Neurostimulator technology offers alternative treatment for health problems

Bruce Towe is using a combination of electricity and ultrasound to develop alternative health treatment systems.

Bruce Towe, professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, teamed up with a local physician and entrepreneur to develop a device that promises relief for people who suffer from acid reflux. The pair developed a system that powers a microchip neurostimulator using ultrasound—very high-frequency sound waves. Their patented technology eliminates the need for an implanted power source and leads.

Ultrasound applied outside the body is intercepted by a tiny microchip implanted at the site where stimulation is needed. The microchip converts the sound energy into electrical signals that are applied to the tissue.

The technology has been licensed to St. Louis-based EndoStim, Inc. The company plans to use the technology to help treat gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux.

Beyond helping control acid reflux, the technology also might be effective in reducing pain caused by physical ailments and in treating neurological disorders.

From Full Circle:Neurostimulator technology offers alternative treatment for health problems

Technology transfer: From the lab to the marketplace

Path to commercialization of new medical devices developed by ASU engineers shows university’s ability to provide technological advances that boost the economy

Fluoride toothpaste. Rocket fuel. The cancer drug Taxol. LCD displays. Seat belts. Gatorade. Penicillin.

ASU engineering faculty members Nongjian Tao and Bruce Towe

ASU engineering faculty members Nongjian Tao and Bruce Towe

What do all of these things have in common? They are certainly useful. Some of them save lives. But the one thing that connects them all is that they were developed through research at universities. Academic researchers are continually developing technologies, products and processes that improve our lives and stimulate the economy.

In 2010, researchers at Arizona State University submitted 187 invention disclosures, received 17 patents and launched four start-up companies. In addition, the university signed 63 agreements with private companies, allowing them to use and market ASU-generated technologies. Two of these recent agreements will help patients struggling with chronic health problems.

Continue reading

Acid-reflux relief

Bruce Towe, a professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, has teamed up with a local physician and entrepreneur to develop a device that promises relief for people who suffer from acid-reflux. The ultrasound-based technology, including a microchip small enough to fit into a syringe, might be effective in reducing pain caused by physical ailments and in treating neurological disorders.
From Full Circle:

Focus on photonics: Center pursues expanding field of light research

ASU’s new Center for Photonics Innovation will pursue discoveries and broaden education in the expanding field of photonics – the generation and control of nearly all forms of light. (stock.xchng photo)
New center will focus on research and education essential to advances in communications and medical technologies, computing, environmental management and more

Arizona State University’s expanding research, education and entrepreneurial endeavors in photonics engineering and science has led to formation of the Center for Photonics Innovation.

The Arizona Board of Regents recently approved establishment of the center, which will combine university research and teaching resources in electrical engineering, physics, materials science and engineering, and bioengineering.

The center’s research focuses on semiconductor photonic materials and devices and their applications. Photonics involves the generation and control of nearly all forms of light, including visible, infrared and ultraviolet light. Continue reading

ASU engineers, scientists set stage to expand sensor research

November 29, 2007

Imagine getting a phone call informing you that you are about to get sick even before you start to feel any symptoms of illness. The rapid development of sensor technology — including biosensor devices — is making such a scenario increasingly possible.

As many as 150 ASU researchers are working with sensor technology. But many remain unaware of the sensor work their colleagues are involved in, says Mark Hayes, a chemistry and biochemistry professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Concerned that the lack of communication could slow progress on promising advances, Hayes helped organize ASU’s first Sensor Symposium recently to encourage research partnerships.

“The main thing we did was make connections that will allow researchers to collaborate and contribute to projects,” he says.

Sensor research spans not only every aspect of engineering — particularly bioengineering — but other areas such as physics and health care sciences. Researchers say the technology also has the potential to help meet global environmental and economic challenges.

“The area of sensors and biosensors is so interdisciplinary,” says Bruce Towe, a professor in the Harrington Department of Bioengineering in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. “By the time you end up with all of these various fields of expertise necessary to develop just one sensor device, you have included most of the science and engineering departments.”

The October 26 symposium brought together 120 people interested in sensor research, from faculty and students to representatives from the National Science Foundation, national laboratories and industry.

Towe knows how important it is to partner with granting agencies and industry professionals. He has received grant funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for almost a decade to develop a sensor that will monitor the physical conditions of astronauts in space. The sensors enable NASA scientists to understand what’s happening to the astronauts’ bodies, right down to the molecular level.

“Think about the breadth of activity that sensors encompass. We’re going from sensors that we’re putting in space to sensors that you can put into the body,” says Towe, whose research focuses on medicinal sensors. The symposium “was about trying to stimulate peoples’ thinking that some of these ideas can apply to their research.”

Symposium participants defined the primary challenges in the sensor field and established working groups of researchers to pursue major funding opportunities during the next year for specific sensor projects.

Not everyone who attended the day-long symposium at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe deals with sensors. ASU electrical engineering graduate student Vivek Nandakumar, whose research focuses on rapid pathogen detection, just wanted to learn more about sensors.

“That is not directly related to my research, but it is good to know where exactly you fit in,” says Nandakumar. “In the future I think it would be a good thing to include them in my research.”

His response was precisely what the symposium’s organizers were hoping to hear.

The event “was completely effective,” says Towe. “We were able to get all the folks doing sensor research at ASU together talking and networking in an effort to magnify our activity, so that we can be more competitive for support from the granting agencies.”

From Full Circle: