“One in 190 Americans is currently living with the loss of a limb,” according to a 2008 study. “Unchecked, this number may double by the year 2050.”
According to the Center for Orthotic and Prosthetic Care, most amputations are due to complications of the vascular system (82 percent) and trauma (16 percent). Amputations of lower limbs outnumber those of upper limbs, 84 percent vs 16 percent.
Despite advances in powered, lower-limb prostheses, adoption has been surprisingly low. “One reason is the complexity of robotic prostheses,” says School of Biological Sciences Professor Young-Hui Chang. Customizing the controls to each person’s ability is time consuming and requires multiple and long visits with a clinical professional known as a prosthetist.
To address the problem, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Chang and Senior Lecturer Lee Childers a grant to figure out how to make the use of wearable lower-limb robotic prostheses much easier for patients and thereby reduce the burden on the healthcare system. “Our goal is to automate the process so that after one visit with a clinician the patient can complete the tuning automatically from home with regular use of the device,” says Chang, who leads the Comparative Neuromechanics Laboratory at Georgia Tech.
To achieve this goal, Georgia Tech will undertake research to better understand human responses to robotic prostheses. Chang and Childers, working with collaborators at the University of Alabama, aim to incorporate human movement patterns into computer algorithms to improve the walking ability of prosthesis users.
NSF has awarded Chang and Childers $599,684 over four years for their part of the research.
The University of Alabama team is led by Xiangrong Shen, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Edward S. Sazonov, a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Their NSF award is $899,799 over four years.
The vision for the two research teams, Chang says, “is a smart device that can monitor the person’s movement and automatically adjust prosthesis control to improve outcomes.”
Three College of Sciences postdocs gave outstanding presentations at the 4th Annual Georgia Tech Postdoctoral Research Symposium.
Karan Jani won the Best Talk Overall award, sponsored by the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research. Jani, a postdoc in the lab of School of Physics Professor and Center for Relativistic Astrophysics Director Deirdre Shoemaker, presented the talk, “In Search of the Goldilocks of Black Holes”
Also in the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics, Karelle Sielez is a postdoc in the group of School of Physics Professor Laura Cadonati. Sielez won the Best Poster from the College of Sciences award.
Nastassia Patin is a postdoc in the lab of School of Biological Sciences Associate Professor Frank Stewart. She won the Best Talk from the College of Sciences award for her presentation, “The Microbiome of the Georgia Aquarium Ocean Voyager Exhibit”
Following are the rest of the award-winning postdocs:
Reza Ahmadzadeh, Best Presentation from the College of Computing, “Trajectory Learning using Generalized Cylinders”
Halcyon Lawrence, Best Presentation from the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, “Potty Mouths: Examining Toxic Language in Online Gaming Environments”
Pietro Pierpaoli, Best Poster from the College of Engineering, “Quest for Connection: From Animal Cooperation to Robotic Space Exploration”
Sean Wilson, Best Talk from the College of Engineering, “Using Swarms of Simple, Inexpensive Robots to Do Complex, Valuable Tasks”
It's called common drive, and it's the way your brain sends messages to several muscles through slow oscillations as you contract them to stabilize yourself for sports or other activities. Minoru "Shino" Shinohara, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences, wanted to know more about how those nerve oscillations affect the way agonist and antagonist muscles contract against each other. He recently published his research on common drive, and he summarizes the results in this American College of Sports Medicine bulletin.
Resistance to antibiotics is "the most underestimated epidemic in the United States." That was an ominous quote from a panelist during an Association of Health Care Journalists discussion on the rise of drug-resistant superbugs. Another panelist, Joshua Weitz, professor in the School of Biological Sciences, provided some hope as he described the impact of phages, viruses that attack bacteria from within.
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a debilitating genetic disease that impairs lung function. A major consequence of the disease is establishment of chronic lung infections. Multiple bacterial species cause the infections, and the bacterial populations differ from patient to patient.
Research by School of Biological Sciences Associate Professor Sam Brown aims to understand the dynamics of the bacterial populations – or microbiomes – associated with the disease. The hope is to develop treatments targeting the specific microbiomes of individual patients.
To this end, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded Brown a grant of $300,000 for one year to develop new treatment strategies that are tailored to the individual microbiome profile of a person with cystic fibrosis. Brown is one of 25 investigators to receive funding from CDC as part of the agency’s push to combat antibiotic resistance.
The project – titled “Optimization of Therapeutic Strategies to Manage Polymicrobial CF Lung Infections: Clinical Assessment –will be carried out with co-investigator Arlene Stecenko, a cystic fibrosis expert at Emory University School of Medicine. Brown and Stecenko will track infection microbiomes in a small group of patients. They will monitor the impact of existing antibiotic treatments. They also will explore whether patients who naturally carry candidate “probiotic,” or beneficial, species are more resistant to colonization by notorious pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
“This funding takes us closer to the long-term goal of effective personalized-medicine solutions to improve the lives of people with cystic fibrosis,” says Brown, who is a researcher with the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
Open-source software, in which the source code is available for anyone to use and modify, has been around since the late 1990s. When it comes to cancer drug prediction, however, its use has been limited. A team of Georgia Tech researchers hopes to change that. Its new study, and the release of an open source, machine learning platform for cancer drug prediction, is getting the attention of healthcare media outlets such as Healthcare Analytics News and this story from Health Data Management. The study's co-authors are with the School of Biological Sciences. John McDonald is a professor and director of Tech's Integrated Cancer Research Center. Fredrik Vannberg is an assistant professor.
Yes, more than two-thirds of Earth is covered in water. But most of that ocean water is kept in the dark, and it's in those murky depths where certain microbes are believed to be trapping 15 to 45 percent of the carbon in the western North Atlantic Ocean, according to a new study. Those microbes might be found in similar amounts throughout the world. Frank Stewart, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences (with an appointment in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) did not participate in the study, but does give his take on the findings.
HealthTech focuses on the recent news that School of Biological Sciences researchers are allowing all scientists to use their new machine learning software for predicting cancer drug effectiveness. The hope is that the open source software approach, which will crowdsource research brainpower and expertise, will speed up the clinical trials process for cancer drug approval. Assistant Professor Fredrik Vannberg and Professor John McDonald contributed to the research; McDonald is also director of Tech's Integrated Cancer Research Center.
The organization known as the "world's largest general scientific society" has elected three Georgia Tech researchers as fellows for 2017. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has singled out Joshua Weitz, professor in the School of Biological Sciences; Baratunde Cola, associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; and Mary Frank Fox, ADVANCE professor in the School of Public Policy. Weitz was honored for his research on the effects of viruses on populations and ecosystems. Weitz is also an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Physics, and director of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences.
Just in time for the release of a new Star Wars movie, the Luke Skywalker references abound in these three stories based on new research from a Georgia Tech team working on more responsive prostheses for amputees. There certainly is a resemblance to Skywalker's robotic hand in the prosthesis developed by College of Design researchers, which allows users to work individual fingers and control the amount of force. It enabled Jason Barnes, a musician who lost his right hand five years ago, to once again play the piano. In addition to the Mashable story, there is coverage at Engadget and Digital Trends. Minoru Shinohara, an associate professor, and lecturer Chris Fink are part of the research team; both are with the School of Biological Sciences.