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ARRA Investments in Bioengineering

Public Health Burden
Bioengineering combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with the medical and biological sciences to improve healthcare. The field has made great contributions to saving and improving millions of lives worldwide through the development of biomedical technologies.  The technologies that have been developed are too numerous to list but include such devices as the defibrillator, cardiac pacemaker, cochlear implant, artificial hips and knees, and vascular stents.  The ARRA investment keeps the stream of innovative research flowing to develop additional biomedical devices for patients.

Technologies for Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease
The next generation of technologies for diagnosis and treatment of disease promise to be safer, less costly, minimally invasive, more precise and overall of higher value than current medical devices.  The NIH, through ARRA, is funding the development of these promising technologies to enhance the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases and disorders.  These include technologies in tissue engineering, in vitro diagnostics, drug delivery systems, and rehabilitation engineering as described below.
  • Regeneration of patient-specific temporomandibular joints (TMJ) by development of a novel stem cell source together with a supercritical fluid to engineer bone in a predetermined shape. Disorders of the TMJ affect more than 10 million Americans.1
  • Development of a high-throughput microfluidic system to study the effects of the cellular micro environment on embryonic stem cell differentiation for eventual applications in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and cell based therapies for many diseases.2
  • Development of a rapid, accurate, and cost-effective cardiac profile sensing device for identifying acute myocardial infarction.  Such a device could improve outcomes and decrease health care expenses.3
  • Development of a rapid, easy to use, very low cost, disposable paper diagnostic assay that can test for multiple disease conditions simultaneously for use at the point-of-care in low-resource settings.  This research will contribute to moving medical diagnostic capabilities from the developed world centralized laboratory to rural and low-resource settings within the U.S. and in the developing world by turning expensive multi-step bioassays into inexpensive formats that require minimal investment and no maintenance.4
  • Design and synthesis of biomaterials for the development of new drug delivery systems capable of delivering toxic chemotherapy agents directly to tumor cells. This new delivery system will greatly lower the amount of drug needed, thus reducing health care costs, and will spare normal cells from the toxic effects of the therapy.5
  • Development of a new technology to assist individuals with severe neurological disorders allowing them to communicate their intentions and control their environments.  The technology enables the tongue of the individual to wirelessly control a computer or smartphone thus reducing the need for continuous help which in turn will reduce healthcare costs.6
Technologies for Studying Human Physiology and Disease
In addition to the development of new technologies for diagnosis and treatment of human disease, another goal of bioengineering is the development and use of tools and methods of engineering to better understand human physiology and disease. NIH ARRA funds are being used to support such basic investigations including the following grants:
  • Computational modeling studies to investigate changes in the mechanical properties of red blood cells in malaria.  The malarial parasite infects red blood cells and leads to changes in the mechanics of the cells reducing their ability to deform when going through small blood vessels which ultimately may keep them from being destroyed by the host.  The knowledge gained could lead to the development of drugs to control this disease.7
  • Developing a microfabricated device to study the effects of hepatotoxicants on liver function.  This new device will be used to determine how harmful substances affect the liver and its ability to regulate sugar levels in the body.8
Health Information Technologies
Health information technology and electronic health records (EHRs) may reduce health care costs and improve health care through more efficient and coordinated services.  There are many current challenges involved in the development and implementation of EHRs. With ARRA funding, the NIH is addressing one of these challenges, the inclusion of radiology images within EHRs and electronic sharing of radiology images across health care institutions and vendor systems.  This will improve the quality of patient care, reduce repeat/redundant imaging, and decrease healthcare costs.  The funded grants include the following:
  • Establishment of a regional health image exchange system that services several large hospitals in the vicinity of Birmingham, AL. Once operational, the system will be scalable to service remote geographical areas of the state and beyond.9
  • Development and testing of a novel approach for sharing medical image data using a patient controlled exchange in rural and urban southeastern U.S., a diverse region with established unmet health care needs.10

  1. 1R21EB007313-01A2 -- Solvent-free engineering of a shape-specific osteochondral TMJ condyle—Detamore, Michael Scott (KS)
  2. 1R01EB008392-01A2 -- Microfluidic system for screening stem cell microenvironments -- Khademhosseini, Ali (MA)
  3. 1R21EB008825-01 -- Point-of-care system based on single polymer nanowires for real-time AMI diagnosis-Yun, Minhee (PA)
  4. 1RC1EB010593-01 -- A sensitive multiplexed diagnostic platform using disposable 2D paper networks—Yager, Paul (WA)
  5. 1R01EB008082-01A2 -- Dendritic block copolymer micelles as new targeted drug delivery systems—Hammond, Paula T (MA)
  6. 1RC1EB010915-01 -- Development and Translational Assessment of a Tongue-Based Assistive Neuro- Technology—Ghovanloo, Maysam (GA)
  7. 1R03EB006800-01A1 -- Disease states of red blood cells in vascular microvessels -- Dimitrakopoulos, Panagiotis (MD)
  8. 1R21EB006519-01A2 -- Microfabricated biosensor platform for monitoring cell metabolism -- Revzin, Alexander (CA)
  9. 1RC2EB011412-01 -- Development of a regional health image exchange service -- Guthrie, Barton Lucius (AL)
  10. 1RC2EB011406-01 -- Personally controlled sharing of medical images in the rural and urban southeast -- Ge, Yaorong, Carr, John Jeffrey (NC)

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