Congratulations to Cristin Welle, PhD, assistant professor in neurosurgery and bioengineering, on receiving a $2 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to pilot the use of peripheral neuromodulation to accelerate motor learning. The grant, which will be received over four years, comes from the DARPA Biological Technologies Office through the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training program, led by Tristan McClure-Begley, PhD, who had been on the CU Boulder faculty prior to joining DARPA in October 2017. The goals of this project are to understand the effects of precisely timed stimulation of the vagus nerve during motor learning on motor performance, and to utilize optogenetics, electrophysiology and in vivo two-photon imaging to investigate the mechanisms that underlie this effect. This work could lead to translational opportunities using invasive or non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation to improve rehabilitation from stroke or to drive enhancements in the learning and performance of skilled tasks.
The Center for Women’s Health Research (CWHR) creates a day for high-school girls to come on campus and learn about career opportunities in healthcare and science. We were told that Bioengineering was a highlight of the day for the girls. Special thanks to Kendall Hunter, Bradford Smith, Emily Gibson, Michelle Mellenthin, Courtney Mattson, Baris Ozbay, and Connor McCullough for their participation. Here are some quotes the CWHR shared from student evaluations:
“The most interesting thing that I learned today was seeing how we can draw conclusions about human brains from mouse brains.”
“I loved learning about the use of lasers to map out the brain and why cardiac vessels need to be elastic.”
“It was really interesting to see learn how researchers can speed up and slow down a mouse’s breathing in order to understand more about breathing problems in humans.”
“One of the most fascinating things that I learned was how admired the engineers are here.”
To read about the event here is a link to the CWHR webpage: http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/medicalschool/centers/WomensHealth/events/Pages/Girls%e2%80%99%20Career%20Day.aspx
Margaret Ferrari is a first-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, her focus is on Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). HLHS is a complex congenital heart defect resulting in an underdeveloped left side of the heart. It alone accounts for up to 1,500 severe defects per year requiring surgery. The current standard of care involves three invasive open- heart surgeries in the first three years of life. The third operation, the Fontan procedure, includes connection of the vena cava to the pulmonary artery using a bio-inert graft to reduce work required by the right ventricle. While this operation greatly extends the lives of HLHS patients, the Fontan circuit eventually fails, and the only solution is a scarcely available donor heart. This failed circuit is explained by the “Fontan paradox” where central venous pressures build up over time, causing increased systemic resistance. The abnormal hemodynamics are associated with severe complications including protein-losing enteropathy, plastic bronchitis, and hepatic fibrosis and carcinoma. This project will address the Fontan paradox by developing a tissue engineered graft with highly contractile, patient specific cells for use in the Fontan procedure. Margaret (Meg) will be working under Jeffrey Jacot, PhD in the Jacot Lab for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine in the Bioengineering Department at Anschutz Medical Campus. Additionally, she will be spending time in the clinic with Mike Di Maria, MD, a co-director of the Single Ventricle Care Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado. This mentorship will provide a platform for impactful translational research and give hope to patients and families suffering from HLHS.
Adam Rocker, a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) TL-1 Pre-doctoral Fellowship for his proposed thesis work on developing an injectable polymer delivery system to treat coronary artery disease. One consequence of this disease is a myocardial infarction (MI), better known as a heart attack, which inhibits the flow of blood and vital nutrients to the heart. The current standard of care for MI aims for early reperfusion of the occluded vessels to prevent further cell death using surgical or pharmacological agents. However, biomedical approaches to restore the blood supply, by delivering growth factors locally to promote the formation of new blood vessels, may present a faster and less invasive treatment option, with the essential benefit of inducing cardiac tissue regeneration. Adam will be investigating this tissue engineering approach for treating coronary artery disease under the mentorship of Dr. Daewon Park, an Associate Professor in Bioengineering, and Dr. Luisa Mestroni, a Professor of Medicine in Cardiology. Collaborations by this scientist-physician team and the CCTSI will help develop translational therapies at the basic science level into clinical treatments.
We just wrapped up the first session of our Bioengineering Opportunities and Leadership Training (BOLT) Camp, and it was an amazing week! Students from all over Colorado came to the Anschutz Campus for 4 days packed full of hands-on learning.
BOLT campers did everything from learning to solder, to building optical heart rate monitors, to running tissue engineering experiments. They got to visit the roof of Children’s Hospital to check out the specially engineered pediatric Flight For Life helicopter, and they learned about anatomy and the human body from the Anschutz AHEC Anatomy team. Throughout the week, students heard from clinicians, researchers, students, and faculty on all facets of bioengineering. In between all of this, students prototyped their own engineering solutions to real clinical problems. The whirlwind week of learning and fun ended with design presentations to a panel of judges, camp awards, and an ice cream social.
Students left BOLT with a greater understanding of the field of bioengineering, applicable knowledge and practical lab skills, and hopefully even more passion for STEM than before! Now it’s time for the team to prep for the next group – BOLT Session Two starts in less than a month!
Hassan El-Batal, a junior in the Department of Bioengineering was recently awarded a 2018-2019 Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) mini grant while working in the Magin Lab. The UROP is funded through the Colorado Clinical Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI). This research collaboration focuses on the multiple particle tracking (MPT) and he will be programing a user-friendly graphical interface purposed for MPT. This investigation and software design may help overcome limitations of studying mucociliary clearance (MCC) defects in preclinical animal models and answer questions about MCC dysfunction in pulmonary diseases. As part of the award he looks forward to presenting their findings at the Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RaCAS).
The University of Colorado Board of Regents approved tenure appointments for three College of Engineering and Applied Science faculty at their June meeting:
- Cathy Bodine, Department of Bioengineering
- Dana Carpenter, Department of Mechanical Engineering
- Daewon Park, Department of Bioengineering
(left to right: Bodine, Carpenter, Park)
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.
Assistive Technology Partners (ATP) is deeply grateful for the ongoing support from the Colorado construction industry’s annual Déjà vu Rendezvous event. Held May 18, 2018, this eleventh event offered a chance to unite past and current members of the Colorado construction community while supporting a worthwhile cause. Proceeds from the event help ATP, housed in the Department of Bioengineering, meet their mission for persons with cognitive, sensory, and/or physical disabilities to reach their highest potential at home, school, work and play through the addition of appropriate assistive technologies to their lives. This year the event hosted 800 guests at Denver’s Mile High Station and brought cumulative donations to more than $2.3M.
The event created by retired Trautman & Shreve CEO, Bill Caile, is sponsored by more than 100 corporations.
Cathy Bodine, executive director of ATP and associate professor of bioengineering, says, “We are so grateful to the local construction companies and our generous sponsors for choosing ATP to benefit from such a wonderful annual event.” Funds will be used to support persons with disabilities, their families and others who are unable to afford services.
“The Déjà-vu event has always been focused on the wonderful people that make up the construction industry in Colorado and the relationships we all have,” says Marc Able, Steering Committee Chair and President, ABLE Consulting Group, LLC.. “It is one night a year where we leave the business at the door and celebrate everyone on a personal level. It is such a fun night and to be able to support the great work ATP does is icing on the cake.”
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.