Online Degrees
Online Engineering Blog
Progress Through Innovation: Biomedical Engineering at CWRU

Progress Through Innovation: Biomedical Engineering at CWRU

Case Western Reserve University's Department of Biomedical Engineering celebrates a long history of advancement through innovation. Today, that tradition is as alive as ever.

Biomedical Breakthroughs in Nervous System Communication

Dominique Durand, the Elmer Lincoln Lindseth Professor in Biomedical Engineering, explains some of the ways he and his team are working with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Case Western Reserve to better communicate with nervous systems, collecting data that could possibly lead to medical breakthroughs in a variety of diseases. These advancements could potentially change healthcare as we know it, improving the recovery results for patients with epilepsy and paralysis.

0:00 / 0:00
Video Companion

Video Transcript

0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: We are interested in studying problems with the nervous system, and we're applying engineering tools to solve these problems. We're interested in epilepsy, and we're also interested in problems in the peripheral nervous system, such as patients with paralysis or amputation, and we're trying to design a system to recover function. One very exciting project that's happening right now is we have developed a technique that is used currently in patients, which is very promising.

0:00:30.6 Speaker 1: We've been implanting electrodes directly into the brain of patients with epilepsy, if results continue to come in positive like this, then we eventually end up with a very good method for preventing seizures. The other very exciting project that's happening now is that we've developed a new way to communicate with the very, very small nerves, particularly those of the autonomic nervous system, that is the nervous system that controls function without you knowing about it.

0:01:00.9 Speaker 1: This nervous system controls every organ in the body, and by placing very small wires that feel like individual axons, we are able to record from this very small nerve for very long periods of time. For the first time, we recorded from the vagus nerve for four months, and now we can learn about what the traffic is like inside this very important nerve. Once we learn more about the communication between the organs and the brain, then there are many, many diseases that can be helped. Such as diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias or appetite suppression.

0:01:33.5 Speaker 1: And so this access to this peripheral nervous system is crucial, and yet, that has not been achieved so far. We are collaborating with colleagues from the Material Science department, and they're designing and building very small wires made of carbon nanotubes. We are taking these wires, modifying them in some ways, and we've developed a method to implant them directly into the peripheral nerves. Because of the special properties of this material, we're able to get very good recordings with very high signal to noise ratios so we can monitor the traffic. And we can also stimulate this nervous system, these very small nerves, very easily as well.


Interested in becoming part of a world-class biomedical engineering department? Learn more about CWRU's online master's program and see if it's the right fit for you and your future.

Case Western Reserve University has engaged Everspring, a leading provider of education and technology services, to support select aspects of program delivery.