Grants awarded to MSI PIs in Biomedical Engineering


posted on September 17, 2013

The Department of Biomedical Engineering, in the College of Science and Engineering, announced recently that they had a “Summer of Grants” in their department – several of their faculty were awarded grants from various funding agencies. Some of these faculty are MSI Principal Investigators and the grants will support research that they are performing at MSI.

Professor Victor Barocas (MSI Fellow) was awarded three grants. One, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), funds a collaborative project with the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, New York). The Barocas group will study how certain ligaments in the spine respond to normal and abnormal loads, which could eventually help us understand spinal injuries and pain. The second grant, this one from the National Science Foundation (NSF), will fund a project to determine how different structural proteins contribute to the function and dysfunction of the filtration apparatus in the kidney and could contribute to our knowledge of kidney disease. Finally, Professor Barocas received a four-year extension of NIH funding for his long-term research into the mechanical behavior of bio-artificial tissues.

Professor Barocas and his group use MSI resources for their computer models of tissues. Systems they have studied and continue to study include a collagen gel model system and co-gels of collagen with fibrin, agarose, and hyaluronic acid. The computer models are also being applied to tissues such as ligaments and blood vessels.

Assistant Professor Shai Ashkenazi received two grants this summer. The first, a grant from NIH, will fund a collaborative project with faculty from the Department of Chemical Engineering (College of Science and Engineering) and Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (Medical School). This project will develop a new method for non-invasive, photoacoustic imaging of Maxtrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) activity in tissue. MMPs are linked to cancer metastatsis, among other diseases. This method might lead to better, more individualized diagnoses and treatments for cancer patients. The second award, from NSF, will develop Optical Micromachined Ultrasound Transducers (OMUT) technology. The researchers are developing ultrasound probes for high-resolution imaging that can be mounted on the tip of a needle.

Professor Ashkenazi uses MSI resources to run molecular dynamics simulations. These simulations help the research group in their work to design molecular probes.

Assistant Professor Pat Alford received funding from NIH to study whether the changes in vascular smooth muscle cells, caused by disease or vascular stents, can result in degraded ability of those muscles to contract. Professor Alford’s group uses software available through MSI as part of their research into the mechanical properties of tissues.

Professor Dave Odde received a new grant from the National Cancer Institute, a part of NIH, for a collaborative project with the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. The researchers will develop a computer simulator to show how brain cancer cells invade tissue, which may result in the creation of new therapies. Professor Odde uses MSI resources for Monte Carlo simulations of various cytoskeletal and signaling processes involved in cell division and growth.