Bioengineering - Prosthetic and Therapeutic Devices

Bioengineering - Prosthetic and Therapeutic Devices

This area draws on faculty expertise in design of implanted devices and processes for their evaluation and regulatory approval. Particular topics include the artificial heart and circulatory support devices, vascular grafts and cardiac valve prostheses, orthopaedic implants, the artificial lung, the artificial kidney, neurostimulators, cochlear implants, cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators, cardiopulmonary bypass, regulatory processes, clinical trials, and quality systems.

The Section of Artificial Organs conducts research in artificial hearts and related prosthetic and therapeutic blood pumps. Through this collaborative program, over 40 graduate students in Bioengineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and aerospace engineering have been supported. The fruits of this work include a short-term heart assist pump that has been used in thousands of patients world-wide, a fully-implanted long-term ventricular assist system that is in clinical trials in the US and Europe, and ongoing efforts to develop smaller, better, long-term total artificial hearts and heart assist pumps as alternatives to heart transplantation. Penn State remains a world leader in artificial heart research, and is working with commercial partners to develop these devices so that they can be made available to patients. Through joint research programs of this kind, Penn State can offer a unique opportunity for Bioengineering students to receive and education in the areas of technology transfer, regulatory requirements, product development, and product introduction.

The program in Biomedical Applications of Electroactive Polymers is exploring medical uses, including blood pumps, for polymers that change shape when an electric field is applied. This new approach has the potential to enable the design of prosthetic blood pumps that are more similar to the natural heart.

Biomaterials research is a important aspect of all implanted devices. Currently, research on blood pumps used for circulatory support focuses on the mechanical properties, flex life, and biodegradation of the blood-contacting polymer (segmented polyurethanes). This work involves collaboration with James Runt, Ph.D., of the Polymer Science Department at University Park, and with Chris Siedlecki, Ph.D., from the Biomedical Engineering Institute. Additionally, a collaboration with Penn State's Materials Research Institute has been formed.

The Musculoskeletal Research Laboratory conducts non-profit and industry-sponsored research aimed at improving orthopaedic devices and technologies. Ongoing projects include physical characterization and mechanical analysis of tribecular bone, testing of bone cements, and analysis of interfaces between hard tissues and implants.