One-on-one interaction with faculty is the norm in WPI’s collaborative and innovative lab environments.
The diverse research being conducted at WPI’s state-of-the-art facilities reflects the multiple scientific disciplines within the field of biomedical engineering. Our research operation is strategically sized and offers an open lab environment. The atmosphere is more personal, collaborative, and interdisciplinary; it facilitates close interaction between students and faculty across disciplines, no matter what their focus of study or research.
Biomedical Engineering Offers Many Paths
WPI specializes in three areas of biomedical research: Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, Biomechanics and Mechanobiology, and Bioinstrumentation and Signal Processing. Students choose the path that offers the best fit for their career goals and their interests.
Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering
Several BME researchers at WPI focus on creating biomaterials and engineered tissues for regenerative medicine and drug discovery applications. Research projects include engineered biomaterials for cell delivery and tissue repair (cardiac patches and skeletal muscle regeneration), microtissue models of normal and diseased human tissues (liver, cardiovascular, skeletal muscle and cancer), advanced biomanufacturing of cells, biomolecules, biomaterials, and tissue biofabrication. More recent interdisciplinary work focuses on the use of decellularized plant tissues as biomaterials, and exploring the plant-animal cell interface for the development of advanced biomanufacturing and tissue engineering processes.
Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
Biomechanics research at WPI focuses on measuring the effects of mechanical forces on skeletal and soft tissue remodeling, and using imaging data and computational tools to understand these effects in the context of human organ and tissue function. Projects include quantifying the effects of exercise and pathology (aging, injury and non-loading, such as in spinal cord injury) on bone remodeling and mechanics, modeling concussion injury in the brain, and applications of robotics in rehabilitative medicine and image-guided surgery. Mechanobiology research aims to understand the mechanical forces through which cells act on and respond to their environment within normal and diseased tissues (heart valve disease, cardiac repair, cancer).
Bioinstrumenation and Signal Processing
Bioinstrumentation research at WPI focuses on developing sensors for physiological monitoring (pulse oximeters, pressure ulcer sensors). Signal processing research extends to the application of quantitative microscopy and deep learning to identify cell phenotypes associated with health and disease (cancer metastasis, quality assessment for cell manufacturing). Quantitative microscopy and imaging, combined with microfabricated MEMS devices for whole organism studies (C. elegans), are being applied to enable high throughput analysis of neurobiology networks and behavior to model human neurobiology (sleep, autism).
Research Laboratories and Facilities
Biomedical Engineering research is primarily conducted in the 124,600-square-foot Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center (LSBC) located at Gateway Park. This space is largely dedicated to research laboratories that focus on non-invasive biomedical instrumentation design, signal processing, tissue biomechanics, biomaterials synthesis and characterization, myocardial regeneration, cell and molecular engineering, regenerative biosciences and tissue engineering.
The LSBC research facility also maintains a modern core equipment facility that includes cell culture, histology, imaging and mechanical testing suites to support cellular, molecular, and tissue engineering research activities.
A brief description of each BME research laboratory is given below.
- Biomedical Sensors and Bioinstrumentation: This lab investigates the development of integrated biomedical sensors for invasive and noninvasive physiological monitoring. Design and in vivo evaluation of reflective pulse oximeter sensors, microcomputer-based biomedical instrumentation, digital signal processing, wearable wireless biomedical sensors, application of optics to biomedicine, telemedicine.
- Soft Tissue Biomechanics/Tissue Engineering: Research focused on understanding the growth and development of connective tissues and on the influence of mechanical stimulation on cells in native and engineered three-dimensional constructs.
- Biomaterials/Tissue Engineering: Research focuses on understanding the interactions between cells and precisely bioengineered scaffolds that modulate cellular functions such as adhesion, migration, proliferation, differentiation, and extracellular matrix remodeling.
- Cardiovascular Regeneration: Research projects focus on regenerating functional cardiac muscle tissue. The efficacy of these technologies is tested with in vitro and in vivo models using molecular and cellular tools and the functionality is assessed using high spatial resolution mechanical and electrical method.
- Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering and Extracellular Matrix Biology: The extracellular matrix (ECM) produced by cells dictates tissue architecture and presents biochemical signals that direct cell proliferation, differentiation and migration. Generating an appropriate ECM is critical for proper physiological and mechanical performance of engineered tissues.
Taking on Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America. It was reported by the American Heart Association in 2013 that over 7 million Americans survived a heart attack resulting in 5 million Americans suffering from heart failure. After a heart attack, the heart will repair itself by replacing healthy contractile tissue with stiff scar tissue that inhibits the pumping function of the heart. As there are limited options to treat heart failure, WPI researchers have examined cell based therapies to restore function lost during a heart attack and are having much success.