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Hyowon Lee receives NIH and Samsung grants for work on implantable devices

Hugh Lee
Hyowon Lee, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, has received grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Samsung to support his work on next generation implantable medical devices. Lee's research focuses on implantable microdevices for neurological application.

The Samsung award of $100,000 per year is renewable for up to three years and comes from the company’s Internet of Things program which supports research to develop connected devices to benefit society. Lee’s project will focus on the development of an implantable neuromonitoring interface for use as a diagnostic tool in personalized medicine.

The implantable sensor will communicate with a mobile device to report glutamate concentration, an indicator of nervous system injuries and diseases such as spinal cord injury, brain trauma, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Current devices have a short lifespan, limited over time by the body’s natural reaction to reject or isolate foreign bodies by biofouling processes and inflammatory reactions. Lee’s magnetic microactuator and electrical chemical sensor would mechanically remove these barriers and refresh the sensor surface.

The wireless technology has been developed in collaboration with Pedro Irazoqui, the associate head of biomedical engineering and director of the Center for Implantable Devices. Also collaborating with Lee on the Samsung project is Riyi Shi, a professor of neuroscience and biomedical engineering who is also on the faculty of Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The two-year NIH award of $409,254 will support ongoing research on self-clearing catheters, focusing on an in vivo evaluation of an implantable self-clearing catheter for hydrocephalus caused by intraventricular hemorrhages. The research will look at how effective the device is in clearing debris and restoring patency to obstructed catheters.

Hydrocephalus is a debilitating neurological disorder for which there is no cure. Patients suffering from hydrocephalus require implanted shunt systems to control intracranial pressure by diverting excess cerebrospinal fluid from brain. Existing implants have a high rate of failure, with up to 50 percent of shunt systems expected to fail within two years of initial implantation.

Device failure can be caused by cellular obstruction of inlet pores on the ventricular catheter. To combat this problem, Lee and his research team are developing micro-fabricated magnetic actuators that will be integrated into shunt systems. The actuators will clear obstructions using an external magnetic field and could prolong the efficacy of the catheters for the lifetime of the user. Collaborators on the project include Tim Bentley, an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine and neurosurgeon Albert Lee of the Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center.

“The treatment for hydrocephalus and acute hemorrhagic stroke patients has been the same for decades,” Lee says. “My hope is that these devices can be integrated into existing treatment and give additional functionality to facilitate better clinical outcome. Connected devices can have a significant impact in monitoring what is happening inside the body and can be revolutionary in treating chronic neurological disease.”