Research interests: (see details inside profile)
Office: Room 2623
My primary research interests are directed toward understanding the role of the physical interactions in mediating the growth, development and adaptation of biological tissues, organisms and living systems, with a specific focus on applications to the prevention and treatment of chronic health problems. Early studies in my laboratory were largely focused on elucidating the nature of connective tissue growth and adaptation. Studies on the response of bone tissue to exogenously induced electric fields led to an alternative view of the role of mechanical loading in influencing bone mass. Specifically, we were able to demonstrate that sustained, low-level, relatively high frequency vibrational loading is remarkably effective in maintaining bone mass in the absence of normal loading. This work has led to clinical studies addressing a potential means for the prevention of senile osteoporosis and senile sarcopenia. Most recently, these efforts have led to a better understanding of the interaction of the neuromuscular, vascular and lymphatic systems in the maintenance of bone mass.
These in vivo studies have correspondingly led to in vitro studies directed toward elucidating the underlying mechanism by which cells are capable of detecting low level physical perturbations, and in how cells utilize this local information to produce complex morphologic patterns. The primary emphasis of our current in vitro studies is on the role of electrical double layers, protein adsorption/desorption kinetics, and cell adhesion processes. This work has led to a series of investigations directed toward optimizing the surface characteristics of materials for the promotion of extracellular matrix formation, with applications in the area of tissue engineering and cancer prevention, and as well, has led to new industrial processes for enhancing the performance of polyampholyte based materials.
Correspondingly, these investigations led us to the study of gene and protein expression patterns using microarray technology. The common theme underlying these studies is the view that natural systems are inherently self-organizing complex dynamic systems, and therefore, developments in the arena of complex non-linear systems theory are of fundamental importance in understanding biological systems, as well as for developing new tools and processes for applications in health, medicine and environmental protection. To this end, we have been applying the tools of complex systems analysis to problems such as diagnostic measures of postural stability, muscle activity, adsorbed protein morphology and the analysis of gene and protein expression patterns. In each case, these modern tools have provided fresh insight into long standing problems in these respective fields and have led to what we believe are fundamental advances in our understanding of the underlying physiology.
At this point in time, a major focus of our research is on extending the concepts of complex systems analysis into the clinic, through the development of improved diagnostics and therapeutics, again, with the primary emphasis being on chronic illness. Specifically, we have ongoing programs addressing orthostatic hypotension, osteoporosis, diabetes, chronic fatigue and congestive heart failure, all conditions which we believe are coupled to failure of the "second heart" or calf skeletal muscle pumping.
The power of the complex dynamical systems approach to facilitate the translation of basic biological research problems into clinical applications has had a profound influence on my perception of what should constitute an appropriate education for bioengineers in the 21st century. As a direct result of these developmental ties between research and applications, over the past decade I have become progressively more involved in the development of bioengineering educational programs at the graduate and undergraduate level, as well as at the K-12 level. These educational efforts have led to two educational development grants from the Whitaker Foundation and one from the National Science Foundation. These have focused on the development of new MS/PhD programs in biomedical engineering, and on the development of modern undergraduate engineering curricula in bioengineering, in particular, on defining what constitutes the core knowledge base in this newly developing area of bioengineering.
Last Updated: 12/22/11