ATP moves to Auraria Campus

This week, Assistive Technology Partners is moving onto the Auraria Campus from their 18th Ave. location. The new space includes about 2500 sq feet of office space in the Administration Building and almost 3000 sq ft in the 5th Street Hub.  The new space will serve as a bioengineering presence on the Auraria Campus; host the Assistive Technology clinic; and provide research and engineering space for ATP students and our grants.

The Colorado Construction Industry, which has supported the ATP program for over a decade, funded close to $250,000 in Hub renovations and then came together across the industry to donate more than $100,000 in in-kind services and materials. They’ve also funded an endowed professorship and have also started an endowment to support the overall program within bioengineering and are starting a scholarship fund for students this year.  To date, they’ve raised almost $2 million.

The program would like to thank Dean Marc Ingber and Bioengineering Chair Robin Shandas for their support in this transition.

Henao named Mountain Plains Consortium 2015 Student of the Year

2015_HenaoAlejandro Henao, PhD student in civil engineering, was named the 2015 Student of the Year by the Mountain Plains Consortium (MPC) and is featured in the MPC 2015 Annual Report.

Henao is president of the Institute of Transportation Engineers CU Denver Student Chapter and student leader of the active communities/transportation research group. He has published several papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented his work at numerous national conferences.

Read the entire MPC story.

Congratulations, Alejandro.

Gibson and CU Researchers win National Science Foundation grant to study brain

CU Anschutz and CU Boulder scientists to use unique microscope for high risk brain research

AURORA, Colo. (August 18, 2016) – Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Boulder have won a $800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to try and reconnect neural communication between parts of the brain where it has been severed.

If successful, this could have major implications for those suffering brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological problems.

The team of neuroscientists and engineers will use a special lightweight microscope, which they designed, to peer into and control the living brain of a mouse as they try to reconnect parts of the brain that no longer communicate with each other.

The miniature microscope, using a unique electrowetting lens, is mounted on the head of a mouse and with its high-powered, fiber-optic light can actually view and control neural activity as it happens.

“Adaptive optical devices that are included in a miniature microscope are a game changer,” said grant co-investigators Juliet Gopinath, assistant professor in electrical, computer and energy engineering and Victor Bright, professor of mechanical engineering, both at CU Boulder. “They enable truly miniature 3D imaging devices without mechanically moving parts.”

According to Gopinath and Bright, the electrowetting lens is compact, low power and has good optical quality making it ideal for this kind of research. The liquid lens can change shape when voltage is applied.

The team will use an optic fiber to disrupt the signals between the olfactory bulb of a mouse, which receives information on odors, and the olfactory cortex, the part of the brain that allows it to smell. In essence, they will shut down its ability to smell and then try to restore it by activating the olfactory cortex using the miniature microscope.

The mouse will be awake and behaving normally throughout this while the team views and controls what is happening in the brain with the electrowetting fiber-coupled microscope. They can stimulate the animal’s brain activity using powerful laser light that flows through the microscope’s fiber-optic bundle.

“One major problem with the brain is that with certain diseases or injuries, one part of the brain stops talking to another,” said co-investigator Diego Restrepo, professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Center for NeuroScience at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “If someone has a stroke they may no longer be able to speak.”

Once connections between brain areas are lost, it is difficult to get them communicating again.

Restrepo said if researchers are successful reestablishing brain connections in a mouse, they may be able do the same in humans with brain injury or disease.

“For example, if there is loss of connection between the retina that detects the image in the eyes and the visual cortex, in the back of the brain the patient has a problem detecting images that in the worst case leads to blindness,” Restrepo said. “That loss of connection between the retina and visual cortex can be due to neural problems such as stroke, neuro-immune disease or traumatic brain injury.”

If this experiment is successful, he said, this microscope could eventually be modified to activate neurons in the visual cortex based on the visual input. In other words, creating a bridge between two parts of the brain where communication has stopped.

“This is an interdisciplinary grant which combines bioengineering with neurological applications,” said Emily Gibson, assistant professor of bioengineering at CU Anschutz. “The idea is to use this device which can image individual neurons and stimulate those individual neurons in that 3D volume.”

She also noted that two of the principal investigators on the grant are women, a rarity in the field of engineering.

“This particular grant is for high risk, high payoff approaches,” she said. “And this is a very high risk project. We are pushing the technology farther and seeing if we can use these optical tools to ultimately make an impact on humans.”

The grant is funded under a program from the National Science Foundation known as the “Integrative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems (NSF-NCS).”

It is one element of NSF’s broader effort directed at Understanding the Brain, (http://www.nsf.gov/brain/) a multi-year activity that includes NSF’s participation in the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

The team also won a second NSF grant of $200,000 to be used in the dissemination and commercialization of its microscope.

See the corresponding story in The Denver Post.

Mays recognized as Outstanding ASCE Faculty Advisor

David-Mays- (10-2014)-webDavid Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, has been recognized as the outstanding Faculty Advisor for a Student Chapter in Region 7 of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Region 7 comprises the states of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri. Mays won this recognition after being nominated by several CU Denver students following the success of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Student Meeting which was co-hosted with Metropolitan State University of Denver in March-April 2016, and will accept his award at the September 2016 monthly meeting of the Colorado Section ASCE.

Congratulations!

Westacott receives Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Predoctoral Fellowship (Parent F31)

Matthew Westacott, a PhD student in bioengineering mentored by Richard Benninger has been awarded a F31 pre-doctoral fellowship by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Matthews project titled “Examination of Functional Subpopulations in the Islet of Langerhans Using Optogenetics” will use light-activated ion channels to precisely control and understand the spatiotemporal regulation of electrical activity within the islets of Langerhans. Matthew will specifically study how subpopulations of β-cells exert disproportionate control over the system electrical dynamics and insulin release, and how this  control is disrupted under diabetic conditions.

 

Year-End Celebration recap

On May 13, more than 250 faculty, students, staff, alumni and guests attended the fifth annual College of Engineering and Applied Science Year-End Celebration. Guests enjoyed a catered BBQ lunch, photobooth, badminton, and an awards ceremony.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the 2017 event, scheduled for May 12, 2017.

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Erickson awarded CCTSI pre-doctoral fellowship for translational research on treatment for growth plate injuries

Chris Erickson, a second year bioengineering PhD student, was awarded the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) TL-1 Pre-doctoral Fellowship for his proposed thesis work on treating growth plate injuries. The growth plate is a cartilaginous region found at the ends of long bones in children, and is responsible for bone elongation. Injury to the growth plate from trauma or disease in the young child can result in bone growth abnormalities. Unfortunately, there is no clinical treatment that can fully correct these injuries, which may result in skeletal deformities that persist throughout life. However, tissue engineering offers a promising alternative treatment by using stem cells, biologics, and biomimetic materials to regenerate the injured growth plate. Chris will be investigating a tissue engineering approach to treating growth plate injuries under the mentorship of Dr. Karin Payne, a basic scientist in orthopedic regenerative medicine, and Dr. Nancy Hadley-Miller, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. Support by this scientist-physician team and the CCTSI will help advance the translation of basic science discoveries into clinical treatments.

Elson awarded CCTSI TL1 Fellowship for her proposed research into an optogenetic neural interface for users of prosthetic limbs

laura elsonBioengineering PhD student Laura Elson was awarded the CCTSI TL1 Fellowship for the 2016-2017 academic year for her proposed research into an optogenetic neural interface for users of prosthetic limbs. This design uses optical proteins to connect the mechanical limb with the peripheral nervous system that can provide both sensory feedback and motor output to the user. Currently, in vitro tests are being conducted, and ultimately in vivo tests will be performed in rodents. Through this fellowship she will also be afforded the opportunity to gain clinical experience in two settings: the Assistive Technology Partners Clinic headed by Dr. Cathy Bodine, and the Amputee Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, headed by Dr. Travis Heare.