BioE research builds on the functional academic disciplines represented by 8 different participating schools or departments at Georgia Tech and focuses on integrating core areas of science and engineering, as well as selected healthcare applications.
Specific diseases that are being impacted by the research conducted in the BioE Program include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases, and neural injury, to name a few.
Current Research Areas
A biomaterial is any material, natural or man-made, that is made compatible with living tissues and performs, aids, or replaces a natural function and is used and adapted for a medical application. Biomaterials may have a benign function, such as being used for a heart valve, or may be bioactive with a more interactive functionality such as scaffolds for cell delivery and engraftment and a delivery vehicle for controlled delivery of biotherapeutics.
Biomechanics is the application of mechanical principles to biological systems, such as humans, animals, plants, organs and cells. Biomechanics is closely related to engineering, because it often uses traditional engineering sciences to analyse biological systems. Some simple applications of Newtonian mechanics and/or materials sciences can supply correct approximations to the mechanics of many biological systems. Applied mechanics, most notably mechanical engineering disciplines such as continuum mechanics, mechanism analysis, structural analysis, kinematics and dynamics play prominent roles in the study of biomechanics.
Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with structures sized between 1 to 100 nanometer in at least one dimension, and involves developing materials or devices possessing at least one dimension within that size. Quantum mechanical effects are very important at this scale.
Nanotechnology is highly diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly, from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to investigating whether we can directly control matter on the atomic scale. There is much debate on the future implications of nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in medicine, electronics, biomaterials and energy production. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials, and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.
Neuroengineering is a discipline within biomedical engineering that uses engineering techniques to understand, repair, replace, enhance, or otherwise exploit the properties of neural systems. Neural engineers are uniquely qualified to solve design problems at the interface of living neural tissue and non-living constructs. Prominent goals in the field include restoration and augmentation of human function via direct interactions between the nervous system and artificial devices.
Much current research is focused on understanding the coding and processing of information in the sensory and motor systems, quantifying how this processing is altered in the pathological state, and how it can be manipulated through interactions with artificial devices including brain-computer interfaces and neuroprosthetics.
Other research concentrates more on investigation by experimentation, including the use of neural implants connected with external technology.
Drug delivery is the method or process of administering a pharmaceutical compound to achieve a therapeutic effect in humans or animals. Drug delivery technologies are patent protected formulation technologies that modify drug release profile, absorption, distribution and elimination for the benefit of improving product efficacy and safety, as well as patient convenience and compliance.
Many medications such as peptide and protein, antibody, vaccine and gene based drugs, in general may not be delivered using these routes because they might be susceptible to enzymatic degradation or can not be absorbed into the systemic circulation efficiently due to molecular size and charge issues to be therapeutically effective. For this reason many protein and peptide drugs have to be delivered by injection or a nanoneedle array.
For example, many immunizations are based on the delivery of protein drugs and are often done by injection. Current efforts in the area of drug delivery include the development of targeted delivery in which the drug is only active in the target area of the body (for example, in cancerous tissues) and sustained release formulations in which the drug is released over a period of time in a controlled manner from a formulation. Types of sustained release formulations include liposomes, drug loaded biodegradable microspheres and drug polymer conjugates.
Stem cells offer tremendous promise for the development of regenerative therapies and establishment of fundamental models to study disease pathogenesis. However, much work remains to be done in the laboratory and the clinic to understand how to use these cells for cell-based therapies to treat disease in the context of regenerative medicine.
BioE researchers are integrating basic sciences and engineering fundamentals to address key hurdles and technological challenges currently impeding the development of stem cell therapeutics and diagnostics.
The promise of regenerative medicine is truly remarkable. Over the last two decades, significant breakthroughs in understanding within the regenerative medicine and tissue engineering fields have yielded a more intimate understanding of the functioning of human tissue. In the future, new technologies may deliver islet cells for diabetes, neural regeneration for spinal cord injuries and more substantial heart repair. In addition, as biology, bioengineering and medicine continue to converge, the regenerative medicine field may succeed in building three-dimensional organs like hearts, kidneys or livers.
Traditionally, researchers in the BioE program focus was on replacement of tissues or growing cell-based substitutes outside the body for implantation into the body. However, as the field has evolved over the last decade, researchers have broadened their approach from a focus on tissue engineering to one that includes repair and regeneration.
Projects range from creating better techniques for wound repair to peripheral nerve regeneration. In addition, BioE researchers are using advanced bioengineering methods to develop technologies that will facilitate the transfer of research in musculoskeletal biology and regenerative medicine for treatment of wounded soldiers.
New Strategic Directions
Systems biology is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on complex interactions in biological systems in order to improve the design of molecular and cell-based technologies. Instead of studying one biological component at a time, scientists use systems biology approaches to obtain, integrate and analyze complex data from multiple experimental sources to understand how molecules act together within the network of interaction that makes up life.
Science and technology are increasingly hitting the limits of approaches based on traditional disciplines, and Biology may serve as an untapped resource for design methodology, with concept-testing having occurred over millions of years of evolution. Experiencing the benefits of Nature as a source of innovative and inspiring principles encourages us to preserve and protect the natural world rather than simply to harvest its products.
Biofuel is a type of fuel which is in some way derived from biomass. The term covers solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases. Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price spikes, the need for increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and government subsidies.