Biomedical research advances through new Australian Institute

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology (BMET) will be officially opened this evening at the University of Sydney, and will significantly advance this highly multidisciplinary research for life sciences and medicine.

Established by the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, BMET will bring together a team of around 35 researchers within the faculty dedicated to investigating core technologies that can assist in revolutionising the field of biomedical research.

Professor David Feng, Director of Research at the new Institute, says our research covers broad biomedical engineering and technology fields such as biomechanics, biomaterials and tissue engineering, biotechnology and biomolecular engineering, biomedical devices and instrumentation, and imaging visualisation and information technologies.

“With an increase in obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined with an ageing population, there is growing pressure on the medical profession. The Institute will provide significant technological and engineering support to help address these conditions, with innovations that will complement and enhance other fundamental life sciences and clinical research.”

Professor Feng says the Institute will work closely with other research centres across the University, in particular the new Charles Perkins Centre which focuses on obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“BMET will play an important role in bridging the gap between core engineering and technology research and the translation of research outcomes into clinical practice or application. For example, our researchers are developing ambulatory solutions using impedance imaging, bio-impedance and bio-potential monitoring to assist in both the rapid diagnosis and long-term monitoring of heart attacks and strokes.”

“Building on our existing links with institutes across Asia, we want to expand this unique joint interdisciplinary research network internationally,” says Professor Feng.

Professor Archie Johnston, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, says: “We believe the utilisation of innovative, modern engineering and technology is an essential element to driving biomedicine into a new frontier of discovery. Our commitment in this area also extends to our biomedical education program. For 2013, we have expanded our undergraduate program to give students a more solid foundation in biomedical engineering and life sciences as well as the ability to specialise in mechanical, mechatronic, chemical, electrical or information technology.”

Professor Andrew Ruys, Director of Education says: “The Institute’s education arm builds on the University’s research endeavours and our 15 year history in undergraduate and postgraduate education in this area. Biomedical engineering is one of the fastest growing branches of engineering. We have a large student body of over 250 undergraduate students, as well as about 100 postgraduate students.”

The current key research themes covered by BMET include the following four areas coordinated by four Research Theme Leaders:

Biomechanics, Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

Defects in the bone and cartilage can be due to osteoarthritis, fracture, cancer, infection, inflammation and congenital abnormalities. These defects are irreversible and profoundly impair bone and joint function.  Developing resorbable, biodegradable, biocompatible and nanocomposite scaffolds for joint regeneration will be an important step in relieving patient discomfort and associated trauma.

Biotechnology and Biomolecular Engineering
The production of nano and microparticles with narrow particle size distribution is playing an increasingly important role in the medical diagnosis, prevention and cure of diseases. Smaller particles provide an avenue for novel drug delivery, improve bioavailability and minimise the doses and side effects. Our research concentrates on developing advanced technology for engineering fine particles and nano carriers such as stable stimuli responsive micelles for targeted delivery of drugs, specifically anticancer.

Biomedical Devices and Instrumentation
To assist in both the rapid diagnosis and long-term monitoring of heart attacks and stroke, our researchers are developing ambulatory solutions using impedance imaging, bio-impedance and bio-potential monitoring with a particular focus on the areas of neurology, cardiology and nutrition. Impedance technologies are also being investigated to track the body composition in newborn babies to identify those at immediate risk of malnutrition and to better understand the Barker hypothesis – the possible relationship between nutrition in utero and the development of cardiovascular disease in later life.

Imaging, Visualisation and Information Technologies
Our research focuses on the core enabling technologies and their novel clinical applications to bring significant improvements in health care. For example, we are working on computer-assisted diagnosis of early dementia as well as producing cancer disease maps to extract important information from a very large biomedical image data repository that will improve personalised diagnosis and treatment of these cancers and provide new information on how some cancers spread and resist our current treatments.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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