Funded Projects

Fast and Automatic Reconstruction of High Frame-Rate Cardiac Magnetic Resonance

Daniel Weller, Asst. Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), Christopher Kramer, Prof. Medicine – Cardiovascular Medicine and Radiology (SOM), Michael Salerno, Assoc. Prof., Medicine – Cardiovascular Medicine (SOM)

Heart disease accounts for a large fraction of deaths and hospitalizations in the United States. Emerging new cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) techniques have the potential to improve both diagnosis and management of heart disease, but these new techniques often require intensive data processing that delays scan results and discourages routine clinical use. 

In this project, engineers from UVA’s Department for Electrical and Computer Engineering and doctors from UVA’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and Radiology will collaborate to develop and test fast, automated algorithms for processing high-resolution CMR. The ultimate goal of their work is to enable the widespread use of sophisticated imaging techniques that are currently only available at academic centers such at UVA.


In situ Bioengineering of Scar Formation after Myocardial Infarction

Brent French, Prof. Biomedical Engineering (SOM), Jeff Saucerman, Assoc. Prof. Biomedical Engineering (SOM), Matthew Wolf, Assoc. Prof. Medicine – Cardiovascular Medicine (SOM)

Myocardial infarction (MI), or heart attack, occurs in approximately 800,000 people in the United States every year. One of the most successful therapies following a heart attack is called reperfusion therapy, which brings blood flow back to the region of the heart that has been injured by MI. Besides restoring blood flow to oxygen-starved heart muscle, reperfusion also improves clinical outcomes by expediting the replacement of dead heart muscle with scar tissue after MI.

In this project, bioengineers from UVA’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and a cardiologist from UVA’s Department of Medicine will take a highly innovative approach that harnesses two technologies developed at UVA to design and test new therapies to further improve the wound healing response in the heart after MI. The team will use computational models of the complex biology of cardiac fibroblasts to identify specific proteins inside those cells that might be modulated to improve the healing response, and then test their predictions by using viral gene delivery to regulate the levels of those proteins in animal models. 


Airflow-powered Implantables for Batteryless Monitoring of Respiratory Health

Daniel Quinn, Asst. Prof. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SEAS), John Lach, Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), Larry Borish, Prof., Medicine – Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (SOM)

One of the biggest challenges of treating patients with asthma is in identifying an exacerbation before an Emergency Department visit or hospitalization is required. About 5% of asthmatic patients have frequent and severe exacerbations, which feel like sudden chest tightness and sometimes lead to respiratory arrest. Most early detection mechanisms require supervised monitoring in a controlled setting or with bulky instruments. This project proposes to explore the feasibility of an implanted sensor to internally monitor airflow in asthmatics.  

The collaborators from UVA’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and UVA’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology will explore the mechanical, electrical and clinical questions around an implanted sensor that would both sense airflow in the trachea (the large airway that connects the lungs to the mouth and nose) and harvest energy from that airflow so that no batteries are required.


Leveraging mHealth and Wireless Sensing to Empower Patients and Family Caregivers in the Safe and Effective Management of Cancer Pain

Virginia LeBaron, Asst. Prof. Nursing (SON), John Lach, Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), Leslie Blackhall, Prof., Medicine – General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine (SOM)

Despite many years of ongoing efforts to improve pain management, pain remains a significant problem with cancer care – patients fear dying in pain and family caregivers fear watching their love ones suffer. Poorly managed cancer pain can negatively affect sleep, treatment adherence, mood and quality of life for both the patient and their caregivers. Medications used to control cancer pain are also at the center of the well-publicized national opioid epidemic, creating uncertainty about when and how to use them. Therefore, it is essential for patients and their caregivers to have the support and tools they need to safely and effectively manage pain at home. 

In this project, collaborators from the UVA School of Nursing, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Division of General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine will use in-home mobile, wireless sensing technology developed at UVA to better understand the behavioral and environmental factors that predict pain in cancer patients and their caregivers’ experience of burden. The study will include patient and family caregivers for input in the design of the solution as well as in the deployment and data collection phases. This project will also promote cross-pollination of ideas among UVA’s Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Engineering by embedding an engineering graduate student in the UVA Cancer Center and a nursing graduate student in a research laboratory in Electrical and Computer Engineering.


Computational Imaging to Predict Intestinal Mucosal Alterations in Children in Virginia

Sana Syed, Asst. Prof. Pediatrics (SOM), Don Brown, Prof. Systems and Information Engineering (SEAS)

Undernutrition in children can lead to permanent physical and cognitive damage or even death. It affects 20% of children under the age of 5 in low- and middle-income countries, but is also a problem in Virginia, where the percentage of babies with low birth is higher than the national average, even though the percentage of children living in poverty is less than that of the nation. It turns out that the amount of food children eat may not be the only important factor. With funding from the Gates Foundation, scientists at UVA are finding that gastrointestinal infections can also limit the ability of children to process food and absorb nutrients.  

In this project, collaborators from UVA’s Department of Pediatric Gatroenterology and Department of Systems and Information Engineering will develop better methods to identify children who can’t absorb nutrients effectively, so they can be treated. These methods have the potential to improve pediatric nutrition and growth in Virginia and beyond. 

Using mobile technology to monitor and treat depression and anxiety symptoms in caregivers of cancer patients

Philip Chow, Asst. Prof. Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences (SOM), Matt Gerber, Asst. Prof. Systems and Information Engineering (SEAS), Shayna Showalter, Asst. Prof., Surgery (SOM)
Wendy Cohn, Assoc. Prof., Public Health Sciences (SOM)
Cancer affects not only patients, but also those who care for them, including relatives, friends, and partners. Remarkably, cancer caregivers have higher levels of depression and anxiety than the patients they care for, yet their distress is less widely recognized and seldom addressed. This project builds on recent evidence that brief interventions delivered by smartphone can help improve depression and anxiety.
Collaborators from the UVA Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, Department of Surgery, Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Systems and Information Engineering have developed smartphone-based methods for monitoring mental distress. In partnership with the UVA Cancer Center, they will connect this work with state-of-the art smartphone interventions adapted for cancer caregivers.


A Novel Analgesic Device for Pain Management

Xudong (Josh) Li, Assoc. Prof. Orthopaedic Surgery (SOM), Baoxing Xu, Asst. Prof. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SEAS)

Pain management is an area of high national importance, as adequately managed postoperative pain not only improves patient satisfaction and quality of life, but it helps with earlier mobilization after procedures, shortens hospital stays and reduces costs. Unfortunately, the widespread use of opioid-based drugs for treatment of acute or chronic pain associated with injuries and surgeries has led to a staggering rise in opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths.

This partnership between the UVA Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will develop and test high-tech drug delivery patches that can be applied to the skin to deliver medications locally at the site of pain rather than systemically, reducing the potential for side effects and addiction. This work builds on expertise at UVA in designing ultra-thin, flexible sensors and circuits that can be applied directly to the skin.


Development, Implementation, and Demonstration of a Robotic Gait Simulator

Jason Kerrigan (SEAS‐MAE), Joseph Park (SoM‐Ortho), Truitt Cooper (SoM‐Ortho), Venkat Perumal (SoMOrtho), Richard Kent (SEAS‐MAE), Silvia Blemker (SEAS‐BME)

As the population ages, the incidence of arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders is increasing, generating a need for new and better treatments to relieve pain and restore mobility. While joint replacements now successfully address many cases of arthritis in hips and knees, it has proven more challenging to develop successful replacements and other treatments for the ankles and feet.

In this project, mechanical engineers at the Center for Applied Biomechanics (CAB) and surgeons from UVA’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will collaborate to develop, implement, and demonstrate the use of a new research capability at UVA: a robotic gait simulator. A robotic gait simulator is a combination of software and hardware that allows researchers to simulate realistic physiological foot and ankle biomechanics while measuring forces, pressures, motions, and deformations of different structures that cannot be accurately measured in patients.

The CAB robotic system will provide a platform to study the complex structure/function relationships in the foot and ankle, allowing researchers to simulate surgical interventions and repairs, better understand mechanisms of injury and pathology of disease, and evaluate novel designs for engineered replacements. This collaborative project will place UVA at the forefront of experimental biomechanics as one of only a handful of institutions that can perform these realisitc robotic tests.