Rehabilitation & Regenerative Engineering

Rehabilitation & Regenerative Engineering

This research area focuses on: the regeneration of tissues, limbs, and organs; development of assistive technologies for rehabilitative treatment; and the application of systems engineering approaches to the patient experience from surgery through follow-up rehabilitation. The goal is to enable the development, testing, and implementation of sustainable healthcare alternatives to combat infection, tissue/organ damage, and disability/aging.

Regenerative engineering combines stem cell technology with advances in our engineering ability to create specific mechanical and biochemical microenvironments with the aim of inducing desired cell and tissue behavior. Researchers in this area seek to determine and replicate the material cues from microenvironments to spur cell differentiation and cellular growth, ultimately leading to the formation or healing of complex tissues. At LCS, we currently focus our efforts on the discovery and utilization of adaptive materials and scaffolds for engineering musculoskeletal tissue and nerve regeneration. In the near future, we envision broadening these efforts through new faculty hires and by synergistic collaborations with clinical researchers, especially to expand the capability to routinely perform experiments using in vivo animal models to test the potential of our laboratory findings in repairing/healing musculoskeletal tissue/organ damage and nerve injuries.

Rehabilitation engineering may best be described as the use of engineering disciplines to address quality of life issues associated with recovery from surgery, aging, and disabilities. Common examples include assistive technologies for individuals with disabilities related to mobility, vision, hearing, cognition, communication, and numerous other aspects of daily living. Developing or optimizing aids for these disabilities is inherently multi‐disciplinary, with many assistive technologies dependent on systems, mechanical, and electrical engineering principles with underlying medical constraints. At present, LCS faculty work with the New York State Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) program and the BBI in providing valuable counseling services to help disabled individuals make informed decisions on the acquisition of assistive vehicle technology. In the future, we will seek to establish a research program focused on the integration of regenerative medicine with rehabilitation technologies to coordinate advances in the two fields from idea conception, through translation, and into clinical and public policy implementation. A complementary objective is to pursue the opportunities offered by the field of intelligent systems engineering, a LCS strength area, to develop “smart” (affordable and adaptive to patient’s needs and environments) rehabilitation approaches. In combining these areas, we seek to take a systems approach which will comprehensively consider the patient experience from surgery to subsequent rehabilitation, sustained improvement in quality of life, and finally to the resumption of “normal” life activities.

There has been a call in recent years for coordination between the fields of regenerative medicine and rehabilitation engineering, but few institutions possess the breadth required to meaningfully pursue this goal. Our work in this area will build upon key strengths. First, our existing strengths in musculoskeletal tissue engineering, biomechanics and mechanobiology, and biomaterials will be leveraged. Second, and as importantly, LCS is uniquely positioned to assume a leadership role in this integrative area through the substantial opportunities that exist to broaden existing research and educational collaborative activities within LCS and with other colleges at SU, as well as with BBI, SBI, SUNY UMU, and the Syracuse VA. It also provides a method for connecting LCS and the biology department with the applied end of the spectrum of healthcare in a robust and productive manner. While many institutions will continue to advance the frontiers of regenerative medicine, only a few are poised to integrate those efforts with rehabilitation engineering, and LCS has a special opportunity to drive the science while also teaming more strongly with existing partners to help forge a model for the broad integration of regenerative medicine and rehabilitation engineering.

Research Areas