Six profs attract National Institutes of Health grants for wide-ranging research

David Merryman is one of six engineering professors who earned R01 grants for their research. (Vanderbilt University)

Five biomedical engineering professors and an electrical engineering and computer science professor are celebrating news about newly approved or resubmitted Research Project Grants (R01) from the Nationals Institutes of Health.

With the grants, their teams – in collaboration with Vanderbilt University Medical Center — are performing groundbreaking research in areas as diverse as percutaneous heart surgery, advanced diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging and custom programming for cochlear implant recipients.

Here are the details.

Brett Byram, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is addressing the failure rate in clinical ultrasound imaging, which can lead to multiple attempts at biopsies for diagnostic samples of lesions. Byram’s team is developing an advanced ultrasound image-formation method that models several mechanisms that cause degradation and then removes their effects – specifically, the problem of ultrasound waves reflecting off multiple structures before the image is produced. Their focus is on ultrasound biopsy guidance in the liver, but they believe it is applicable to ultrasound imaging in general. (1R01EB020040-01A1, $1.3 million over four years)

Benoit Dawant, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, professor of electrical and biomedical engineering, professor of radiology and radiological sciences and director of the Vanderbilt Institute in Surgery and Engineering, and his medical center collaborators are developing a series of image-processing algorithms for CT images, allowing clinicians to see the position of individual cochlear implant electrodes with respect to the nerves they activate. His team’s newly developed Image-Guided Cochlear Implant Programming strategy sometimes dramatically improves hearing in long-term cochlear implant users without requiring an additional surgery. The team wants to automate the algorithms and develop software packages for clinicians. (1R01DC014462-01A1, $2.9 million over five years)

Mark Does, professor of biomedical engineering, professor of radiology and radiological sciences, professor of electrical engineering, director of graduate studies in biomedical engineering, is developing new kinds of magnetic resonance imaging tools that allow researchers to see and characterize neuronal microstructures in small animals. He proposes to map normal and abnormal rat and mouse brains and study the histology of white matter regions and develop and disseminate the resulting new, state-of-the-art MRI methods and mapping software for those. (1R01EB019980-01A1, $1.8 million over four years)

Craig Duvall, associate professor and director of graduate recruiting in biomedical engineering, is addressing the failure rate in coronary artery bypass grafting with autologous human saphenous vein by inhibiting the signaling molecule MAPKAP kinase II. Duvall has designed a polymer-based nanoplex that overcomes endosomal barriers to delivering the peptidic MK2 inhibitor and identified a key window for the treatment. With the grant, his team will learn details about how the nanoplex works and then test it for inhibiting intimal hyperplasia in advanced preclinical models. (1R01HL122347-01A1, $1.6 million over four years)

Bennett Landman, associate professor of electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, biomedical engineering and radiology and radiological sciences, is sorting out the theoretical challenges to using diffusion weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI) to understand complex regions of the brain. Doing so would allow clinicians more ease in diagnosing problems and developing useful biomarkers. He intends to perform extensive studies of DW-MRI metrics plus scan-rescan data – differences between initial and follow-up MRIs – and release the results, plus analysis software. (1R01EB017230-01A1, $2.5 million over four years)

David Merryman, associate professor of biomedical engineering, pharmacology, medicine, pediatrics and association chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is helping develop percutaneous treatment for heart valve disease in elderly patients. He’s creating an imaging strategy for an integrated catheter to reduce the size of mitral valve leaflets by steadying them and then ablating them with radiofrequency energy.  The key in this step of development is providing real-time information about MV geometry and hemodynamics to clinicians through ultrasound imaging. (1R01HL128715-01, $1.5 million over four years)

The Research Project Grant is the original and historically oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. The R01 provides support for health-related research and development based on the mission of the NIH.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
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