Neuroengineering

Neuroengineering refers to the scientific field that studies the application of engineering knowledge to create devices of use for interacting with neural tissue.  We are fortunate to have fantastic collaborators in the Center for Bioengineering Research at UC Riverside.

Together we are developing devices that may be useful in treating brain and spinal cord injuries. In particular, our collaborative group has developed a device that can remove water in a controlled fashion from brain tissue. Cerebral edema (brain swelling), an increase in brain water content, is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality in many neurological diseases, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), stroke, infection, and brain tumors. Current treatments for cerebral edema are all indirect. Even decompressive craniectomy, removal of the skull over the edematous brain tissue, can reduce intracranial pressure, but does not directly reduce cerebral edema.

Figure 1. Concept of direct surface-contact-based osmotic treatment of cerebral edema.

For therapeutic benefit in treatment of cerebral edema, the ideal medical device would have the capacity to remove water from brain tissue in a controlled fashion and the flexibility for deployment on the surface of the brain, without requiring penetration of brain tissue or doing any harm to the underlying brain. We are developing a surface-contact-based treatment for cerebral edema. Using the concept of the osmotic pressure gradient that is generated during a transport of concentrated rejected species (such as proteins or polymers) across a semi-permeable membrane, we have constructed a prototype hollow fiber-hydrogel osmotic transport device which has the capacity to extract water from brain tissue in a controlled fashion. A great deal more preclinical testing and validation studies remain to be done to move this and other devices toward the goal of ultimate clinical use.

Figure 2. Application of the hollow fiber-hydrogel device. Inlet of fiber bundle (A), gel on tissue surface at injury location (B), and outlet for fiber bundle (C).