Assistive technology encompasses a wide range of specialized, as well as, mainstream technologies used by and for persons with disabilities and the elderly. This emphasis area is focused on researching, developing and testing technologies designed to improve human function and quality of life. Students interested in state-of-the-art, applied clinical technology can find a range of experts in the Assistive Technology Program in the Department of Bioengineering.
Biomedical device design emphasizes highly nontraditional work. Its primary goal is the commercialization of a novel biomedical technology, device or application. Students pursuing a degree with this emphasis will select elective coursework focused on product development and/or biodesign and will work with both clinical and research faculty in the development of their culminating project or thesis.
Work in cardiovascular biomechanics and Hemodynamics combines high-framerate clinical imaging modalities (echocardiography, magnetic resonance imaging), numerical methods and analysis, and cardiovascular physiology to better diagnose and prognose cardiovascular disease. Researchers in this emphasis have developed new clinical diagnostics such as in-vivo assessment of vascular stiffness, a minimally invasive approach to determining vascular input impedance, and non-CFD based measurement of ventricular and vascular flow fields and their spatial gradients (providing shear stress and vorticity). Students interested in working in cardiovascular biomechanics and hemodynamics have the opportunity to interact with clinicians and improve their understanding of clinical medicine, develop mathematical or in-vitro models for the development of new diagnostic methods, analyze clinical data, and potentially design new devices for diagnosis and therapy.
Cell and tissue biophysics employs numerical modeling, quantitive imaging of biochemical signaling dynamics and optogenetics to understand emergent multicellular properties of the islets of Langerhans; clusters of neuroendocrine cells that are critical for the regulation of nutrient handling. The Jacot Lab for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine investigates mechanotransduction at the cellular level to understand the development of heart structure.
In the Department of Bioengineering our work is inherently translational. We work with clinicians to bring engineering analysis into the clinical workflow for diagnosis and prognosis of many different diseases. We design, develop and fabricate using 3D printing resources (both metal and plastic), mechanical and mechatronic prosthetic components for persons with upper-limb loss. We work in collaboration with physicians to translate our discoveries in pulmonary biomechanics fluid and solid dynamics into clinical practice. We engineer rodent models with genetic, pharmacologic, and immune-based modulations and develop 3D cell culture models that mimic the lung. We are working to clinically apply novel ultrasound imaging diagnostics to monitor the progression and therapeutic reversal of type 1 diabetes progression. We collaborate with physicians and surgeons to develop translatable stem cell based technologies for the treatment of heart defects and other birth defects. These are just some of the exciting areas of patient care our department is involved with.
Entrepreneurship and regulatory affairs focuses on developing skills and knowledge needed to commercialize medical technologies. Bioengineering faculty and students have started up more than 10 companies based on technologies created in their research labs.
Students work closely with clinical, engineering, business and regulatory experts to evaluate new ideas for commercialization, develop business plans and investor pitches, learn how to write Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and other grants, work with local hospitals to understand the economics of reimbursement, device pricing and value justification, and delve deeply into all aspects of pre-clinical testing.
Students interested in pursuing a career in regulatory affairs can deepen their didactic learning by conducting regulatory reviews and writing FDA proposals for new technologies as part of their master’s projects.
Research in imaging and biophotonics develops and applies a number of advanced microscopy approaches, including two-photon microscopy and multiplexed Ramen imaging, to study multi-cellular signaling dynamics and population diversity within intact tissues. Some investigators in the bioengineering department are working on the development of optical devices for neuromodulation and recording in the brain. Tagged and 4D MRI are among some of the tools used.
Neural engineering encompasses technologies that interface with the central or peripheral nervous systems. These technologies include electrical and optical interfaces that can stimulate and record neural activity. Development of novel devices that can record activity of large numbers of neurons with increasing specificity are a focus of current bioengineering research. Some of the studies in our department are geared to increase our understanding of the brain and peripheral nervous systems and to explore novel methods of neuromodulation for electroceutical applications and superior prosthesis control.
Orthopaedics encompasses the study and treatment of the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine, joints, and muscles. Orthopaedics deals mainly with correction of disorders and deformities related to the musculoskeletal system. Biomechanics is the study of the structure and function of the mechanical aspects of biological systems, at any level from whole organisms to organs, cells and cell organelles, using the method of mechanics. Biomechanics are widely used in orthopaedics in the study of the biomechanical properties of bone; the design of orthopaedic implants for human joint replacements; dental implants; internal and external fixation devices; the study of gait and its pathologies; and other medical purposes.
Prosthetics is the study and design of artificial replacement body parts, such as a hand, arm or leg replacement for individuals with limb absences either from a congenital deficiency or an acquired loss through trauma or elective surgery. Our research covers all aspects of the problem ranging from neural control and sensing, mechatronic design and development, novel actuator technologies and clinical deployment of these systems. We are about designing and building physical prosthesis systems.
Polymers are macromolecules consisting of many monomer units. Using intrinsic properties of the different monomer units, we can synthesize custom-designed polymeric biomaterials that closely mimic physiological cues of natural polymers. Students choosing an emphasis in this area will 1) learn design, synthesis and characterization of polymeric biomaterials; 2) obtain advanced techniques to further process the polymeric biomaterials into nano/micro particles, hydrogels, nanofibers, artificial vascular graft and nerve guidance conduit, etc.; and 3) learn how to improve materials properties to meet fundamental design concept for biomedical applications such as harmonization with the host cell environment and creation of a growth-permissive environment.
Pulmonary biomechanics emphasizes the coupling of numerical methods, physiology and imaging in order to understand the fluid-mechanical forces that govern the pathogenesis of lung disease and develop diagnostics devices for clinical use. Students focusing in this area will work on a project or thesis ranging from alveolar biomechanics to the development of clinical devices to monitor lung function or algorithms to control mechanical ventilation. Research will be conducted in collaboration with research and clinical faculty and may include computational modeling, benchtop research, and device design.
Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine stems from research into the interactions of stem cells and biomaterials to create laboratory-grown organs and therapies for natural regeneration to treat various applications. Bioengineering researchers at CU Denver are using tissue engineering and regenerative medicine methods to grow heart tissue for repair of congenital heart defects, repair damaged hearts after myocardial infarction, repair growth plate damage in bones, repair spina bifida defects, understand how smoke damages the lungs, grow tissue engineered skin and develop models of lung tissue in a laboratory. We are also working in cardiovascular and neural tissue regeneration.