Across Boston University’s School of Engineering, researchers are pivoting their work to tackle the many engineering problems associated with the global coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m glad I’m an engineer right now,” says Joyce Wong, professor of biomedical and materials science engineering. “There are so many problems that need to be solved in this crisis and I can actually use my expertise to help.”
Wong, like many other engineers and researchers, is diving in to do what she can to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts are in addition to the first wave of help, across BU’s Charles River and Medical Campuses, that gathered personal protective equipment (PPE) from labs—shuttered by Governor Charlie Baker’s stay-at-home advisory—to donate to healthcare workers in Massachusetts. Here are four ways that BU engineers are using technology to tackle the coronavirus pandemic:
1. New medical equipment
Wong started working on two projects after talking to her cousin, Steven Horng, an emergency medicine physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC).
“I started hearing about the PPE shortages from Steven, and then he started to tell me about more of the challenges healthcare workers are facing,” she says. “We’re getting close to the predicted peak of cases in Massachusetts, so I want to help out any way I can… Continue reading.
The placenta offers an abundant source of placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells (pMSCs), which a new study has shown can readily form cell sheets that could be implanted in children with congenital heart defects and offer benefits for heart repair and regeneration compared to commonly used synthetic material-based scaffolds. Congenital heart disease is the leading cause of birth-defect-related illness and death. The placenta can be readily collected at birth and the cells harvested for pediatric reparative procedures, as described in the study published in Tissue Engineering, Part A, peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. Click here to read the full-text article free on the Tissue Engineering website through January 7, 2019.
Sitaram Emani, MD, Breanna Piekarski, RN, and Sirisha Emani, Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA and Erin Roberts, Kevin Huang, and Joyce Wong, PhD, Boston University, MA are the coauthors of the article entitled “Evaluation of Placental Mesenchymal Stem Cell Sheets for Myocardial Repair and Regeneration .” In the study, the researchers evaluated MSCs independent of their source, demonstrated their ability to form cell sheets, and described other beneficial effects related to paracrine section and cell-cell interactions at the site of MSC implantation. The ability of MSCs to secrete factors to induce cardioprotection, stimulate angiogenesis, and promote migration, proliferation and differentiation of local cardiac stem cells can all affect tissue repair… Continue reading.
The College of Engineering has funded four new projects through the Dean’s Catalyst Award (DCA) grant program, each focused on technologies that promise to make a significant impact on society. ENG and collaborating faculty will receive $40,000 per project to develop novel techniques to advance these technologies.
Established by Dean Kenneth R. Lutchen in 2007 and organized by a faculty committee, the annual DCA program encourages early-stage, innovative, interdisciplinary projects that could spark new advances in a variety of engineering fields. By providing each project with seed funding, the awards give full-time faculty the opportunity to develop collaborations and generate initial proof-of-concept results that could help secure external funding.
This year’s DCA-winning projects could yield new applications in healthcare and energy.
Professor Joyce Wong (BME, MSE) and Associate Professor Glynn Holt (ME) aim to perform a definitive proof-of-concept experiment to establish the potential for the use of microbubbles and ultrasound to noninvasively break blood clots. Clots are a major problem in the medical device industry because they can form on device surfaces, which can then lead to pulmonary embolisms if the clots end up in the lung or a stroke in the brain. Building on past studies by Wong, the researchers will conduct experiments aimed at developing a commercial “clot-busting” microbubble that binds to clots and breaks them in the presence of focused ultrasound.
Professor Joyce Wong (BME, MSE), a world leader in the emerging field of living cell/surface interactions, has been elected as one of seven new Fellows of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES), the leading professional society for biomedical engineers, for outstanding achievements in the field. She was recognized for her work in developing biomaterials to detect and treat cardiovascular disease.
“Professor Wong’s work combines elegant experiments with underlying theory, and the resulting contributions to science and engineering are both significant and wide-ranging,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg, chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department. “Her election as a Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society is richly deserved.”
“I am truly honored to be selected as a BMES Fellow,” said Wong. “I am fortunate to have a job where I can work with the best students, postdocs and collaborators on exciting projects at Boston University that can influence the quality of healthcare.”