OsteoGel: Injectable Osteomodulatory hydrogels for vertebral compression fracture repair
Bret Ulery, PhD
Department of Chemical Engineering
Christina Goldstein, MD
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs)are the most common fractures in patients with osteoporosis and occur in nearly750,000 people annually. VCFs occur when the vertebral body collapses and lead to significant pain, deformity and severe functional limitation. Although osteoporosis the most common cause, these fractures may also be caused by trauma or tumors. VCFs contribute nearly $13.8 billion to direct health care costs and are a major public health problem. First-line treatments for symptoms of VCFs include non-operative interventions, such as activity modification, bed rest, bracing and analgesics, but these interventions do not treat the underlying osteoporosis. Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), commonly known as bone cement, may be injected to stabilize the fracture but can lead to the development of additional VCFs because the cement is stiffer than the surrounding bone. Hence, treatments for VCFs that mimic normal bone biomechanics and provide mechanical support while promoting bone healing desperately are needed. The principal investigators are developing a novel biomaterial that meets these requirements. Their solution uses hydrogels that have been modified to give the material mechanical properties that can be “tuned” to optimal strength as well as osteomedullary properties that treat the most common underlying cause of VCFs.
Corneal cyropreservation and storage system
Xu Han, PhD
Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Frederick Fraunfelder, MD, MBA
Department of Ophthalmology
The global demand for human corneal transplants is estimated between 15 and 20million, but only about 180,000 corneal transplants are performed each year due to the limitations of the current cornea storage method. At the recommended storage temperature of two to eight degrees Celsius, corneas remain suitable for transplant for no more than 14 days. This creates a barrier to corneal transplants in countries that must rely on imported corneas. Although freezing would potentially increase the length of time corneas can be stored, the process of freezing corneas creates ice crystals that damage the cornea and make it unsuitable for transplantation. The principal investigators have developed an inexpensive and disposable device that protects corneal tissue from the damage caused by extracellular ice formation during the freezing process. When combined with the investigators’ novel cryoprotectant medium, the device becomes a complete system for preservation and long-term storage of corneas in standard freezers. This system will greatly reduce the cost of cryostorage of corneas and will make it possible to build inventories of high quality corneas in areas where the need for corneas currently is unmet. The novel cryopreservation system also has applications for preservation of artificial and other natural human tissues.
Near Infrared Navigation System (NAVI) for image-guided surgery in coronary artery bypass grafting
Raghuraman Kannan, PhD
Department of Bioengineering and Department of Radiology
Ajit Tharakan, MD
Department of Surgery
More than 370,000 people in the United States die each year from coronary artery disease(CAD), making it the leading cause of death among both men and women. Nearly 400,000 Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) surgeries are performed annually to improve blood flow to the hearts of patients with CAD. During CABG procedures, surgeons use Doppler scans to confirm blood flow in the newly grafted artery before closing the patient’s chest. Although Doppler is the current gold standard, its clinical utility is limited because it is an indirect assessment of blood flow. Near-infrared (NIR) imaging is emerging as a novel method for direct assessment of blood flow in grafts. However, currently available instruments are cumbersome to use in the operating room because of their large size and are too expensive for many hospitals. The principal investigators have developed a portable, low cost NIR fluorescent system (NAVI) that enables real-time visualization of blood flow during CABG surgeries. With NAVI, all light except the fluorescence emitted from the NIR dye is “blacked out,” which enables effective visualization of standalone fluorescence. The investigators have tested the device in swine using the FDA approved NIR dye Indocyanine and have demonstrated equivalence or superiority of NAVI to CT angiography as a method of confirming blood flow. The next step is for surgeons to use NAVI in operating rooms to directly visualize blood flow during CABG surgeries.
ENSUR: A novel diagnostic prenatal genetic test
Raghuraman Kannan, PhD
Department of Bioengineering and Department of Radiology
Danny Schust, MD
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health
In the United States, approximately 75 percent of pregnant women undergo some type of prenatal genetic screening to assess fetal health. Ultrasound may provide the suggestion of fetal genetic abnormalities, but it does not provide the definitive results gained using methods that directly analyze DNA extracted from fetal cells. Tests that analyze fetal DNA circulating in the mother’s blood now are widely available; however, these tests provide less genetic information than can be obtained from intact fetal cells collected from amniotic fluid or from the placenta via chorionic villus sampling(CVS). Although amniocentesis and CVS are the gold standards for assessing fetal genetic abnormalities, they are invasive procedures that may cause fetal deformities or increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage. A non-invasive method for collection of intact fetal cells that allows extraction of whole fetal genomic DNA urgently is needed. The principal investigators have developed a proprietary method (ENSUR)for selective isolation of fetal cells collected from a vaginal swab. The investigators have demonstrated that ENSUR can separate fetal trophoblasts from vaginal epithetical cells and mucous. They have also demonstrated that the fetal cells collected in this non-invasive manner contain the complete genetic profile of the fetus. The next steps are to optimize the cell separation process and perform genetic analyses to confirm the ability of ENSUR to separate fetal cells from vaginal swabs collected from pregnant women.
Down the Hatch Solutions
Filiz Bunyak Ersoy, PhD
Department of Computer Science
Zhihai (Henry) He, PhD
Department of Electrical &Computer Engineering
Teresa Lever, PhD
Department of Otolaryngology
Approximately 15 million people in the United States currently are living with dysphagia, a swallowing impairment, as a result of stroke, neurologic diseases, cancer and congenital abnormalities. Nearly one million new dysphagia diagnoses are made annually. Patients with dysphagia have an impaired laryngeal adductor reflex – the reflex that normally prevents aspiration – and often aspirate food and liquids into their lungs. Approximately 50 percent of dysphagic patients who aspirate develop aspiration pneumonia, which is the leading cause of hospitalization, hospital readmission and death. Current tools used to assess the LAR fail to predict which patients are at risk for aspiration pneumonia. The principal investigators are developing a novel clinical tool to assess the LAR in patients with dysphagia that enables clinicians to visualize the entire larynx during endoscopic LAR testing and permits automated quantification of several novel outcome measures from video-recorded LAR responses. The investigators have a working prototype of the dysphagia assessment tool and have performed preliminary animal studies demonstrating that the LAR outcome measures using the tool are highly correlated with dysphagia and are differentially diagnostic of the underlying disease state. The tool also has been used to characterize the LAR in healthy adults in an IRB-approved study. The next critical step is to test the system in patients with dysphagia in order to move toward clinical use of the tool to predict aspiration pneumonia risk and identify effective prevention and treatment strategies.