Category Archives: Biomedical Engineering

News and Updates from Biomedical Engineering. For more news and information about the department, please visit:
http://engineering.tufts.edu/bme

Tissue healing after a heart attack

Tufts University engineers have developed new, non-destructive techniques to evaluate tissue healing following a heart attack. These techniques, described in a paper recently published in Nature Scientific Reports, could be used to evaluate current treatments for aiding cardiac repair and to provide a basis for evaluating heart disease progression.

Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these cases, 525,000 are a first heart attack.* After a heart attack, or myocardial infarction, the body quickly attempts to replace damaged cardiac tissue with new collagen scaffolding to provide support to withstand the forces associated with a normal heartbeat. The body can sometimes overbuild this scaffolding, or extracellular matrix (ECM), or expand the remodeled ECM into heart tissue not initially adversely affected by the heart attack. The altered heart tissue resulting from ECM remodeling is often responsible for functional deterioration, leading to heart failure.

Though scientists have studied some elements of how remodeled tissue structure affects function following heart attack, little is understood about the relationship between ECM composition of the scar tissue and its mechanical properties in the earliest stages of remodeling. By using a process called decellularization—the removal of cells from the heart tissue structure—and pairing this with 3D multi-photon microscopy, the tissue’s mechanical properties and structure remains intact and can be studied. As a result, the Tufts biomedical engineering team has uniquely identified structure-function relationships specific to the myocardial ECM. Specifically they have found that the ECM that is newly remodeled/deposited, following infarction, is weaker than healthy tissues, most likely due to alterations in the chemical connections within and between fibers called“crosslinks.” This weaker ECM may be contributing to the expanding scar by adversely signaling cells in the remodeling tissue to continue to make more ECM.

The team of Tufts researchers included Kyle Quinn, Kelly Sullivan, Zhiyi Liu, Zachary Ballard, Christos Siokatas, Associate Professor Irene Georgakoudi, and Associate Professor Lauren Black.

Read the full paper in Nature Scientific Reports.

* Source: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/12/18/CIR.0000000000000152

Researchers receive $1 million ONR grant

Sameer Sonkusale, professor of electrical and computer engineering

Engineering faculty Professor Sameer Sonkusale and Associate Professor Qiaobing Xu, working with Assistant Professor Jimmy Crott from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, have received a $1 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to build biomedical microdevices to investigate the gut microbiome.

Qiaobing Xu, associate professor of biomedical engineering

Current studies of the gut microbiome rely on the metabolic and genomic analysis of fecal matter. That analysis fails to identify which areas of the large or small intestine are colonized by bacterial species, and how those bacterial species interact with one another and with the host. This research project seeks to sample the microbiome at different locations in the gut to obtain a spatial distribution profile. Sonkusale, Xu, and Crott have proposed the use of a biocompatible lab-on-a-pill with integrated sensor, energy source, and electronics, to carry out that sampling.

New technique for generating human neural stem cells

Neuromuscular tissue engineering: hiNSCs (red) grown in co-culture with skeletal muscle (green), with cell nuclei visualized by blue DAPI staining. Credit: Dana M. Cairns, Tufts University.

Neuromuscular tissue engineering: hiNSCs (red) grown in co-culture with skeletal muscle (green), with cell nuclei visualized by blue DAPI staining. Credit: Dana M. Cairns, Tufts University.

A new technique, discovered by Tufts researchers, generates rapidly-differentiating human neural stem cells for use in a variety of tissue engineering applications. The researchers are not the first to generate these stem cells, but their process appears to be simpler, faster, and more reliable than existing protocols. They converted human fibroblasts and adipose-derived stem cells into stable, human induced neural stem cell (hiNSC) lines that acquire the features of active neurons within as few as four days, compared to the typical four weeks.

The work could pave the way for experiments that engineer other innervated tissues, such as the skin and cornea, and for the development of human brain models with diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Dana Cairns, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was first author on the paper published in Stem Cell Reports. Paper authors also include corresponding author Professor David Kaplan; Karolina Chwalek, former postdoctoral researcher in biomedical engineering; Rosalyn Abbott, postdoctoral scholar in biomedical engineering; and Professor Stephen Moss, Yvonne Moore, and Matthew Kelley from the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.

Read the full paper in Stem Cell Reports.

Tufts engineers invent “smart” thread

Illustration demonstrating how the thread collects data and transmits it to a flexible wireless transmitter atop the skin.

Engineers at Tufts invented a thread that wirelessly collects real-time diagnostic data when sutured into tissue. The thread-based diagnostic platform could be an effective substrate for a new generation of implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems. The research was published in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering and has been featured in a number of media outlets, including The Economist, WBUR, IEEE Spectrum, and STAT.

Authors included Tufts alumni Pooria Mostafal and Kyle Alberti, who were PhD students at the time of the research; Assistant Professor Qiaobing Xu of the Department of Biomedical Engineering; and Associate Professor Sameer Sonkusale of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, alongside colleagues from Harvard Medical School’s Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Georgakoudi elected to senior member of SPIE

Irene Georgakoudi, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has been elected to the grade of Senior Member of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

SPIE Senior Members are members of distinction who are honored for their professional experience, their active involvement with the optics community and SPIE, and significant performance that sets them apart from their peers.

2016 Summer Scholars announced

The Tufts Summer Scholars program has announced the 2016 Summer Scholars. Each year, the program awards funding to a select group of rising juniors and seniors from across Tufts academic disciplines, to carry out ten-week independent research projects. The program is administered by the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Congratulations to all our engineering summer scholars! See below for the full list.

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Tufts Silk Lab inspires a silk poem

Professor of biomedical engineering Fiorenzo Omenetto in his lab at the Tufts Science and Technology Center. (Joanie Tobin/Tufts University)

Professor of biomedical engineering Fiorenzo Omenetto in his lab at the Tufts Science and Technology Center. (Joanie Tobin/Tufts University)

The Huffington Post covers the story of a poet and artist who, inspired by the work of Professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, nano-printed a poem on a silk sensor that can be placed under a person’s skin. The Silk Lab fabricated the film from liquified silk, with the poem written in a six-character chain that corresponds to the silkworm’s filament drawing method.

Artist Jen Bervin’s “Silk Poems” will go on view as part of the group exhibition “Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder,” opening on May 28 at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Tufts biomedical engineers preserve fruit with silk

Strawberry - slideA team of Tufts researchers, including professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, have demonstrated a promising alternative for food preservation, using an ultra-thin coating of biocompatible silk to keep fruit fresh without refrigeration.

Their research has been published in Scientific Reports. In addition to Kaplan and Omenetto, authors include first author Benedetto Marelli, Ph.D., formerly a post-doctoral associate in the Omenetto laboratory and now at MIT; and Mark A. Brenckle, Ph.D., former research assistant in the Omenetto Laboratory, now at Columbia University.

Tufts team uses silk to stabilize blood samples

stabilizingbloodPNASMay2016

Encapsulating blood samples in silk protein extracted from silk worm cocoons protected biomarkers effectively, even at high temperatures. (Courtesy Tufts Silk Lab)

A team of Tufts University researchers, including Professors David Kaplan and Fiorenzo Omenetto, have stabilized blood samples without refrigeration, by using air-dried silk protein to encapsulate the samples. The technique has implications for clinical care and research that require analysis of biofluids like blood, and could open up new testing options for currently underserved populations.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. In addition to Kaplan and Omenetto, authors include co-first author Jonathan Kluge, Ph.D., former postdoctoral associate in the Kaplan lab; Adrian B. Li, Ph.D., scientist at Vaxess Laboratories and a former doctoral student in Tufts’ Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering; Brooke Kahn, B.S., research associate at Cocoon Biotech and former intern in the Kaplan laboratory; and Dominique S. Michaud, Sc.D., Tufts University School of Medicine.

Hujambo Receives Ricci Prize for Interdisciplinary Engineering Design

04/07/2016 - Medford/Somerville, Mass. - Award presentation: Inge Milde, director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies (ELS) program & senior lecturer and Team Hujambo The 2016 $100K New Ventures Competition at Breed Memorial Hall in Tufts University, Thursday, April 7, 2016. (Chitose Suzuki for Tufts University)

Team Hujambo poses after winning the Ricci Prize.

In the Tufts Gordon Institute’s 2016 $100k New Ventures Competition, biomedical engineer Shehryar Malik, E19, and Daniel McCormack, A19, represented team Hujambo, which received the Stephen and Geraldine Ricci Interdisciplinary Prize. The Ricci Prize is awarded to the project that best demonstrates interdisciplinary engineering design and entrepreneurial spirit.

Hujambo designed a low-cost smartphone and operating system. In their words: “We make smartphones for everyone. Our goal is to connect the entire world to the Internet, by providing low-cost but high-tech devices to enable consumers to navigate the 21st century. Our smartphone costs $10, and provides cellular service, messaging capability, data access, and access to every app. By creating our own operating system, which perfectly integrates with the hardware, we are able to provide a cheaper product with more features than even the best devices on the market.”

Learn more on Hujambo Group’s website.