Maria Bortot, a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering and Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the American Heart Association (AHA) predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Jorge DiPaola. Non-surgical bleeding (NSB) is a major complication among patients with aortic stenosis and end-stage heart failure supported by ventricular assist devices or blood pumps such as extracorporeal mechanical oxygenators. Although the mechanism for NSB amongst these patients is not clearly understood, it has been associated with acquired von Willebrand syndrome, a disorder characterized by loss of high molecular weight multimers of von Willebrand factor (VWF). It has been proposed, but not yet demonstrated, that the high shear stress associated with VADs and AS can cause VWF elongation, facilitating excessive cleavage by its main protease, ADAMTS-13. Maria’s project is focused on assessing the effects of fluid dynamics on VWF conformation, cleavage as well as platelet activation and receptor shedding. Maria obtained her BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia. Then she was awarded a scholarship by the Argentinean National Atomic Energy Commission in Argentina were she completed her Masters in Materials Engineering at Instituto Balserio, Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. She was then awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the University of Colorado, AMC to first complete a the Masters program in Bioengineering before joining the DiPaola Laboratory to pursue her PhD.
Baris Ozbay, PhD, was selected as the 2018 winner of the Dean’s Outstanding Dissertation Award, which honors a doctoral student who demonstrates an outstanding commitment to academic excellence. His award will be listed in the 2018 commencement program and featured on a plaque in the Graduate School.
Mallory Lennon, a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey Jacot, Associate Professor of bioengineering. Mallory’s project seeks to understand structural heart development in children born with only one ventricle in the heart, a birth defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which occurs in about 1,800 births per year in the United States,has a survival rate of only 27% in the first year, and requires several surgeries over many years. Mallory will collect cells from amniotic fluid at the birth of infants with HLHS, make those cells into heart muscle in the laboratory using a recently published technique from the Jacot lab, and measure specific responses to the mechanical forces encountered during development. She expects that this understanding can be matched to genetic signaling and increase the prediction and diagnosis of HLHS as well as suggest future treatments. Mallory obtained her BS in Biomedical Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has previously been a recipient of the American Heart Association summer fellowship, and the TL1 (T32) Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the Colorado Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
To see the full Childrens Hospital Colorado story, please follow the URL: https://www.childrenscolorado.org/pediatric-innovation/research/fetal-care-research/neural-tube-defect-repair-research/
Pulmonary Hypertension is a progressive disease that ultimately leads to right heart failure. This K25 award looks at the mechanical and biochemical interaction between the right and left heart, during the progression of this cardio-pulmonary disease. Both sides of the heart are both moving “pumps” that are physically connected to one another. The study utilizes magnetic resonance imaging, computational modeling, and gene expression analysis of animal tissue to establish two key concepts: (1) declining right heart function during pulmonary hypertension can be improved by targeting the left heart; and (2) the left heart can be targeted through genes that control the contraction speed of the left heart muscle. If this approach proves to be successful, it could lead to novel therapies for treating right heart failure in children with pulmonary hypertension.
Kailey Beck, Matt Kiselevach, Vinh Pham and Mackenzie Wilderman traveled with Senior Design Instructor Casey Howard to Coulter College in Atlanta, Georgia at the beginning of August. Coulter College is a workshop (a crash-course of sorts) focused on teaching students how to develop commercially viable device solutions to unmet needs. This year students prepared a summer homework assignment and all the students were excited to work together in a team to represent CU Denver. When the workshop started however, everyone learned that teams would be scrambled and each Coulter College team would be made up of students from 4 different institutions from around the country and that each team would be advised by a faculty member from yet a different institution.
The CU Denver students all focused on developing solutions in the same ‘need area’ which was: helping alleviate issues with access to healthcare for individuals with disabilities in low resource settings. The student teams worked tirelessly for 3 days to develop and refine concepts and business models. The concepts evolved through conversations with experts, clinicians and industrial designers. The students also learned about topics such as Intellectual Property, medical device reimbursement, funding and business models, clinical trials, and regulatory pathways.
The teams gave a concept pitch on day 2 and a final 8 minute venture-style pitch on the concluding day of the conference. Prizes were awarded in each need area. All of the CU students and teams came up with interesting solutions tackling various issues including pressure sores and beyond. Mackenzie Wilderman and her team won both pitch contests in their ‘need area’.
This experience should provide a great foundation to help the students in their capstone design experience this academic year.
Daewon Park, assistant professor of bioengineering, received American Heart Association Grant-in-Aid with his research titled “Engineered biomimetic injectable system towards cardiac repair”.
Myocardial infarction (MI) is a leading ischemic cardiovascular disease. Over recent decades, the number of medical treatment methodologies for patients with MI has steadily increased, with new treatments being developed every few years. However, even with this concerted attention from the medical and research communities, a significant percentage of MI patients have suffered a recurrent attack, despite receiving proper medical treatment. There is a clear unmet need for MI treatment that prevents recurrent attacks.
With this grant, Dr. Park will develop an alternative treatment strategy, using an injectable biomaterial with the capacity for localized co-delivery of therapeutic agents, to target key endogenous processes of the post-MI healing process: the anti-inflammatory reaction and the formation of new blood vessels.
This injectable biomaterial system addresses MI in a one-time treatment platform, removing the critical barrier of patient compliance thereby promoting therapeutic success.
With the graduation of the class of 2017 comes the culmination of a vision nearly a decade in the making. The Department of Bioengineering celebrated the graduation of the inaugural undergraduate class. Welcoming friends and family to join in the festivities, the department hosted a banquet to acknowledge the accomplishments of each senior and their contributions to the program.
The fifteen graduates from the program have set high standards for their predecessors, with students continuing to industry, graduate programs, medical school, and even MD/PhD programs. Throughout their time as undergraduates, many students have excelled in undergraduate research. Others placed into competitive industry internships, linking them with full-time offers after graduation. As the bioengineering graduates of 2017 end their time on the Anschutz Medical Campus, some students will stay local and begin their professional careers, while others are relocating across the country.
The Department of Bioengineering is grateful is have such a dedicated and incredible inaugural class and looks forward to all they will accomplish in the future.
Coulter College is a BMES program that is focused on translation research. The University of Colorado Denver Bioengineering team was accepted into the program for 3 days this summer in Atlanta. The team is made up of in-coming seniors: Vinh Pham, Kailey Beck, Mackenzie Wilderman and Matt Kiselevach with Casey Howard, one of the senior design faculty. The team will learn about the innovation process and the steps to commercialization of medical devices and technologies. Topics such as intellectual property, regulatory approval processes, reimbursement and business model development.
Richard Benninger, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, has been awarded a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Innovation award entitled “Non-Invasive Imaging of Pancreas Blood Flow Redistribution to Assess Insulitis and Islet Decline in Type1 Diabetes”. Type1 diabetes involves autoimmune destruction of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, lifelong insulin therapy is required, with significant elevation in the risk of diabetic complications including blindness, kidney disease, and cardiovascular diseases. There are currently no clinical approaches to monitor the ongoing decline in beta cells prior to clinical presentation of diabetes, as well as to monitor the success of any preventative treatment. This JDRF Innovation award will build upon recent findings in the Benninger Research Group showing that contrast enhanced ultrasound can detect changes in islet microvascular function in animal models during the preclinical stage of type1 diabetes progression. Specifically it will validate whether the success of preventative therapeutic treatments can be predicted early, prior to diabetes onset. It will also investigate ways to translate this approach to clinical testing. Ultimately the goal is to develop a means to improve the early diagnosis of underlying disease development and enable successful treatments to prevent diabetes.