Research

Research in Biomedical Engineering

Since its inception, biomedical engineering research at USC has been directed to the study of the function and structure of living systems, as well as the application of engineering science to problems in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

The department’s primary faculty conduct innovative research in numerous areas of fundamental importance in biomedicine. Current research is supported by government agencies, private foundations and industries including: the National Institutes of Health (NCRR, NHLBI, NIBIB, NIA, NIMH); the National Science Foundation (Bioengineering, Integrative Biology and Neural Science); Office of Naval Research; Defense Advanced Research Project Agency; NASA; American Heart Association; American Lung Association; and the Whitaker Foundation.
The Department has also had a history of large program grants from the NIH, including a Biomedical Engineering Program Project Grant awarded in 1968, a Biomedical Engineering Center Grant awarded in 1977, and the currently active Biomedical Simulations Resource (1985) and Ultrasound Transducer Research Center (1996). Please explore our many research labs below!

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USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program

The USC Coulter Translational Research Partnership Program supports and funds translational projects that focus on applying developed technologies to solve an unmet or underserved clinical need. Project proposals at all stages of development from concept to implementation are invited for assessment, although the program does not fund discovery research (the creation of new knowledge). The USC Coulter Program supports project teams that are interdisciplinary in nature and include faculty members from the Biomedical Engineering Department in the Viterbi School of Engineering and clinical faculty from the Keck School of Medicine. 

Visit Coulter TRPP site

USC Biomedical Engineering Department Labs

The Biomedical Microsystems Laboratory at USC focuses on developing novel micro- and nanotechnologies for biomedical applications. In particular, we are interested in the integration of multiple modalities (e.g. electrical, mechanical and chemical) in miniaturized devices measuring no more than a few millimeters for use in fundamental scientific research, biomedical diagnostics and therapy.

Visit the BML website.

The BMSR is dedicated to the advancement of the state-of-the-art in biomedical systems modeling and simulation through Core and Collaborative Research projects, as well as the dissemination of this knowledge and related software through Service, Training and Dissemination activities.

Visit the BMSR website.

The BBDL is dedicated to understanding the biomechanics, neuromuscular control and clinical rehabilitation of human mobility, with an emphasis on dexterous hand function. Towards this end, we employ a synergy of experimental and theoretical techniques.

Our diverse experimental arsenal ranges from EMG recording and custom-made virtual reality modules, detailed characterization of multifinger structure and function, to mapping the function of the human brain with fMRI. These procedures in turn inform theoretical work to characterize complex sensorimotor function through rigorous and anatomically faithful mathematical models. While ultimately seeking improved clinical diagnosis and treatment procedures, we emphasize the scientific investigation of the neuromuscular biomechanics of the hand in general, and actively promote the use of this knowledge to improve the design and control of prosthetic and robotic systems.

Visit the Brain-Body Dynamics Lab website

The primary goal of the research carried out in this lab is to better understand the mechanisms that underlie complex cardiorespiratory contdynamics during sleep, using a combination of noninvasive instrumentation and computational modeling. In particular, several of our research projects currently focus on the effects of sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea on cardiovascular function. Newer projects include the investigation of the links between metabolic and autonomic control in obese patients with sleep apnea, as well as the development of noninvasive methods to predict vaso-occlusive crises in sickle-cell anemia.

Visit the CRSL website.

Under the directorship of Professor Theodore W. Berger, the Center for Neural Engineering (CNE) consists of six core departments: biological sciences, biomedical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, molecular pharmacology and toxicology, and psychology. The mission of the Center for Neural Engineering is to facilitate the development of research, training, and technology transfer programs through mechanisms that support the exchange of intellectual and technical expertise between the engineering, neuroscience and medical faculty at USC.

The CNE website is currently under reconstruction. Please check back or contact bmedept@usc.edu.

 

A unique vision-research center at USC, the focus of the Center for Vision Science and Technology (CVST) is at the interface between neuroscience, computation and technology. The technology developed at CVST has wide-ranging applications from medicine to security to space exploration. Moreover, the center advances basic brain science through interactions between experimental neuroscientists and computational researchers.

Visit the CVST website.

 

The Chung research group focuses on molecular design, nanomedicine and tissue engineering to generate biomaterial strategies to address the limitations of clinical solutions. In particular, we are interested in self-assembling micelle systems that can be designed to deliver molecular signals to report back on or influence the behavior of diseased tissue for theranostic applications. In addition, we are harnessing our expertise in combining biomimetic scaffolds with novel stem cell sources for complex regeneration of hierarchically-ordered tissues and organs. Our group is highly interdisciplinary as our research is positioned at the intersection of engineering, biology and medicine, and we work with a variety of collaborators to translate our materials towards clinical use.

Visit the Chung Lab site.

The Computational Systems Biology Laboratory (CSBL) applies mathematical modeling and systems biology approaches to develop molecular-detailed mathematical models of biological systems. The main projects in the CSBL are focused on applying computational modeling to study angiogenesis, metabolism, and immunotherapy.

Visit the CSBL site.

The vision of our laboratory is to create biologically inspired in vitro platforms, to capture the scale of cell signaling in tissue microenvironments from subcellular to tissue levels, and discover novel therapeutics for human diseases. Our integrative approaches include micro-/nano-technologies, biomaterials, biomechanics, cell/tissue engineering, single-cell technologies, and imaging techniques. Our research projects have strong underpinnings of human physiology and pathology, systems biology, and in vivo models.

The current research directions are in developing integrated techniques for subcellular biosensing and modulation of T cell activation, and creating microfabricated models of cancer microenvironments. The functional goal of our research is to translate the knowledge gained into applications for immune and cancer therapeutics, cancer biomarker/drug development, and regenerative medicine.

Visit the Shen Lab site.

To find cures for human diseases, we need reliable model systems that can be used to understand how diseases progress and to test drugs. However, existing model systems, such as rodents and conventional cell culture, have limited relevance because they fall short in recapitulating critical features of native human tissues. To address this need, we engineer micro-scale mimics of native human tissues that provide meaningful physiological outputs and are scalable for downstream applications. We focus primarily on cardiac and skeletal muscle.
To fabricate these platforms, we focus on advancing and integrating three core technologies:
1. Establishing renewable sources of differentiated human cells.
2. Engineering biomimetic cellular microenvironments.
3. Developing tools to quantify the function of engineered tissues.
We combine these technologies towards three primary applications:
1. Establishing fundamental insight into human tissue structure-function relationships.
2. Elucidating cellular mechanisms of human diseases.

3. Developing novel platforms for pre-clinical drug screening.
Visit the LLSE site.
The Medical Device Development Facility was started by Dr. Gerald Loeb when he moved to USC in 1999. It has been the home to a wide range of projects that involve feasibility studies, design, development and clinical testing of medical devices. Most of these projects are in the general field of neural engineering and many are related to sensorimotor function. The MDDF has pioneered BIONs (injectable neuromuscular stimulators and sensors) for paralyzed limbs, tactile sensors for mechatronic prostheses, and computer modeling software such as MSMS MusculoSkeletal Modeling Software and Virtual Muscle to develop and test command and control algorithms. The MDDF serves as a living laboratory for advancement and teaching of all aspects of medical device development, including design controls, quality systems, regulatory compliance and technology transfer to industry.

Visit the MDDF site.

Our vision is that every child will move and communicate successfully in order to achieve their full potential throughout life.

Our mission is to use engineering principles to understand childhood movement and to discover new treatments and enabling devices that will improve motor function in children with developmental disorders of movement.

Click here to visit the Sanger Lab.

Our projects vary greatly and entertain questions ranging from embryonic development, to genetics, to neuroscience. In each of the TIC’s varied research focuses, there is a common theme: the use of advanced imaging tools to follow events as they take place inside an intact organism.

Our technologies have allowed us to expand into the biomedical realm, where we are spearheading key projects and giving rise to important biomedical devices and treatments – in areas ranging from eye disease to cancer. As we expand our knowledge and expertise, our center is actively bridging the gap between basic science research and science-based medicine.

Visit the TIC site.

The Ultrasonic Transducer Resource Center (UTRC), directed by K. Kirk Shung, professor of biomedical engineering, is the nation’s only resource center for the development of ultrasonic transducer/array technology for medical diagnostic procedures.
 Ultrasonic research at USC is focused in two areas:
  1. Developing ultrasonic transducers/arrays in the very high frequency range, beyond 30 MHz, which will be used in opthalmology, dermatology, and vascular surgery.
  2. Use of new and more efficient materials for these devices to produce clinical images with finer detail than is now possible.
 Visit the UTRC website.
My lab focuses on the development, assessment and clinical translation of new diagnostic strategies that include functional imaging capabilities to help clinicians detect cancers with better sensitivity and specificity. These tools are directed at: 1) Improving early cancer detection during routine screening techniques and 2) Helping surgeons identify and resect tumor margins with better sensitivity and specificity. Please visit the Zavaleta lab website for more information.

Related USC Sites

The Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California (AMI-USC) is a non-profit corporation engaged in biomedical research and development. The Institute began with the vision of Mr. Alfred E. Mann, Chairman and CEO of MiniMed, Chairman and Founder of several other companies, and prominent entrepreneur in the field of biomedical technology, to establish a university-affiliated organization devoted to research, development, and commercialization of new biomedical technologies to improve human health and well-being.

Visit the AMI-USC website.