By Mika Perlada, graduate intern at the NJCBM
The landscape of science, research and innovation has changed dramatically over the last decade with contributions from pioneers in neuroengineering. From industry, academia and clinical medicine, work has been done across a number of disciplines to further links between these networks to develop new biotechnologies, treatments and engineered systems.
At Rutgers University, I had the privilege to attend a collaborative initiative that seeks to facilitate the development of new medical devices that have the potential to help patients who suffer from neurological disorders, sensory and motor function disorders, and spinal cord injuries. The Rutgers Neuroengineering Group (RUNEG) Industry Showcase event held at the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials (NJCBM) was attended by leaders from the academe, like Dr. Richard Edwards, university Chancellor, participants from a dynamic think-tank of passionate scientists at Rutgers, bioengineers and entrepreneurial innovators. An applied and point-of-care perspective from neurosurgeons from the Jersey Shore Medical Center also provided key insight from clinical practice and the present standard of care.
While the bioengineering solutions they presented may be diverse, spanning from the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), neuro-engineered animal models, biocompatible brain electrodes, 3D regenerative matrix templates among those; The key driving force remains. It is still figuring out how each of these contributes to a strategic approach – one that integrates the both technical and entrepreneurial skills into viable products for commercialization. It is the translation of this body of work, both its failures and successes that essentially piece together solutions with actual therapeutic impact for patients. At this point in time, there are still a number of challenges to address, such as immunological compatibility. It is also still unclear how the interactions between neurological signaling and regeneration are orchestrated, and as such a more comprehensive understanding has to be formed.
The possibilities of neuroengineering are staggering. I am thankful I had the chance to see how both the research community and industry are collaborating to enhance our understanding of neural engineering while pursuing a shared vision that ultimately can give doctors the tools and information they need to help patients all over the world. As these emerging technologies transition from the research and development phase to clinical trials, I remain hopeful that the realization of more than a decade’s work of effort combined with cutting-edge innovation can improve the quality of life for patients and those who need these therapies most.