Moving on to Bio and Better Things

By:      Ashley Duvelius
Date:   January 18, 2017

Harnessing the technology to help patients of all ages—from a developing baby in-utero to an aging senior—the biomedical engineering research efforts of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering and Applied Science have recently garnered funding totaling more than $550K combined from the National Institute of Health and Ohio Third Frontier.

Dr. Chia-Ying “James” Lin

Dr. Chia-Ying “James” Lin

Research efforts led by Dr. Chia-Ying “James” Lin at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS), in collaboration with his colleagues at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), have resulted in a significant National Institute of Health (NIH) grant as well as the prestigious CCHMC 2017 Innovation Award, funded by Ohio Third Frontier.

Dr. Lin, the Dane Miller Chair of Biomedical Engineering, Head of the Structural Tissue Evaluation and Engineering Laboratory (STEEL) and Associate Professor in the CEAS Department of Biomedical Engineering, serves as Principal Investigator (PI) for the $446,324 NIH project entitled, “Development of Hybrid Tracheas for Long-Segment Tracheal Reconstruction.”

For this research, Dr. Lin is working with Dr. John van Aalst, the division director of plastic surgery at CCHMC and the Research Director of Shriners Children’s Hospital, and Dr. Sandro de Alarcon, an otolaryngological surgeon and Director of the Center for Pediatric Voice Disorders at CCHMC.

Currently, there are no reliable clinical options for complete tracheal replacement in patients with end-stage tracheal disease. To date, engineered scaffolds have been used in trachea reconstruction and they often encounter a plethora of issues, including; inadequate length and diameter, incomplete healing that results in perforations/air leaks/strictures/infection, absence of glandular function, and the inability to grow with the patient.

Using the 3D bio-printing technique developed by the STEEL group, Dr. Lin and his PhD student, Stacey Gruber, are working to create a hybrid biomaterial trachea to replace these rigid scaffolds. The team’s proposed hybrid will have increased flexibility to adapt and grow with a patient’s anatomical dimensions along with the desired structure and function of a healthy trachea.

Additionally, Dr. Lin serves as Co-PI alongside Dr. Jose Peiro-Ibanez, MD and Edoscopic Fetal Surgery Director of the CCHMC Division of General and Thoracic Surgery, on their research project, “Shape-Memory Patch for Prenatal Spina Bifida Repair by Fetascopic Approach.”

Myelomeningocele (MMC), or spina bifida, is a devastating neurologic congenital defect in which a developing baby’s spinal cord fails to develop or close properly while in the womb. Once born, the condition cannot be cured. Fortunately, the defect can be repaired in-utero, and there is an enormous need to obtain a “smart” patch that is self-expanding, impermeable to stop the cerebral spinal fluid leak, and biodegradable to accommodate healing as the baby grows.

Drs. Lin and Peiro-Ibanez have developed a native smart patch that blends two polymers used in existing biodegradable spinal implants. The leak-proof patch possesses the desired properties of shape retention, biocompatibility, and biodegradation. In support of the team’s entrepreneurship, they received the $100K CCHMC 2017 Innovation Award, funded by Ohio Third Frontier.

MMC shape-memory patch

MMC shape-memory patch

Dr. Lin’s mentee in the CEAS STEEL Lab and biomedical engineering doctoral candidate, Rigwed Tatu, has also been working on this collaborative effort with the Cincinnati Fetal Center. Tatu presented his findings at the 15th Annual Biomaterials Symposium and won the Best Poster Award.

Tatu says, “Our translational effort aims to concurrently address the unmet clinical needs of fetoscopic repair, and have a positive impact on the life of the newborn and its family.”

The team’s CCHMC 2017 Innovation Award funding will be used to manufacture a pilot batch of the designed patch for pre-clinical trials.

Dr. Lin reflects, “Receiving the innovation award is not just a recognition for this continuous team effort. It will also help expedite the introduction of our invention to the market. The new smart patch will help advance fetoscopic approaches to become the most reliant procedure for the prenatal management of MMC. This will greatly improve the outcome of the fetoscopic MMC repair, and facilitate the paradigm shifting for the surgical care of MMC.”