Friday September 8, 2006

Hot Fields of Bioscience and Bioengineering

The University of Dayton is moving forward on initiatives that will help position it as an international leader in the fields of bioengineering and bioscience with new curriculum, a new research center and a research alliance with a leading hospital.

On deck are plans for a new master's degree in bioengineering, the emergence of a Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering at Dayton or TREND, and a research alliance with the Kettering Medical Center Network (KMCN).

These initiatives will enable UD to compete for sponsored research that is expected to attract $1.36 billion in federal funding this year, according to the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

"The University of Dayton has made a strategic decision to be more aggressive in bioengineering and biosciences," said Daniel J. Curran, president of UD. "These initiatives will lend structure and focus to the University's goal of supporting interdisciplinary research and education efforts. Our partnership with the Kettering Medical Center Network will strengthen the region's impact in this scientific arena."

The research alliance between the KMCN and UD will focus on enhancing current and developing new medical technology that will benefit doctors and patients.

"We have formulated a bridge between these two great institutions," said Gary Lustgarten, network director for corporate development at KMCN. "This collaboration continues Charles F. Kettering's vision for providing the best and most innovative medical care to this community. Utilizing UD, along with the Wallace Kettering Neuroscience Institute at KMCN, we'll explore nanotechnology as it relates to neuro and biomedical sciences. The direction is extremely positive."

"We're very excited about this collaboration," said Mickey McCabe, vice president for research at UD. "It will bring together developers and users of medical technology in research efforts that have practical applications."

The proposed master's degree in bioengineering will involve a dual track from the sciences and engineering. Administrators hope curriculum for the degree will be in place by January of 2008, following Ohio Board of Regents' approval.

"The 21st century will be all about bioscience and bioengineering," said Joseph Saliba, dean of the School of Engineering. "This effort will better prepare our students and faculty to engage in transforming and improving the quality of our lives and in making a difference in this world."

Mary Morton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the upcoming decades will see an explosion of biological- and biomedical-based challenges that will best be addressed across many disciplines.

"Bioscience and bioengineering are two broad categories of inquiry to which engineers, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, biologists, psychologists and computer scientists all contribute to address fundamental questions and societal needs," Morton said.

The University is committed to advancing the understanding of bioscience and bioengineering in order to turn out more graduates who can make significant contributions in the chemical, pharmaceutical and medical industries. The Center for Tissue Regeneration and Engineering at Dayton (TREND) is a prime example of UD's multidisciplinary approach.

TREND will be one of only two such centers in Ohio. The other is located at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Initially, TREND will receive funding from several internal departments at the University, and then it will be sustained by research contracts.

"The research fields of bioengineering and regenerative medicine are growing rapidly, and the University has an excellent opportunity to become very competitive in this area of research," said Panagiotis Tsonis, director of TREND and an internationally renowned researcher in limb regeneration.

TREND research already is well under way. Researchers are examining the suitability of several materials for bone replacement and their reaction with cell repair, as well as studying the regeneration of hair cells in the inner ear to counteract hearing loss, a collaborative effort with the Wright State University School of Medicine. The military has strong interest in this research because noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the military is reaching epidemic proportions.

Another project is lens and limb regeneration research being conducted by Tsonis, who has made significant strides through more than 10 years of research funded by the National Institutes of Health. Tsonis and his research team were the first to manipulate key genes in the ventral iris of a salamander to regenerate a new lens, which could dramatically reduce the need for cataract procedures. The research was published in Nature at the end of 2005.

Administrators hope that continued research of this caliber will attract outside sponsorship of TREND's work, which will mean growth in the number of researchers as well as the potential for new facilities and equipment on campus.

For more information, contact Mickey McCabe at (937) 229-2113 or mickey.mccabe@udri.udayton.edu, Panagiotis Tsonis at (937) 229-2579 or panagiotis.tsonis@notes.udayton.edu or Gary Lustgarten at (937) 395-8157.