical brain stimulation to gain a better understanding of brain function and the utility of electrical stimulators in the brain. In conclusion to this summer’s program, GTNeuro will host the LINCR Closing Symposium on August 10.

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BME Interdisciplinary Teams Win Two of Three Petit Collaborative Seed Grants
Posted: Tue, July 24, 2012

The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (Petit Institute) awarded $50,000 to three interdisciplinary teams under its Petit Bioengineering and Bioscience Collaborative Seed Grant program, which was created to support early-stage innovative biotechnology research. Proposals were submitted by teams comprised of two Petit Institute faculty with appointments in different academic colleges. One team, Wilbur Lam, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Andrew Lyon, PhD, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, proposed a project which aims to reduce hemorrhage in trauma-related injuries by developing a new targeted drug-delivery system that uses the patient's own platelets as “nanomachines” to trigger controlled release of drugs and induce clotting at sites of active bleeding. In addition, Lena Ting, PhD, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Randy Trumbower, PT, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy at Emory and the School of Applied Physiology at Georgia Tech, will explore a non-invasive approach to improving motor recovery after incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) using a novel breathing intervention.

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BME Student Receives American Society of Hematology Award
Posted: Thu, July 19, 2012

Robert Mannino, an undergraduate biomedical engineering student at Georgia Institute of Technology, has been selected for the American Society of Hematology’s 2012 Trainee Research Award, which is designed to expose trainees to both hematology and research early in their careers and to inspire them to pursue research in hematology as part of their future training. This year, 44 trainees will receive $4,000 each to conduct research on blood and blood-related diseases as part of this program. For Mannino, this is an area where he has a direct interest. "Mannino knows more about blood transfusions than most people. Diagnosed with thalassemia when he was just six months old, he’s spent much of his life in clinics, hooked up to transfusion machines for treatment of the disorder – at least once every three weeks for six hours at a time," Mannino stated in an interview with the Cooley's Anemia Foundation. One of the people he most wants to help is his 15-year-old brother, Kevin, who also has thalassemia.

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New technique to improve blood flow in children born with one functional ventricle shows promise in pilot study
Posted: Tue, July 3, 2012

Two in every thousand babies born in the United States start life with just one functional ventricle, or pumping chamber, instead of the normal two. These babies typically undergo a series of two or three open-heart surgeries, culminating in a “total cavopulmonary connection” (TCPC), which is known as the Fontan procedure. During this process, surgeons redirect the circulation to allow oxygen-poor blood to flow from the body directly to the lungs passively, without the benefit of a pumping chamber. A team of surgeons and university researchers recently reported promising results from a novel surgical connection intended to streamline blood flow between the heart and lungs of such infants. The research team included: Kirk Kanter, MD, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine; Ajit Yoganathan, PhD, Regents’ professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University; James Parks, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and radiology at Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston; Mark Fogel, MD, director of cardiac magnetic resonance at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Georgia Tech School of Interactive Computing Professor Jarek Rossignac, PhD, and Coulter Department graduate student Christopher Haggerty.

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Georgia Tech Offers Master’s Degree in Biomedical Innovation and Development
Posted: Tue, June 26, 2012

The Georgia Institute of Technology announces a unique Master of Biomedical Innovation and Development (BioID) Degree. This new program, offered by the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, focuses education and clinical experience to transform unmet biomedical and clinical needs into practical, usable technologies and products for improving patient care. The application process for admissions will open Sept. 1, 2012, for the first class to matriculate in August 2013.  Ideal candidates for the BioID master’s program include early-career professionals in medical device or biomedicine-related industries; engineers seeking medical device specialization; and high-performing graduates from engineering disciplines. Graduates of this intensive 12-month master’s program will be exceptionally well prepared to pursue and advance their careers in the dynamic field of biomedical device engineering, technology development and commercialization.

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BME Grad Student Named IEEE-USA Engineering Mass Media Fellow
Posted: Tue, June 26, 2012

A 2012 Ph.D. student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Ian Campbell, is IEEE-USA's 2012 Engineering Mass Media Fellow. Campbell is reporting this summer on science and technology at The Oregonian newspaper in Portland, Ore.  In his application for the program, Campbell stated: "As a biomedical engineer, I feel it is my duty not only to conduct high-quality research, but also to act as an ambassador of sci-tech to the general public. I hope to improve the general impression of science and engineering by making the disciplines more relatable to the average person. I want to do more than just conduct elegant research in my specialty; I want to help the public understand my field and how it affects the public."  Campbell is co-advised by Coulter Department Professor Bob Taylor and Associate Professor John Oshinski.

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Biomedical engineer’s work on platelets wins NSF CAREER Award
Posted: Tue, June 19, 2012

Coulter Department Assistant Professor and pediatric hematologist/oncologist Wilbur Lam has earned a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation. The four-year, $450,000 award will support Lam’s research on the biomechanical properties of platelets, the cells responsible for blood clot formation. Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, are prescribed to millions to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Lam’s research focuses on platelet biophysics and how platelets contract at the single cell level. This could lead to new categories of platelet diagnostics and help scientists identify new types of blood thinning drugs, which would modify how stiff platelets are or how they contract. A better understanding of platelets’ properties could also inform treatment of other diseases such as inflammatory disorders, sickle cell anemia, and infections. As part of his project and as a pediatrician who cares for children with cancer and chronic blood diseases, Lam plans to develop a K-12 science outreach program for hospitalized children, in which the children’s own diseases are used as springboards for learning about science. The program will enable undergraduate, graduate and medical students to develop age-appropriate biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics modules centered around chronic diseases for which children at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are hospitalized.

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Georgia Tech Student Project MAID Awarded in National Competition
Posted: Mon, June 18, 2012

The Biomedical Engineering undergraduate student design project MAID has received numerous accolades in both national and local competitions. MAID, or Magnetically Assisted Intubation Device, is a simplified approach to intubation that utilizes magnets to guide the endotracheal tube into the airway of a patient easily and quickly, with less risk and without the need for visualization. This May, the MAID team was awarded third place in the National College Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) BMEidea competition where they won $1,000 and an expenses-paid position at the BME VentureLab at University of Southern California. VentureLab is a five-day intensive bootcamp designed to help early startups accelerate their ventures. The workshop will help the team evolve the MAID business strategy, sales channels, and marketing and give them a better understanding of the financial mechanics of their venture. The team responsible for designing MAID is composed of biomedical engineering seniors Alex Cooper, Elizabeth Flanagan, Shawna Hagen and Jacob Thompson.

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SpherIngenics: Georgia Tech Startup Secures Department of Defense Funding for Development of Cell Delivery Technology
Posted: Wed, June 13, 2012

Cell-based therapies have yet to reach their full potential in repairing damaged tissue because of the hostile environment the cells face once injected into the body. A patient’s inflammatory response normally causes the majority of these therapeutic cells to die or migrate away from the area in need of repair. To address this problem, a startup company based on technology developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology is creating an efficient, safe and repeatable delivery method that protects cells from death and migration from the treatment site. Using microbead technology developed in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, SpherIngenics is producing protective capsules for the delivery of cell-based therapies. Supported by a broad range of Georgia Tech initiatives, the company recently received a two-year $730,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to continue development of the technology.

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Two Georgia Tech Leaders Inducted as Fellows of Biomaterials Science and Engineering
Posted: Wed, June 6, 2012

Barbara Boyan, PhD, Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Tissue Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Engineering and Andrés García, PhD, Woodruff Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, were inducted as Fellows of Biomaterials Science and Engineering at the World Biomaterials Congress this week in Chengdu China. Fellows are appointed based on significant contributions to the biomaterials field as well as national and international recognition of accomplishments documented by a continuous productivity in biomaterials research and are considered role models in the biomaterials science and engineering field.

Boyan and García have had significant accomplishments throughout their careers which include receiving awards from the Society for Biomaterials, authoring papers in leading biomaterials journals and they both have several biomaterials-related patents and invention disclosures. Boyan’s research laboratory focuses on bone and cartilage cell biology and tissue engineering of musculoskeletal tissues. Researchers are investigating signaling pathways involved in implant osseointegration, or the connection between the bone and a material. Boyan was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering, received the Orthopaedic Research Society Women's Leadership Forum Award and was named a fellow of the International Team for Implantology.  García’s research activities center on analyses of cell adhesive forces and mechanotransduction, cell-biomaterial interactions and the engineering of biomaterials to control cell delivery and engraftment and tissue repair, including bone repair, therapeutic vascularization, pancreatic islet delivery for the treatment of diabetes, and inflammation and infection. García was awarded the Clemson Award for Basic Research from the Society of Biomaterials and will be presented with that award in New Orleans in October 2012. García is a member of the Coulter Department’s program faculty.

Successful Stem Cell Differentiation Requires DNA Compaction, Study Finds
Posted: Tue, May 15, 2012

New research findings show that embryonic stem cells unable to fully compact the DNA inside them cannot complete their primary task: differentiation into specific cell types that give rise to the various types of tissues and structures in the body. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University found that chromatin compaction is required for proper embryonic stem cell differentiation to occur. Chromatin, which is composed of histone proteins and DNA, packages DNA into a smaller volume so that it fits inside a cell. A study published on May 10, 2012 in the journal PLoS Genetics found that embryonic stem cells lacking several histone H1 subtypes and exhibiting reduced chromatin compaction suffered from impaired differentiation under multiple scenarios and demonstrated inefficiency in silencing genes that must be suppressed to induce differentiation.

“While researchers have observed that embryonic stem cells exhibit a relaxed, open chromatin structure and differentiated cells exhibit a compact chromatin structure, our study is the first to show that this compaction is not a mere consequence of the differentiation process but is instead a necessity for differentiation to proceed normally,” said Yuhong Fan, an assistant professor in the Georgia Tech School of Biology. Fan and Todd McDevitt, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, led the study with assistance from Georgia Tech graduate students Yunzhe Zhang and Kaixiang Cao, research technician Marissa Cooke, and postdoctoral fellow Shiraj Panjwani.

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New Molecular Probes Can Identify Strain-induced Changes in Fibronectin Protein That May Lead to Disease
Posted: Tue, April 24, 2012

Fibronectin plays a major role in wound healing and embryonic development. The protein, which is located in the extracellular matrix of cells, has also been linked to pathological conditions including cancer and fibrosis. During physiological processes, fibronectin fibers are believed to experience mechanical forces that strain the fibers and cause dramatic structural modifications that change their biological activity. While understanding the role of fibronectin strain events in development and disease progression is becoming increasingly important, detecting and interrogating these events is difficult.

In a new study, researchers identified molecular probes capable of selectively attaching to fibronectin fibers under different strain states, enabling the detection and examination of fibronectin strain events in both culture and living tissues. “The mechano-sensitive molecular probes we identified allow us to dynamically examine the relevance of mechanical strain events within the natural cellular microenvironment and correlate these events with specific alterations in fibronectin associated with the progression of disease,” said Thomas Barker, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The study was published on April 23, 2012 in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Barker worked on the study with Georgia Tech graduate student Lizhi Cao and Harry Bermudez, an assistant professor in the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Polymer Science and Engineering. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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BME Ph.D. Student Kayaking Toward the Olympics
Posted: Wed, April 18, 2012

Congratulations to BME doctoral candidate and ISYE alumnus, James Wade, who recently finished second in the U.S. National trials for whitewater kayaking. James is now off to Cardiff, Wales to train for the final selection race for the Olympics which will be the World Cup #1. In order to qualify for the Olympics, James will need to be the first American and in the top 20 finishers. The World Cup will be held June 8-10.  In February, the Oceania Championships, an international race with a full field of athletes, including all the top in the world, was held and James finished 8th at that race, the best American. James was also recently awarded a 2012 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) Fellowship which is based on outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well as potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the US science and engineering enterprise.

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Prestigious Goldwater Award Goes to BME Undergraduate
Posted: Thu, April 12, 2012

Binbin Chen, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, is a recipient of the prestigious Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the premier academic award given to mathematics, science and engineering undergraduates. Chen’s studies focus on cancer research. As a freshman, he joined the Platt Lab in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, where he worked “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Assistant Professor Manu Platt on a cancer project. “Both of my grandfathers died of cancer, so I always hoped to contribute to the battlefield of cancer research,” he said. “The Goldwater Scholarship is not only a recognition for me but also for my supportive parents, mentors and friends.” The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,123 mathematics, science and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Awarded to 282 sophomores and juniors for the 2012–2013 academic year, the one- and two-year scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

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Shean Phelps Named Medical Director, Translational Research Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Science (TRIBES)
Posted: Tue, April 10, 2012

Shean Phelps, MD, MPH, FAAFP, has been named Medical Director for the Translational Research Institute for Biomedical Engineering and Science (TRIBES). In this role, he is responsible for providing key subject matter expertise to the development, execution and communication of TRIBES’ scientific/medical evidence plan. In addition, Dr. Phelps assists with the development of global collaborations that integrate broad medical, scientific, and commercial concepts into the program. These efforts are designed to shepherd the transition of viable ideas into useable products across and between the fields of medicine, technology and science. “We are excited to have someone of Dr. Phelps’ broad clinical expertise as part of our leadership team” said Barbara Boyan, Executive Director of TRIBES and the Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Tissue Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and Associate Dean for Research and Innovation for Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering.

In addition to his role as TRIBES Medical Director, Dr. Phelps serves as the Director of Health Systems Technology Research and Development at the Georgia Tech Research Institute where he manages and facilitates health-related technological synergies internally and externally. Dr. Phelps retired in March 2011 from the U. S. Army with over 30 years of total active federal service. Widely regarded as an expert on a variety of special operations/operational medicine, injury biomechanics and wilderness medicine topics, he currently focuses on research into the cause, prevention, and development of applied solutions to human injury. He is certified as both a Senior U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Flight Surgeon/Aerospace Medicine physician, and is a distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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Boyan Pushes for Reauthorization of Pediatric Medical Device Legislation
Posted: Tue, April 10, 2012

Barbara Boyan, the Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Tissue Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and director of the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium, traveled to Washington D.C. recently to support legislation that encourages the development of pediatric medical devices. During her visit in February, Boyan met with several congressmen, urging them to reauthorize “The Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act." The law provides grants to fund non-profit pediatric device consortia, such as the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium. The grants connect scientists and innovators with device manufacturers, providing them financial resources and regulatory guidance needed to advance the development of devices for children. “The funding from the FDA has opened many doors and some of our small companies have been able to secure venture capital funding to pursue these devices,” Boyan said. One of three FDA-sponsored consortia awarded last year, the Atlanta Pediatric Device Consortium is a partnership between Georgia Tech, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University.

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Novel Compound Halts Tumor Spread, Improves Brain Cancer Treatment in Animal Studies
Posted: Thu, March 29, 2012

Treating invasive brain tumors with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation has improved clinical outcomes, but few patients survive longer than two years after diagnosis. The effectiveness of the treatment is limited by the tumor’s aggressive invasion of healthy brain tissue, which restricts chemotherapy access to the cancer cells and complicates surgical removal of the tumor. To address this challenge, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University have designed a new treatment approach that appears to halt the spread of cancer cells into normal brain tissue in animal models. The researchers treated animals possessing an invasive tumor with a vesicle carrying a molecule called imipramine blue, followed by conventional doxorubicin chemotherapy. The tumors ceased their invasion of healthy tissue and the animals survived longer than animals treated with chemotherapy alone. “Our results show that imipramine blue stops tumor invasion into healthy tissue and enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy, which suggests that chemotherapy may be more effective when the target is stationary,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “These results reveal a new strategy for treating brain cancer that could improve clinical outcomes.”

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BME Teams Sweep Business Plan Competition
Posted: Thu, March 15, 2012

The “MAID” Team (Magnetically Assisted Intubation Device) of biomedical engineering undergraduates swept the GT Business Plan Competition (BPC) finals last Friday. Team MAID is composed of seniors Alex Cooper, Elizabeth Flanagan, Shawna Hagen and Jacob Thompson. Their plan and presentation won 1st Place in the Undergraduate Competition, 1st Place in the Overall Competition, Most Commercializable Plan, and the Alumni Award in the poster session for total winnings of $42,500. Their win represents the first time a team of undergraduates has won the Overall Competition, which draws undergraduate, graduate students from across Georgia Tech. The Business Plan Competition is organized annually by Georgia Tech’s College of Management.

MAID is a simplified approach to intubation that utilizes magnets to guide the endotracheal tube into the airway of a patient easily and quickly, with less risk and without the need for visualization. Last year team MAID also won second place in the GT InVenture Competition, winning $10,000 cash and a patent application by the Office of Technology Licensing (OTL). In summer 2011, the Translational Research Institute for Biomedical Engineering & Science (TRIBES) awarded the team a TRIBES-GTRI seed grant of $25,000 to for further prototype development of the device. The Saint Joseph Translation Research Institute has tested their functioning prototype on multiple human cadavers with considerable success. A full non-provisional patent was filed by OTL in March 2012. Currently, additional design work is being conducted to improve manufacturability and reliability. The MAID design concept to improve the safety and effectiveness of the intubation procedure began as a team design project in BMED 2300, Projects in Biomedical Engineering. Franklin Bost, Professor of the Practice in BME and Leanne West, PhD, at GTRI continue to advise the MAID team.

Kevin Lewis, another BME student, whose plan for “Cold Crate” came in third in the Undergraduate Track of the Business Plan competition. Graduate student Melissa Li was a finalist for her team’s CARDIAM device and the winner of a $10,000 services package for Most Innovative Technology. The CARDIAM Team was also a co-winner in the Elevator Pitch Competition.

Leading Minority Engineering Researchers Convene at Georgia Tech for National Workshop to Promote Innovation
Posted: Thu, March 15, 2012

In response to both a critical need for technological innovation and for ways to address the disturbing shortage of minority engineering faculty across the country, the National Science Foundation has funded Biomedical Engineering Professor and Associate Chair of Graduate Studies Gilda Barabino in the creation of a workshop to encourage some of America’s leading engineering faculty members in the area of research innovation. The Minority Faculty Development Workshop (MFDW): Engineering Enterprise and Innovation will be held at Georgia Tech March 15 – 18, 2012 and has attracted engineering faculty and innovators from Harvard, Stanford, North Carolina A+T and over 40 other outstanding institutions. After a rigorous selection process, more than 70 engineering researchers will attend and gain essential insight, resources and knowledge toward activities that support innovation, entrepreneurial endeavors and ultimately, the economic status of our nation.

As an internationally recognized researcher and educator, and the newly elected president of the Biomedical Engineering Society, Dr. Gilda Barabino has committed herself to her technical career and to impacting the future by developing opportunities for innovation and career success among minority faculty. Dr. Barabino summarizes the impact of her vision for this event by saying: “By providing opportunities for professional development linked to a better understanding of research innovation and translation, the MFDW contributes to the development and retention of a well equipped faculty cadre and broadens the talent pool for translational research that drives company formation, job creation, a healthy economy, and global competitiveness.”

The criticality of her vision is of national importance, as demonstrated by national support for the MFDW meeting. The Dean of Engineering at Georgia Tech, Dr. Gary May, is one conference sponsor who recognizes the significance of this event. Dean May stated: “Faculty are the intellectual life blood of universities, so faculty development is a critical issue. This is particularly true for underrepresented faculty in STEM fields, as there are too few of us to allow any to be unsuccessful. I applaud the Minority Faculty Development Workshop for seeking solutions which will contribute to successful, enriched, and fulfilling careers for its participants.”

BME Students Win 2012 InVenture Prize With Re-Hand
Posted: Wed, March 14, 2012

Re-Hand, a software-assisted home-use hand assessment and rehabilitation device, won the 2012 InVenture Prize in front of a live television audience at the Ferst Center for the Arts last night.

“It was amazing,” said Re-Hand team member Daphne Vincent, who graduated in December of 2011 with a degree in biomedical engineering. “We are so excited. We now have our first investment and we will be able to get our invention into the hands of the people that really need it.” As the winner, Re-Hand received a cash prize of $15,000, a free U.S. patent filing by Georgia Tech’s Office of Technology Licensing (valued at approximately $20,000) and automatic acceptance to the 2012 class of Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech startup accelerator program. Vincent’s team included three other biomedical engineering majors: Alkindi Kibria, Elizabeth LeMar and Kunal Dean MacDonald.

CardiacTech, a chest retractor for bypass surgery, won the People’s Choice award, which comes with a $5,000 cash prize. Mechanical engineering students Benji Hoover and Josh DeVane and biomedical engineering students Kevin Parsons, Matthew Lee and Priya Patil made up the CardiacTech team.

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BME Maintains High Ranking by U.S. News & World Report
Posted: Tue, March 13, 2012

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University has maintained its high rank of second for the sixth consecutive year, according the latest rankings of biomedical engineering graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report. All of Georgia Tech’s graduate engineering programs are ranked in the top ten in the nation.

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Nanotechnology Expert Younan Xia Joins Georgia Tech
Posted: Thu, February 23, 2012

Younan Xia, an internationally recognized leader in the field of nanotechnology, recently joined the Georgia Institute of Technology as the first Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Eminent Scholar in Nanomedicine.
Dr. Xia is the Brock Family Chair and GRA Eminent Scholar in Nanomedicine in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, with a joint appointment in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. His research focuses on nanocrystals--a novel class of materials with features smaller than 100 nm -- as well as the development of innovative technologies enabled by nanocrystals. These technologies span the fields of molecular imaging, early cancer diagnosis, targeted drug delivery, biomaterials, regenerative medicine, and catalysis.

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Barbara Boyan Elected to the National Academy of Engineering
Posted: Tue, February 14, 2012

Barbara Boyan, the Price Gilbert, Jr. Chair in Tissue Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. She is one of 66 new members and ten foreign associates elected. Boyan is known widely for her work in bone and cartilage biology in the fields of orthopaedics, plastic and reconstructive surgery and oral health, with specific emphasis on the role of sex in determining how cells respond to steroid hormones and to biomaterials used in medical devices. She is also an entrepreneur and has seen her inventions move from the design stage to use in patients with musculoskeletal pathologies. In addition to her role in the Coulter Department, Boyan also serves as associate dean for research and innovation in the Georgia Tech College of Engineering and is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

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Searching for Solutions to HIV in South Africa
Posted: Wed, February 1, 2012

It’s not easy battling HIV on two fronts, let alone on two continents, but with the help of his colleagues in Atlanta and in South Africa that’s exactly what Dr. Manu Platt is doing. If all goes according to plan, Platt’s research will give doctors the ability to predict, treat, and prevent the occurrence of cardiovascular disease in HIV patients while he also develops a low-cost diagnostic tool that could help stem the spread of HIV in Africa.

Not much is known about the connection between HIV and cardiovascular disease; although it is clear that HIV patients are at much higher risk of suffering cardiovascular events than the general population. The risk is even higher for children born with HIV, something that is far too common in countries like South Africa where 10-15% of the population is HIV positive. Dr. Platt, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Dept. of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, began his foray into HIV research as a first-year professor in 2009 when he answered a call for new researchers that was jointly sponsored by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the International AIDS Society (IAS).

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Non-Invasive Measurements of Tricuspid Valve Anatomy Can Predict Severity of Valve Leakage
Posted: Wed, January 18, 2012

An estimated 1.6 million Americans suffer moderate to severe leakage through their tricuspid valves. If left untreated, severe leakage can affect an individual’s quality of life and can even lead to death. A new study finds that the anatomy of the heart’s tricuspid valve can be used to predict the severity of leakage in the valve, which is a condition called tricuspid regurgitation. The study found that pulmonary arterial pressure, the size of the valve opening and papillary muscle position measurements could be used to predict the severity of an individual’s tricuspid regurgitation. “By being able to identify and measure an individual’s particular tricuspid valve anatomical features that we have shown are correlated with increased leakage, clinicians should be able to better target their repair efforts and create more durable repairs,” said Ajit Yoganathan, Regents’ professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The study was published in the January issue of the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging.

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