Departmental Research & Labs

Dr. Claudia Angeli

The epidural stimulation research program at the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center focuses on understanding how controlled electrical stimulation to the lumbosacral spinal cord enables the recovery of specific functions of the nervous system. The goal is to use epidural stimulation to modify the excitability of the spinal networks following a spinal cord injury. With the aid of stimulation, we can restore the capacity of the spinal cord to integrate a variety of signals from the periphery, such brain, autonomic and sensory signals, needed to promote motor and autonomic functions. We use an implantable 16-electrode array and neurostimulator to deliver stimulation parameters to very specific areas of the lumbosacral spinal cord. We then analyze the effects of varying stimulation parameters to identify spinal network hotspots and to optimize recovery. We develop rehabilitation strategies combining activity-based therapies with neuromodulation of the spinal cord to achieve recovery of function. We are a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, physicians, neuroscientists and therapists focused on evidence-based science that creates opportunities to improve the lives of those living with spinal cord injury.

Dr. Gina Bertocci

Dr. Bertocci is the Director of the Injury Risk Assessment and Prevention (iRAP) Laboratory, established i n 1997. The iRAP team is multi-disciplinary in nature, including engineers, physicians, veterinarians, and therapists who conduct research in injury biomechanics, early child abuse detection, pediatric injury, veterinary orthopedics, wheelchair accessibility and safety, rehabilitation and assistive technology. The team has combined computer simulation, test-dummy experiments and in-depth accident investigation to better understand injury riskin pediatric falls and motor vehicle crashes where passengers remain seated in their wheelchairs. Their improved understanding of injury risk in pediatric falls, a common falsely stated scenario in child abuse, has aided clinicians in distinguishing between abusive and accidental trauma. Their in-depth assessments of wheelchair transportation related incidents and practices in public transportation have led to changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act regulation. Computer modeling and simulation has also been employed by the team to evaluate canine orthopedic surgical techniques, and to gain an improved understanding of recovery following spinal cord injury. The iRAP Lab’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Programs, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Canine Health Foundation.

iRAP Laboratory

Students in Dr. Bertocci’s Rehabilitation Engineering course designed and 3D printed a mechanical prosthetic hand for Lucas. He is now able to grasp objects and can throw a ball. Each year students in Dr. Bertocci’s Rehabilitation Engineering course help those with disabilities.

Dr. Karen L. Bertocci

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires access to safe public transportation for individuals who use a wheelchair as their primary means of mobility. This requirement translates to the provision of adaptive equipment (ramps and lifts) to enter and exit vehicles, and safety equipment to secure the wheelchair and occupant during transit. Dr. K. Bertocci and the iRAP Lab team conducted two first of their kind, in-depth studies of wheelchair user safety, accessibility and usability on transit buses and paratransit vehicles using onboard video surveillance monitoring. Results revealed that injury risk associated with adaptive equipment design and usage, as well as bus driver non-compliance with ADA regulations. These findings were shared during Dr. K. Bertocci’s invited testimony to the US ACCESS Board and cited in the 2017 Americans with Disabilities Act regulation to substantiate changes to vehicle ramp requirements (36 CFR Part 1192 – Final Rule). Dr. K Bertocci is currently using her experience conducting in-depth case analysis of medico-legal documents and developing injury matrices and 2-D injury models to create a robust repository of pediatric injury data for use in developing injury probability models and conducting predicative analysis to aid improved accuracy in child abuse assessments and forensic investigations of alleged abuse.

Dr. Ayman El-Baz

Dr. El-Baz is the founder and the director of BioImaging Lab. The laboratory is located in the Lutz Hall Building. The main focus of this lab is to develop and implement innovative and ground-breaking techniques for use in image-guided surgeries and the creation of non-invasive image-based diagnostic systems, which can help to revolutionize the early diagnosis of numerous diseases and brain disorders. The research performed at the Bio- Imaging lab has achieved worldwide recognition and is helping to pave the way for upcoming cutting-edge medical systems. Our work has led to the establishment of strong and successful interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers in the Medical School at the University of Louisville, the Radiology Department at the University of Chicago, the Computer Science Department at the University of Auckland (New Zealand), and the Kidney Transplant Center at University of Mansoura (Egypt). Significant research contributions include:

  1. Development of a new image-based technology for the early diagnosis of lung cancer,
  2. Development of techniques for the early diagnosis of Autism,
  3. Development of a new technology for the early detection of Acute renal rejection,
  4. Development of a novel technology for the early diagnosis of prostate cancer using non-invasive diffusion magnetic resonance images, and
  5. Development of image based systems for the early detection of heart failure using tagged, cine, and late contrast magnetic resonance images.

Dr. Joseph Chen

The Chen lab aims to understand how physical and chemical signals embedded in the microenvironment instruct aberrant behavior of resident cells to drive the progression of diseases and disorders within the central nervous system (CNS). We take a bioengineering approach to explore these questions by fabricating engineered biomaterial platforms that recreate the disease microenvironment while also allowing for control of biophysical and biomolecular parameters that are important in driving disease processes. We then employ novel biophysical characterization techniques, traditional molecular biology assays, and microscopy to dissect these disease mechanisms. The overarching goal is to take the insights gained to aid in the development of new approaches to combat neurodegeneration in traumatic injury and limit cell infiltration in glioblastoma.

Dr. Hermann B. Frieboes

In order to study disease from a physical perspective, it is necessary to apply engineering and physical sciences approaches tightly integrated with experimental data and clinical observations. The aim is to predict disease progression from the molecular and cellular scale events, with the ultimate goal to help analyze disease behavior for specific patients. The work begins with model development that describes disease behavior in the language of mathematics and physics. Model parameter values are calibrated from experimental data. The experiments include culturing cells in the laboratory, analysis of histopathology of biopsy specimens, and measurements and observations from previous work in the literature. The effects of varying the model parameters are then studied to predict the disease behavior and to design optimal therapy. This process is iterative, with the findings used to refine the underlying model as well as to guide the experiments. This bioengineering work provides interdisciplinary exposure to the latest research and technologies in the exciting fields of cancer biology, infectious diseases, scientific computing, data visualization, mathematical biology, and physical oncology. Ongoing studies can be divided into the following scientific areas:

  1. Modeling and simulation to characterize tumor growth;
  2. Modeling and simulation of nanotherapy and immunotherapy;
  3. Study of active agent delivery and transport to treat infectious diseases;
  4. Multiscale linking of molecular- to cell- to-tissue-scale events during disease progression;
  5. Integration of modeling and experimentation to characterize treatment response.

Dr. Guruprasad Giridharan

The research foci of the Biomedical Devices Lab (BDL) include biomedical device development and testing, physiologic control systems, physiologic cell culture models, and pediatric and adult mechanical circulatory support. BDL has received patents on several biomedical devices including devices for natural orifice transendoluminal surgery, endoscopic impaction removal device, and a chronic perivascular pressure sensor. BDL, in conjunction with the advanced heart failure research group, has extensive experience and expertise in modelling; data acquisition and analysis; device hemocompatibility, safety, and reliability testing; and medical device development with industry partners. Our work has led to FDA approval and clinical translation of a number of medical devices. Current projects in BDL include:

  1. Development of acute and chronic circulatory support devices for the failing Fontan circulation,
  2. Development of physiologic microfluidic cardiac (CCCM) and endothelial cell culture models as a platform technology to study cardiovascular diseases and cancer, and
  3. Development of a left atrial appendage occlusion device.

Dr. Steven C. Koenig

The Advanced Heart Failure Research program leads active R&D labs in the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute located on the Health Sciences Campus in downtown Louisville and is 1-2 blocks from University Hospital, Kosair Children’s Hospital, Jewish Hospital, and Norton Hospital. Our labs are equipped with surgical, medical, and engineering instrumentation and imaging systems to support pre-clinical testing of innovative medical devices using novel computer simulation, mock flow loop, large animal, and human cadaver models. We conduct clinical, engineering, and scientific R&D to help clinically translate novel diagnostic tools and pioneering therapies for advanced heart failure (HF). Our broad research focus is to understand physiologic responses and remodeling of the heart, vasculature, blood, and end-organs during mechanical circulatory support (MCS) for the treatment of advanced HF to improve patient outcomes and restore quality of life. Our specific research foci are to develop control strategies that enable rotary pumps to predict and respond physiologically; elucidate mechanisms of cardiovascular remodeling; and to develop MCS HF therapies that promote myocardial recovery. AHFR investigators share bioengineering labs for MCS device development and training; electrical and mechanical fabrication; bioinstrumentation; hemodynamic data collection and analysis; and computational, blood trauma, in vitro, and in vivo testing as well as basic sciences labs and specimen biorepositories for histopathology, molecular, genetic, and immunohistochemistry preparation, assays, and analyses.

Dr. Martin O’Toole

The promise of “smart” medicines that target specific diseases while sparing healthy tissue and avoiding toxic side effects is a growing interest in bio-medical research. Additionally, the creation of tiny particles (nanoparticles) that combine the abilities of targeted drug delivery, therapeutic efficacy, and medical imaging enhancement (i.e. theranostic nanoparticles) offers the potential for a single agent that greatly simplifies clinical treatments while improving patient outcomes. In the “Nanotherapeutics Lab”, we work with clinicians, physicists, biologists and other engineers to help create advanced medicines and drug delivery systems to help realize the future of advanced medicine. From hi-tech bio-friendly coatings that prevent cataracts during eye surgery, drug-delivery particles that are designed to protect astronauts from cosmic radiation during long-term space flights, targeted nanoparticles for cancer therapy and imaging, and cutting edge diagnostic platforms for sensitive detection of the causes of pneumonia and the early stages of cancer, we strive to apply engineering principles to some of the biggest medical challenges facing society today.

Dr. Tommy J. Roussel, Jr.

The BioInstrumentation and Controls Research & Development (BICRD) Lab (Lutz 304) is involved in multi-disciplinary research including Lab-on-a-Chip devices, MEMS sensors and microfabrication, solid modeling and finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, embedded control systems, microprocessors, and analog and digital circuit design. Current research projects include the development of “PowerKids – A Locomotor Training System for Pediatric Patients with Spinal Cord Injuries, with funds provided by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation. Another project is the development of a wound irrigation system for surgery in zero gravity, sponsored by NASA. Finally, we are developing Thin-Layer Cells for Rapid, Sensitive, and Calibration-less Determination of Heavy Metals in μL Volumes using Anodic Stripping Coulometry.

Dr. Patricia S. A. Soucy

The goal of Dr. Soucy’s lab is to develop biomaterials that mimic the body’s natural environment, which can be used to encourage tissue regeneration and/or for delivering medicine throughout the body. In our body, many cells live in a three-dimensional mesh called the extracellular matrix (ECM) that is composed of proteins and other biological components. The ECM structure, composition, and mechanical properties are all critical to encouraging cell regeneration and proper function. The ability to produce ECM or a scaffold with similar properties in a laboratory would provide a better model of the body’s natural environment, increase our understanding of cell responses in that environment, and ultimately could be used to encourage regeneration of damaged or diseased tissues. The lab is also using native proteins, such as albumin, and other naturally derived materials to design nano-sized particles that will increase the body’s uptake of the drug and it’s overall effectiveness in reducing cell and tissue damage from radiation exposure, among other diseases. Different routes of delivery for the particles, such as intravenous and transdermal are being investigated.

Dr. Michael Voor

The Orthopaedic Bioengineering Laboratory was designed to evaluate the biomechanical performance of orthopaedic devices and procedures in animal models, cadaver specimens, and synthetic bone surrogates using biomechanical testing, computational finite element anlysis, and microCT scanning. Recent projects include: the development of a new intramedullary reamer for placement of fracture fixation devices; evaluating the bone quality in mice and the role of homocysteine; and exercise therapies for improved bone quality during spaceflight. The laboratory is used by medical students, engineering students, orthopaedic residents, fellows and faculty to evaluate the performance a of a wide variety of orthopaedic surgery procedures. Some of these projects include the role of screw orientation in the stability of healing fractures, the ability of novel biomaterials to augment the holding power of orthopaedic screws, and the use of novel suture anchors in the fixation of hip joint labral tears. Dr. Voor has also developed a novel bone graft substitute product that led to the formation of a successful orthopaedic company, Vivorte, Inc.