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WPI Awarded $2M for Biomedical Research Centers

Photonics.com
Nov 2006
WORCESTER, Mass., Nov. 6, 2006 -- Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will receive $1 million in federal funding for two centers within its Bioengineering Institute (BEI): the Center for Untethered Healthcare, which is developing an integrated system of medical sensors, portable ultrasound scanners and wireless technology to provide more effective medical care for soldiers in the field to improve their odds of surviving battlefield injuries; and the new Center for Neuroprosthetics and BioMEMS, which is developing technology that will make it possible for prosthetic limbs and organs to be controlled by signals from the brain.

WPI's appropriation was part of a US Senate Defense Appropriations Bill that included $12.3 million in spending to improve national security for the 3rd Congressional District represented by US Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry, and US Congressman James P. McGovern.

The BEI Center for Neuroprosthetics and BioMEMS is engaged in research aimed at developing technology that will place prosthetic limbs and organs under the control of the nervous system, enabling users to control these devices in the same way they control their natural limbs and organs. For military personnel who have lost limbs or organs, neuroprosthetics will offer more rapid recovery and rehabilitation.

The center draws upon WPI faculty expertise in the life sciences and biomedical, electrical and mechanical engineering, including such areas as electronic control systems, communications, imaging, sensors, biocompatibility and biomaterials, as well as the university's growing capabilities in bioMEMS (Biomicroelectromechancial systems), miniature devices that are critical components of prosthetics control systems. WPI recently established a MEMS clean room.

This research is aligned with the needs and interests of the US Army's Military Amputee Research Program (MARP) at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at Fort Detrick, Md., which has supported the Center for Untethered Healthcare over the past five years. WPI hopes to establish a similar technical relationship with MARP that will lead to the development of advanced neuroprosthetic systems, said BEI Director W. Grant McGimpsey.

The BEI Center for Untethered Healthcare, working with the US military, is building on more than a decade of work by WPI researchers to develop technology that can provide critical information to military medical personnel where and when they need it to increase the odds of survival for wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Center researchers are developing four specific technologies: Wireless, intelligent physiological sensors that can monitor vital signs of soldiers and alert medics and field commanders when problems arise; ad-hoc wireless networks that will permit sensor data and ultrasound images to be transmitted, securely and reliably in the unforgiving environment of the urban battleground; a handheld microfluidic blood analyzer that can measure and analyze the levels of important blood constituents to help in the diagnosis of trauma, injury, or illness; and wearable ultrasound technology that enables a medic or physician to bring the ultrasound scanner to the patient, rather than transporting the patient to a hospital or clinic to be scanned.

"We are actively marketing the ultrasound and blood analysis technology," McGimpsey said. "This new federal funding will allow us to continue to develop these technologies and the other important research of these two centers closer toward a commercial endpoint."

"These are critically important areas of investigation with far-reaching implications for national security and the quality of human life around the world," said WPI President Dennis D. Berkey. "With this new federal funding, WPI will have even greater opportunity to contribute leadership and new knowledge to such vital areas of bioengineering and biomedical research."

"We are most grateful that the work of our outstanding scholars and researchers has been recognized in this way," Berkey said.

For more information, visit: wpi.edu


GLOSSARY
photonics
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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