Press Release

NASA BioScience and Engineering Institute Awarded to University of Michigan

By SpaceRef Editor
March 30, 2004
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To “develop
a new generation of space bioengineers” identifying the
bioengineering technologies of the future, NASA has named
the University of Michigan the sole recipient of the new
NASA BioScience and Engineering Institute (NBEI).

The $6.4 million, interdisciplinary award spans a
five-year period and may be extended for another five
years. Jim Grotberg, professor, Biomedical Engineering, is
principal investigator.

DeVon W. Griffin, PhD, technical monitor, NBEI, said that
in the past, NASA has awarded research grants “mainly aimed
at generating scholarly knowledge. With NASA’s increased
emphasis on exploration, we are changing our expectations. I
expect the NBEI to produce prototype devices based on
microfluidic and microelectronics technologies that NASA
will use to monitor human health during space exploration. I
also expect that the NBEI will generate new understanding of
the deleterious effects of spaceflight on the human body and
that the NBEI will also develop technologies to counteract
those effects.”

Institute faculty will conduct research in four theme
areas: tissue bioscience and engineering, transport
phenomena in biology and devices, molecular biophysics and
bioengineering, and bioMEMS and biomaterials. Some projects
already are underway. In addition to Biomedical Engineering,
U-M research units included are Chemical Engineering,
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Materials
Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, the Medical
School, the Dental School, Public Health, Physics, Chemistry
and Kinesiology. The Institute also will include a
curriculum component.

Research areas:

Tissue bioscience and engineering

Tissue bioscience and engineering projects will explore the
impacts of weightlessness on astronauts’ bone and muscle,
two areas where astronaut physiology is significantly
challenged. Researchers hope to deliver locally a hormone to
counter the loss of bone in space, and will examine the
influence of physical forces on bone structure. Another
project will examine how hind limb “unweighting” affects
muscle function.

Transport phenomena in biology and devices

Researchers in the transport phenomena research component
will study how the brain and lungs of astronauts function in
space. One project will simulate neural and neurovascular
changes to examine the effects of blood flow inside and
outside the brain. Liquid ventilation-“breathable
fluids”-will provide an Earth-based model to determine the
effects of zero gravity on astronaut lung function. Also,
DNA “lab on a chip” devices-pioneered at U-M in the late
’90s-are helping to analyze molecular and cellular
substances in saliva for health monitoring of astronauts.

Molecular biophysics and bioengineering

Monitoring the outcomes of specific biochemical reactions
will help NASA in its search for the possibility of life on
other planets. Molecular nanosystems will monitor astronaut
radiation exposure using noninvasive optical probes through
the eye.

BioMEMS and biomaterials

The bioMEMS and biomaterials theme will focus on the design
and evaluation of a novel type of minimally invasive medical
device for integrated physiological and environmental
sensing. The long-term goal is to develop a “skin-patch”
type of polymer integrated microsystem that has an interface
to the body for physiological sensing (e.g., biopotentials)
and an interface to the external environment for
environmental monitoring (e.g., air quality).

The U-M proposal reflected the rare combination of
research talent, interdisciplinary study and large-scale
research environment offered by the College and the
University. U-M competed among nearly two dozen proposals
from 40 top institutions.

The Institute will be under the auspices of the NASA
Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.


Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the University
of Michigan College of Engineering is consistently ranked
among the top engineering schools in the world. The College
is composed of 11 academic departments: aerospace
engineering; atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences;
biomedical engineering; chemical engineering; civil and
environmental engineering; electrical engineering and
computer science; industrial and operations engineering;
materials science and engineering; mechanical engineering;
naval architecture and marine engineering; and nuclear
engineering and radiological sciences. Each year the college
enrolls over 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students and
grants about 1,200 undergraduate degrees and 800 masters and
doctoral degrees. To learn more, please visit our Web site

SpaceRef staff editor.