Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chip to Help the Brain & Heart

Dr. Hashem Ashrafiuon, a mechanical engineering professor at Villanova University’s College of Engineering and his team are working on a computer chip that could be imbedded in an athlete’s helmet to transmit brain wave data for instant analysis by using software now under development.

The software developed by Ashrafiuon and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin and Brain Computer Interface LLC is able to analyze human brain wave data commonly known as EEG signals. The data is recorded by a single-electrode headset and is able to predict abnormalities in brain activity. This means that information given can significantly improve a concussion diagnosis using an inexpensive portable EEG medical device.

“The software can be used to help not only athletics but according to Ashrafiuon, the software can also be used to diagnose and health problem that affects brain activity. He hopes to be able to monitor brain health in patients with mild TBI, PTSD, Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and sleep and circadian disorders. At this stage of the research, Ashrafiuon’s team has validated the software in a study performed under a U.S. Army SBIR contract to specifically evaluate software to potentially diagnose PTSD.

The team’s current research findings were presented at the 2011 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Paris, France and is expected to be published at several conferences in the spring and fall of 2012. Commercialization of the software is projected for 2014.

In another university research effort at the University of California in Irvine, Ventricular Assist Devices (VAD) medical devices to assist with blood flow from a lower chamber of the heart to the rest of the body, may now be used in patients with Heart Failure (HF) to assist with their cardiac functions. Currently, VADs require direct contact with the blood, and as a result, patients need to be on antirejection and anticoagulation therapies. A VAD not requiring the patient to take additional medication may decrease complications for the patient and would also be cost effective.

Researchers at the UCI have developed a medical device to augment cardiac function during HF. The “Extra Cardiac Ventricular Assist Device” (ECVAD) operates by a different mechanism than the pulsatile or continuous flow designs that are currently used.

With the ECVAD, there is no direct contact between the device and the patient’s blood which decreases the risk of contamination of the blood and eliminates the need for certain drug therapies. In addition, the ECVAD can be implanted using minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery and can be easily removed without tissue damage to the patient.

For more information, email Grace Yee at the UCI Office of Technology Alliances.