Biomedical Engineering (BME) faculties are engaged in a wide range of efforts to improve human health through innovation in technology.
The fusion of medical and engineering expertise has brought new dynamism to medical research. Engineering principles are being applied to construct tissues, and new technologies developed with engineers are providing more effective ways to understand diseases and identify and track their progress (test).
Our research focus on four key areas: biomechanics, biomaterial and tissue engineering; medical imaging; biomedical electronics, signal processing and electrophysiology; and bioinformatics.
Some of the substances that support our bodies - vertebrae, bones and cartilage, for example — work on engineering principles. We have been using that knowledge to investigate treatments and improve outcomes for patients who suffer diseases or disorders in these areas:
Tissue engineering. We are establishing technological platforms for three crucial components of engineered tissue - stem cells, bio-scaffold and growth stimulating signals. They will then try to develop engineered tissue for animal trials, with a particular focus on cartilage repair.
Scaffolding. Scaffolds provide a structure on which new tissue can grow. The engineering technology of rapid prototyping (RP) has been found to be very useful here. We are working with one RP technology, selective laser sintering that can produce tailor-made scaffolding to meet complex anatomical requirements. Two systems of composite scaffolds have been fabricated and will be tested.
The main focuses of Biomaterials & Biomechanics are: tricalcium phosphate polyhydroxybutyrate and copolymer composites for bone tissue engineering; selective laser sintered scaffolds for bone tissue engineering; electrospun nanofibrous scaffolds for soft tissue engineering; chitosan devices for peripheral nerve regeneration and surface modification of NiTi shape memory alloy.
The frontier of modern biomedical imaging is in vivo cellular and molecular imaging. Medical Engineering faculties are developing and applying such methodologies to neuroscience, cardiology and cancer research. One ongoing project aims to employ high-field MRI to investigate the diffusion behaviour of water molecules in neural tissue as a surrogate marker for changes of cellular morphology associated with injury, disease or cognitive learning.
Another project will develop the techniques to label stem cells and use MRI to visualize their activities in vivo after transplantation. These in vivo and non-invasive imaging technologies are essential to our pursuit of more sensitive and specific tissue characterisation for both basic and clinical life sciences.
Three laboratories that are platforms for research in this area have been established: a Neural Engineering and Clinical Electrophysiology Lab, a Medical Ultrasound Lab and a Brain Computer Interface Lab.
We use these laboratories in such projects as the application of multi-channel signal processing, an engineering technique to study the human brain, spinal cord, peripheral nervous system and even the cognitive mechanisms involved in skill acquisition.
Another research interest is the monitoring of biomedical signals. New high-resolution time-frequency analysis methods offer a higher degree of precision. Staff members of MedE have developed several new methods for this and will investigate their application in surgery, physical therapy, rehabilitation assessment and early detection of diseases.
Biomedical Ultrasound is also being investigated for its use in assessing dental bone implants and drug delivery. In the latter case, a pilot study will test its performance in combination with a contrast agent to deliver treatment to disease sites.