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Posted: March 31, 2008

Brown hosts regional bioengineering conference

(Nanowerk News) Leading academics and practitioners from the northeast United States will discuss the latest advances in bioengineering research and nanotechnology – such as the “printing” of human organs from ink jets and a new, injectable method for relieving lower back pain – at a conference hosted by Brown University April 4-6, 2008.
It is the first time that Brown has hosted the annual Northeast Bioengineering Conference, which will take place at various sites on campus. The program schedule, speakers and other information can be found at http://www.nebec.org/index.htm
Conference organizer Thomas Webster, associate professor of engineering and the orthopaedics at Brown, said the conference is about the science.
“What are the challenges that face us in 2008 in bioengineering? What are the yet unexplored promises in bioengineering? A number of exceptional researchers from around the world will provide many insights into the future of bioengineering,” Webster said.
Among the highlights at the conference are:
A presentation by Gavin Braithwaite, a vice president of research at the Cambridge Polymer Group in Boston, on a new method for relieving lower back pain.
Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States – only headache is more common, according to the National Institutes of Health. The NIH also reports that back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work, causing Americans to spend at least $50 billion each year on treatment.
Braithwaite’s research involves injecting a liquid into the nucleus polposus, the gelatinous inner section of the spinal disc responsible for bearing weight and determining the spine’s motion. The injected liquid transforms into a solid in minutes without chemical reaction, creating a synthetic cushion that has the same effect the body provides naturally.
Braithwaite will present results from short-term animal studies and lab experiments.
A presentation by Paul Calvert, a professor in the Materials and Textile Department at the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth, on “printing” human organs.
Science fiction? It may not be too far off. That’s because Calvert has succeeded in the ink jet printing of stem cells and proteins, the fundamental building blocks of organisms and the primary constituents of hair, tendons, muscle, skin, and cartilage.
The stem cells that Calvert has printed have been undamaged and have high survival rates, he will report. The next step is to build tissue samples for implant or testing, and the ultimate goal will be to use the technology to print human organs.
A presentation by Srinivas Sridhar, vice provost for research and chair of the Physics Department at Northeastern University, on the emerging field of nanomedicine.
Nanomedicine is the application of nanotechnology – the engineering of tiny machines – to prevent and treat disease in the human body.
In his presentation, Sridhar will give an overview of sorts, explaining how nanomedicine “seeks to exploit a timely convergence of two parallel recent developments toward the diagnosis and therapy of disease – the decoding of the human genome that has led to greater understanding of the molecular basis of diseases, and nanotechology, which offers the means to control single molecular interactions.”
Sridhar also serves as director of Nanomedicine Science and Technology, a program funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Science Foundation.
Source: Brown University