Research Labs

Neural Engineering and Informatics Laboratory (Dr. Metin Akay and Dr. Yasemin Akay)

Brain Chip for Precision Medicine
The ability to quickly assess the effectiveness of a cancer drug would be a notable improvement over typical cancer protocols in which chemotherapy drugs are given, then tested for several months, and a patient switched to another drug if the first is ineffective. We have developed new brain cancer chip allows multiple-simultaneous drug administration, and a massive parallel testing of drug response for patients with glioblastoma (GBM). This platform could optimize the use of rare tumor samples derived from GBM patients to provide valuable insight on the tumor growth and responses to drug therapies in as little as two weeks. Further, this platform could be applied to related tissue engineering drug screening studies. (In collaboration with Jay-Jiguang Zhu, MD, director, Neuro Oncology, McGovern Medical School at UT Health.) More information can be found here: https://neurosciencenews.com/brain-cancer-chip-15503/

Effect of Maternal Substance Abuse on the Dopamine Neural Circuitry during Early Maturation
Our preliminary data suggests that dopamine neurons, in response to nicotine exposure during pregnancy, were significantly activated. We hypothesize that the impacted dopamine can result in babies being born addicted to nicotine. Once we understand which gene regulator networks, and which gene pathways are altered, we can develop targeted medication that could eliminate addiction in offspring. We believe that our research may identify new molecular or cellular pathways that can be probed for future treatments that could assist in smoking or alcohol cessation.

An Intelligent Wearable System for the Localization of Coronary Occlusions
We have developed a new and relevant approach for the early detection of coronary artery disease by detecting and analyzing diastolic heart sounds associated with turbulent blood flow in partially occluded coronary arteries. The acoustic approach differs from other more customary techniques based on the coronary artery disease symptoms. Decision parameters used in this research are independent of those used in other noninvasive techniques and may be used with the other noninvasive techniques to achieve an improved, non-invasive diagnostic capability.

Dr. Chandra Mohan Research Lab (Dr. Chandra Mohan)

Research Interests:

OMICs-driven research is exploratory in nature, and seeks to interrogate the entire molecular landscape, with the hope of uncovering key pathways or nodes that are aberrant in a disease. Comprehensive profiling using multiple “omics” platforms in our laboratory has yielded novel insights on a wide spectrum of diseases, including autoimmune diseases and cancers. Listed below are key areas of research in MOHANLAB (http://mohanlab.bme.uh.edu/research):

I. Identifying novel biomarkers using proteomics and metabolomics:

    Ia. Screening of blood, urine, stools, saliva, CSF and other body fluids for biomarker proteins, using various targeted proteomic platforms. Disease focus: Lupus, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Other Autoimmune diseases, Bladder cancer, Colorectal cancer

    Ib. Engineering higher sensitivity diagnostic platforms for the identification of low-abundance proteins, using electrochemiluminescence or other platforms

    Ic. Design of point-of-care technologies for home-monitoring of disease biomarkers

    Id. Identification of novel peptoid ligands for biologically important molecules

    Ie. Biomarker mining from big OMICS datasets using various computational algorithms

II. Defining the role of ALCAM/CD6, BANK1, bradykinins and other molecules in lupus, lupus nephritis, immune activation and inflammation

III. Imaging of end-organ disease in lupus and systemic autoimmunity, using PET-CT, optical imaging and OCT/OCE (details and collaborators are listed at http://mohanlab.bme.uh.edu/ research)

IV: Improved technologies for diagnosing lupus nephritis pathology, including urine biomarkers, machine learning algorithms, near-infrared imaging and CyTOF multi-target immunofluorescence (details and collaborators are listed at http://mohanlab.bme.uh.edu/research)

V: Emerging Pilot Projects include non-invasive skin-patch monitoring of biomarkers and drug delivery, analysis of biomarkers in breath condensates, microfluidic devices for the isolation of immune cells, targeted nanoparticle delivery of drugs, mesenchymal stem cell based therapeutics, and engineering 3D splenoids and kidney-on-a-chip platforms. Details & collaborators are listed at http://mohanlab.bme.uh.edu/research

Abidian Group (Dr. Mohammad Reza Abidian)

Abidian research group works at the interface of biomaterials and electronic devices to develop next-generation neural interfaces. Engineering these systems requires an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates aspects of polymer synthesis, micro/nano-fabrication techniques, and cell-biomaterials interactions. These electronically active devices have a broad range of applications such as controlled drug delivery, neural recording, and stimulation, neurochemical sensing, and axonal regeneration.

Current efforts are focused on the following areas:

  • Multifunctional organic-inorganic hybrid nanobiomaterials for smart targeted drug delivery to brain tumors.
  • Bioactive conducting polymer and carbon nanotubes for axonal regeneration and biotic-abiotic interface of neural prostheses.
  • Chronic, selective, and sensitive detection of neurochemicals using conducting polymer micro/nano-tubes.
The Laboratory for Retinal Molecular and Cellular Biology and Gene Therapy (Dr. Muna I. Naash and Dr. Muayyad R. Al-Ubaidi)

The research interests of the joint labs of Drs. Naash and Al-Ubaidi involve primarily the study of the mechanisms of retinal degeneration in animal models of human blinding disorders. Knockin mouse models for mutations that affect humans are generated and subjected to non-invasive functional and structural techniques to assess the rate of degeneration. Then molecular and biochemical analyses are performed on retinal samples obtained from the mouse models. These mouse models are then used to develop nanoparticle based gene therapy to ameliorate the disease phenotype. The animals models used in the labs are for retinitis pigmentosa and Usher syndrome. Another approach that has been recently introduced is the study, using metabolomics, of the metabolic changes that occur prior and during the retinal degenerative process. A student working on any of these projects would attain hands-on experience in electroretinography, optical coherence tomography, fundus imaging, as well as molecular, biochemical, cell biological and histologic techniques. Research in the Naash and Al-Ubaidi labs is funded by awards from the National Eye Institute.

Dr. Howard Gifford Research Lab (Dr. Howard Gifford)

My research in image science is devoted to medical imaging, primarily emphasizing the development, assessment, and optimization of imaging systems for detecting cancer. One branch of the work is concerned with devising reliable models for predicting the diagnostic utility of new clinical imaging technology. The second and more expansive branch of work is directed at actually applying these predictive models to design and optimize diagnostic imaging systems. Current areas of interest include gamma-ray imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and x-ray digital tomosynthesis (DT).

Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering Laboratory (Dr. Renita Horton)

CTEL focuses on developing tools and techniques to investigate heart development and cardiovascular disease mechanisms.

Approaches:

  • Microenvironmental cues
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Tissue stucture/architecture
  • Electro/chemical signals
  • Genetic and epigenetic cues
Clinical Neural Engineering Lab (Dr. Nuri Firat Ince)

The activities in my lab include a variety of basic and translational research in the rapidly growing area of neural engineering and biomedical signal processing. Areas of special interest are: neural decoding for neuroprosthetics; machine learning for neuromarker discovery in cognitive and movement disorders; development of embedded wearable wireless sensors and their integration to intelligent systems for healthcare and assisted living. In particular, we develop novel algorithms and machine learning techniques to explore neural activity recorded in clinical setting. My lab focuses on research that contributes not only to algorithm development but also to the discovery of new methods for diagnosis and therapy that can be applied in clinical practice. In this scheme, our group works closely with clinicians and researchers from diverse fields such as neuroscience, neurosurgery and neurology.

Biomedical Optics Laboratory (Dr. Kirill Larin)

The research activities in this laboratory concern the development of novel methods for  structural and functional imaging of tissues and cells (based on Optical Coherence Tomography and Optical Elastography techniques).

Dr. Elebeoba Ma​y MIDAS Research Lab (Dr. Elebeoba May)

Research interests of our group include: Development of multi-scale models and simulation of biological pathways and systems; use of simulation-based models of host-pathogen interactions to understand molecular mechanisms of pathogenesis and disease; development of integrated quantitative/empirical platforms to enable predictive modeling and simulation of host-pathogen and multicellular interactions by enabling acquisition of high-resolution kinetic, whole-cell data; the use and application of information theory, coding theory, and signal processing to the analysis of genetic regulatory mechanisms; algorithm development for computational biosensors for detection and classification of polymorphisms, microbial identification and strain classification

Blood Microfluidics Lab (Dr. Sergey Shevkoplyas)

The research in the Blood Microfluidics laboratory (Prof. Sergey Shevkoplyas) is focused on development and clinical translation of high-throughput microfluidic devices and single-cell analysis tools in the field of blood storage and transfusion medicine.  Our goal is to develop technology for eliminating mediators of toxicity from stored blood, and for separating whole blood into components for transfusion in resource-limited settings.  A significant additional thrust of our research efforts is the development of low-cost point-of-care diagnostics (e.g., for sickle cell disease).

Dr. Tianfu Wu Research Lab (Dr. Tianfu Wu)

My laboratory has the following research focus: (1) Discovery and identification of drug targets for immunological and neuropsychiatric diseases; (2) Development of next generation point-of-care diagnostics systems, including biochips, nanomaterial-based fluorescent/NIR probes, and nano-polymeric biosensors for ultrasensitive detection of disease state. The goal is to tackle the existing technological challenges in effective detection of low-abundant proteins and post-translational modified proteins in complex biological samples, especially when these proteins are critical in the pathogenesis of diseases. The development of these novel technologies will aid in early diagnostics, disease monitoring, assessment of drug responses and guiding treatment strategy; (3) Development of versatile and biocompatible nanomaterials for drug delivery to improve bioavailability, effective targeting and controlled release of drugs for chronic diseases. This includes the delivery strategy for combinatory medicine, e.g. the combination of drug/gene therapy. The goal is to tackle the problems of drug efficacy, drug resistance and side-effects commonly seen in today’s medicine.