In 1967, the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Virginia teamed to form one of the first Departments of Biomedical Engineering (BME) in the country. Over the past thirty-five years, the department has focused on graduate education, developing strong doctoral and masters programs while carrying out world class research. In 2000, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) added a BME minor to supplement existing traditional majors. This venture met with success, and has led to the development of a BME major within SEAS. In fall 2002, the principal investigator obtained preliminary approval for the BME major curriculum.
The first course of the BME major is Introduction to Biomedical Engineering Design and Discovery. First offered in fall 2002, the course provides students with theoretical and practical design experience, an overview of issues relating to entrepreneurship in BME, and an introduction to the discipline. Within the first few weeks of class, students identify problems in the field of BME that they wish to address through their semester long design project. They then form design teams based on interest and backgrounds. The major student effort in the class is toward E-Team development of a novel device, method, program, or experiment. Whenever possible, teams develop prototypes to prove design feasibility. The second segment of the class focuses on tackling the issues involved in developing a new product in BME. The course covers basic management tools including Gantt charts, critical path diagrams, and criteria for team selection. Students attend lectures on intellectual property, entrepreneurship, and regulatory issues. The third segment of the class serves as an introduction to the BME discipline. At the end of the course, E-Teams present their final projects to a group of faculty and local entrepreneurs. This grant provides E-Team seed money, student team travel, speaker honoraria, equipment, tools, and a stereo microscope
Each year, approximately 140,000 patients are affected by deficit of the seventh cranial nerve, which provides signals for the facial expression muscles for one side of the face. Of these patients, about half are unlikely to recover, and many sustain permanent damage to the eye. Current treatments for this disorder include sewing the eyelids together, connecting other nerves to the facial nerve, and implanting gold weights into the upper eyelid. Unfortunately, these treatments can disfigure patients and do not restore dynamic restoration of blinking.
This E-Team is developing a prosthetic device to facilitate blinking in patients suffering from facial nerve palsy. The device will consist of a number of tiny silicon chips that act as both actuators and sensors. The devices will be implanted in upper eyelids, and function as sensors on the unaffected side to pace the actuators on the affected side. The dual sensing/actuating nature of the system will allow the device to sense any recovery of the nerve on the affected side and calibrate itself accordingly. Power is provided to the chips by a device contained on prosthetic eyeglasses with a powering antenna wound in the lens holders, and a battery in the earpieces.
This E-Team is developing a device for use in conjunction with current non-invasive surgical technology treating abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA)--ballooning of the aorta in the abdominal region. Currently, there are two FDA approved methods of treating the condition. One is open surgery, in which a large incision is made and the diseased portion of the aorta is replaced with an aortic graft that gets stitched in place. Although the surgery lasts a lifetime, it is not safe for patients with co-morbidities. The second method is endovascular stent-grafting in which a small incision is made near the groin and a compressed stent-graft is positioned using the frictional force it exerts on the wall of the aorta. This treatment is a lifesaving, less expensive solution for those who cannot undergo open surgery. It has become the standard method of treatment for AAA. However, the treatment is prone to leaks and device migration.
In response to the problems associated with endovascular stent-grafting, this E-Team has developed a method for stitching the graft in place from within the aorta. They have developed an alternative form of sutures for the stitching procedure using a device that will be inserted and positioned in the patient the same way as a stent graft.