Associate Professor Richard Benninger and his lab recently published a research article in Nature Communications “Contrast-enhanced ultrasound measurement of pancreatic blood flow dynamics predicts type 1 diabetes progression in preclinical models”. Non-invasive techniques to assess the progression of type 1 diabetes prior to clinical onset are needed, both for disease diagnosis and for monitoring the efficacy of therapeutic reversal. The Benninger lab applied a contrast-enhanced ultrasound measurement of mouse pancreatic blood flow to detect changes in the islet microvasculature that undergoes rearrangements during diabetes. These measurements predicted both rapid disease progression as well as the success of therapeutic interventions to reverse disease progression. This study is particularly significant as both the widespread deloyment of ultrasound modalities and the clinical approval of ultrasound contrast agents will facilitate clinical translation for monitoring disease progression in populations at risk for type1 diabetes. This study was primarily supported by funding from the JDRF and NIH, and lead author Josh St Clair was funded by the “Cardiovascular Imaging and Biomechanics” T32 training program and an F32 NRSA postdoctoral fellowship.
Matthew Davidson, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr Bodine’s lab, was selected as a delegate for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Advocacy Training Program. This externship will train Dr. Davidson to be an advocate for the life sciences at the federal and state level. This will provide him the tools to effect policy change and support science funding.
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.
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.
The Office of Undergraduate Experiences announced the next round of Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) recipients. UROP is a competitive program designed to financially support undergraduate research, most broadly understood as including all creative and other scholarly activities. The goal of UROP is to provide an opportunity to extend learning outside the traditional classroom, laboratory, or studio.
Congratulations to Kateryna Biryukova, Ryan Gerstenberger, Alexander Ho, Cameron Mattson, Damon Pool and Robert Wood who received these awards.
Kateryna Biryukova will use the immortalized human derived SH-SY5Y cell line to develop protocols and methodology for printing neurons using a 3D bioprinter. Differentiated SH-SY5Y cells acquire morphological and biochemical characteristics of mature neurons, thus providing means to generate a cost-effective reproducible model of bioprinting neural cells. This research is a part of Dr. Lammer’s open source 3D bioprinter project.
Ryan Gerstenberger will be working on a joint project between Children’s Hospital Colorado physician Stephen Hawkins and Department of Bioengineering Instructor Jennifer Wagner. The title of his project is 3D Printed Custom Mask for Pediatric Sleep Apnea Therapy. Ryan will work to create a method for producing patient specific, pediatric, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) masks.
Alexander Ho will investigate pelvic anatomy and geometry, and tissue deformation using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 20 adults who have used a wheelchair for at least 3 years. Pressure ulcers have negative consequences for the health, activities of daily living, employment, and quality of life for wheelchair users. The results of the study could lead to methods for reducing the incidence rate and severity of pressure ulcers, and improvements in wheelchair seating design. Alexander will be working with Dr. Levin Sliker in Assistive Technology Partners (ATP), Dept. of Bioengineering.
Cameron Mattson’s research project is titled “Development of volume-changing shape memory polymer as a gutta percha filling material in root canals.” This research is an important first step to develop a replacement of the gutta percha using a shape memory polymer. He will conduct this research under the guidance of Dr. Daewon Park, Assistant Professor in Bioengineering.
Damon Pool, an undergrad (and future BS-MS student) working with Dr. Jeffrey Jacot in his research laboratory. He will be investigating whether including native heart extracellular matrix in an electrospun heart patch material can enhance the attachment, migration and viability of heart cells.
Robert Wood will study the mechanical and physiological impacts of constant-flow left ventricular assist devices on the proximal Aorta. He will be working with Dr. Kendall Hunter (BioE) and Dr. Amrut Ambardekar (SOM Cardiology).
Dr. Bradford Smith, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering was awarded $747,000 over three years to study The Importance of Inhomogeneity in the Pathogenesis of Lung Injury (NIH R00 HL128944). This work is motivated by Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a condition that causes more deaths per year than breast or prostate cancer. Treatment for ARDS is based around supportive mechanical ventilation, but this can cause ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) and worsen outcomes. The major obstacle to developing personalized mechanical ventilation strategies that prevent VILI is an incomplete understanding of the microscale fluid-mechanical forces responsible for injury. In the proposed research, Dr. Smith will investigate the role of alveolar interdependence in the parenchymal stress balance and VILI pathogenesis. A detailed understanding of the stresses and strains that cause VILI will improve the treatment of ARDS and thus reduce mortality for a significant number of people.
To meet the diverse interests of both our undergraduate and graduate students BMES hosts events to facilitate collaboration between industry partners, medical professionals, and researchers. We often find that there are many unmet needs and concepts that require the expertise of a bioengineer, however, many of these opportunities are missed. Pitch Night offers a platform for potential PI’s to recruit students for projects and research opportunities. In these five minute pitches, presenters pitched ideas in basic science, translational/clinical medicine, and device engineering. We’ve found that our students are able to learn more about cutting edge research and industry opportunities as well as the variety of research happening on this campus. In doing so we are able to help match our students with opportunities that interest them and meet the needs of potential PI’s. The goal is to match graduate students with projects, provide research opportunities to upperclass undergraduates, and reveal potential avenues of study freshman and sophomores.
Richard Weir, Associate Research Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, and colleagues receive funding to develop an Optical Probe capable of Activating/Reporting on axon activity in nerves of parasympathetic nervous system. Current neuro-modulation approaches for the vagus nerve (aka parasympathetic nervous system) are generally all or nothing events that cause simultaneous changes in heart rate, for example, along with changes in pancreatic function. Our goal for this project is to develop a novel compact Optogenetic based Optical Probe capable of optically neuromodulating individual afferent and/or efferent axons within nerves of the parasympathetic, or peripheral, nervous system. We seek to read-in or read-out from these nerves with the goal of modulating the organs or brain circuits innervated by them.
Our central premise is that we can use optics to communicate with axons in a nerve. For optical approaches to work we need to convert action potentials into an optical signal. This can be done using reporter proteins or by some other means that is ancillary to action potential generation. Because nerves do not naturally express optical proteins, we will work with transgenic mice that express these proteins and use these mice to refine our system before making it available for other researchers to use. We are proposing to couple an optical fiber with an electrowetting lens head to allow remote interrogation of the vagus nerve with a bench top (i.e. portable) laser system. Integration of miniature (1mm diameter) scale electrowetting electrically tunable optics with an optical fiber-based imaging system will enable two-photon fluorescence imaging of neuron activity by readout of a fluorescent indicator.
We will work with collaborators in the field of pancreatic research to test, refine and demonstrate our ability to activate/report from in-vitro mouse vagus nerves and to see if we can control and/or sense pancreatic responses in the absence of other responses, such as a change in heart rate, using targeted neuro-modulation of specific axons in the vagus in in-vivo transgenic mice experiments.
Joshua St. Clair, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Richard Benninger’s research
group in the Department of Bioengineering, has been awarded a 2-year Individual Postdoctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, totaling $113,412. Josh’s studies will be focused on determining how the electrical activity of pancreatic islets is altered in pre-type2 diabetes. Specifically, Josh will study the mechanisms by which electrical coupling of pancreatic beta-cells is dysregulated in the early type2 diabetic environment, and exploit these mechanisms to engineer novel biologics in hopes of preventing disease progression.