Neurotechnology is an emerging field with the potential to be as revolutionary as digital electronics and information technologies. It brings together basic science, engineering, computer science and translational/clinical research to achieve its goals of evaluating and treating disorders of the nervous system and developing new innovative technologies to restore lost function. The innovations in this field will impact a wide range, from advanced human neural prosthetics and brain-controlled autonomous robots to novel intelligent implantable technologies to treat and diagnose diseases such as epilepsy, or external devices to promote recovery from stroke, to new paradigms in computing and information processing that emulate human brain function. Neurotechnologies, at the frontier crossing of science, engineering and medicine, offer the potential of catalyzing major scientific and medical advances in the 21st century.
Biosensors and Bioplatforms
Miniaturization of highly complex sensors and actuators, greatly increased knowledge of biomaterials and micro-fluidics, more efficient powering and high powered micro-scale electronics have given rise to a new generation of biomedical devices that can transform the diagnosis and treatment of a range of clinical conditions and restore lost functions. Research in this area involves the development of bedside diagnostic devices, micro-miniaturized on-chip implants, high speed information processing, and novel materials technology. This new generation of medical device technologies are applicable to a range of clinical disciplines including global health, emergency medicine, infectious disease, surgery, cardiovascular research, pathobiology, neurology and orthopedics and are likely to fundamentally alter the definition of modern health care.
Quantitative principles of mechanics are being applied across a range of length scales from neuro-musculoskeletal function to the movement of single biological molecules in order to answer both fundamental questions as well as questions relevant to clinical care. For example, motion analyses, such as gait analysis, generate quantitative information on neuro-musculoskeletal function critical to understanding disease pathophysiology, or sports medicine as well as treatment interventions. With recent technological advances, motion sciences/biomechanics is finding new translational opportunities such as prosthesis design or the use of virtual reality to aid rehabilitation. At the molecular and cellular, motion sciences/biomechanics are using new sophisticated tools to measure the forces and kinematics of molecules and cells and how these entities facilitate such fundamental processes as cell migration or contribute to diseases such as arthritis.
Tissue Engineering/Regenerative Medicine
Regenerative medicine embodies tissue engineering and artificial organs and touches on essentially all medical specialties from cardiology through obstetrics, cancer, trauma and others. The ability to regenerate or replace with biological substitutes tissue that has been lost to injury or disease is one of the great medical challenges of the 21st century. Efforts in tissue engineering are using biomaterials, living cells, nanomaterials, degradable polymers, stem cells, and growth factors to restore damaged myocardium, provide new solutions to infertility, novel tissue platforms for drug delivery, substitutes for secretory organs, neuroplasticity and nerve grafting, and reconstitution of the musculoskeletal system to name a few. These efforts require a congruence of effort from multiple disciplines including cell/developmental biology, materials science, molecular biology, polymer chemistry, experimental surgery, and clinical medicine.