More than 130 scientists and engineers convened in Rockville recently for the annual Biomedical Technology Research Centers Principal Investigator Meeting. The attendees were lead researchers at NIH-funded national resource centers, which create and disseminate unique technologies and methods at the forefront of a wide variety of fields from tissue engineering and biomedical imaging to computer science and artificial intelligence.
In addition to being powerhouses of innovation, the 56 centers—funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences—have a large impact on the biomedical research community by seeking out intensive collaborations with and serving as a resource to other laboratories across the country. Each year, nearly 7,000 biomedical researchers use technologies developed at the centers or are involved in these collaborative efforts.
“These centers are run by researchers at the top of their fields who are committed to accelerating progress in biomedical research through the development and dissemination of enabling technologies,” said Dr. Richard Conroy, who currently oversees the center grants at NIBIB.
|NIBIB director Dr. Roderic Pettigrew (c) with BTRC directors Dr. Daniel Sodickson (l) and Dr. Jonathan Wolpaw
Last year, NIBIB funded two new centers: the Center for Advanced Imaging Innovation (CAI2R) and Research, directed by Dr. Daniel Sodickson, and the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies, directed by Dr. Jonathan Wolpaw.
A primary goal of technology development at CAI2R is to reduce the duration of medical scans such as MRI. One reason MRI scans take so long is that technicians have to run multiple imaging programs during a scan based on the different types of images that a doctor orders. These programs often require the technician to stop the scanner to adjust the equipment or administer contrast dye to a patient; all of this switching keeps patients in scanners longer.
At CAI2R, engineers, physicians and industry partners are working together to develop technologies that enable rapid, continuous imaging with enough flexibility and comprehensiveness that doctors can choose the type of images they want to acquire after the scan is done.
“Long scan times are a burden to patients, doctors and technicians and they are costly to hospitals,” said Conroy. “The ability to reduce MRI scan durations would be extremely beneficial.”
At the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies, Wolpaw and his team are developing new technologies and methods that allow individuals to interact with the nervous system in real-time using brain-computer interfaces (BCI). Such technologies will increase our understanding of how the nervous system functions, enable us to guide beneficial plasticity of the nervous system to restore capabilities following injury or disease and lead to the development of effective new therapies for a wide range of devastating neurological disorders.
“This is the first NIBIB resource center to provide the latest state-of-the art technology and analysis methods for translating BCI research into widespread use by the research and clinical community,” said Conroy. “The new center is poised to have a tremendous impact, not only in accelerating rehabilitation engineering research, but also on individual patient lives.”
More information about all the centers and resources they offer can be found at www.btrportal.org.—Margot Kern