Rabin Awarded Three NIH Grants $1.26M (revised)-Mechanical Engineering - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rabin Awarded Three NIH Grants $1.26M (revised)

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is delighted to announce that Professor Yoed Rabin continues to win funding — along with global attention — for his groundbreaking innovations in low temperature biology and medicine. Rabin recently won three grants totaling $1.26 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support his efforts to improve the outcome of cryosurgery and cryopreservation. Cryosurgery is the controlled destruction of undesired tissues by freezing, where cryopreservation is the preservation of tissues at extremely low temperatures. Although in contrasting ways, controlling the formation of ice crystals is the key of success in both cryogenic applications (cryo means “ice-cold” in Greek).

During cryosurgery procedures, long probes shaped like hypodermic needles with a cooling tip are placed into cancerous tumors or other unwanted tissue, which is then destroyed by freezing. The placement of the probes, and the freezing process itself, are monitored using imaging technologies such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

In order to prevent injury during cryopreservation, special compounds are added to the tissue, known as cryoprotective agents. In combination with fast cooling, the cryoprotective agents enable controlling the formation of ice. Cryopreservation is the only way for long-term preservation of tissues and organs for the benefit of transplantation medicine. Cryopreservation also serves as an essential tool in many biology studies, ranging from the study of infectious diseases to the development of engineered tissues.

The three new NIH grants support three different areas of Rabin’s research:

  • Developing a device for visualization of large-scale cryopreservation. While ice formation is the cornerstone of tissue injury, mechanical stress in the freezing tissue, driven by thermal contraction, may lead to structural damage with fracture formation as its most dramatic effect. With the support of $430,000 from the NIH, Rabin will develop a new device for visualization of the physical effects that take place during the cryopreservation procedure, such as ice crystallization and fracture formation. The new device will be used by cryobiologists and engineers in developing new cryoprotective agents, cooling protocols, and scientific knowledge on how to improve the outcome of cryopreservation.
  • Thermal expansion of cryoprotective agents combined with synthetic ice blockers. As cryobiologists work to preserve tissues by freezing them, they must battle the effects of thermal expansion, which can cause fracture formation and structural damage. Working with Co-Investigator Michael Taylor, an Adjunct Professor with Mechanical Engineering, Rabin will use a  $400,000 NIH award to explore the potential of synthetic ice blockers—special compounds that interact directly with ice nuclei or crystals to modify their structure and/or rate of growth. Research outcomes will be integrated into computer simulations in an effort to predict the likelihood of crystallization and fracture formation.
  • Developing implantable temperature sensors for cryosurgery control. The NIH also awarded Rabin with a grant of $430,000 to support the development of miniature, wireless temperature sensors, which will be implanted into tissue to monitor the temperature field during cryosurgery. Co-Investigators on this project are Jeyanandh Paramesh, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Garry Fedder, the Director of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems. The team will focus on developing two key elements: a wireless sensor to be administered through a hypodermic needle, and a method to collect data from multiple sensors, for temperature-field reconstruction. This project uses cryosurgery of the prostate as a research model, but the developed sensors can be used in a range of high-temperature thermal-surgery applications as well (hyperthermia). Similar sensors can also be used to monitor cooling in cryopreservation protocols.

The new NIH grants represent only the most recent funding for Rabin’s leading-edge work. Earlier this year, Rabin and Professor Kenji Shimada of the Mechanical Engineering Department won a $1.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop computerized training tools that enable cryosurgeons to practice surgical technique in a virtual environment, before operating on an actual patient. Rabin and Shimada are also creating a computerized tutor to help doctors evaluate their own performance during simulated surgeries.

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