University Launches $20 Million Innovate@BU Initiative for Students

November 29th, 2017in News Releases

Robert A Brown, University President is launching a University-wide initiative to give all BU students opportunities to learn and engage in creative problem solving and hands-on innovation.The new initiative is called Innovate@BU. It will be located in a 6,000-square-foot student hub called the BUild Lab: IDG Capital Student Innovation Center, expected to open in January. Brown has appointed Gerald Fine, a College of Engineering professor of the practice of mechanical engineering, as executive director. Read the full article on Innovate@BU here.

BU Arts Initiative Welcomes Three Artists for Residency

October 11th, 2017in 2017, News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 31, 2017 through November 3, 2017
CONTACT: Sarah Collins, (617) 358-0489 or Sarahkc@bu.edu

(Boston, MA)—We are pleased to announce that the Boston University Arts Initiative – Office of the Provost, Boston University Art Galleries, and the Boston University Dance Program will welcome Dahlia Nayar, Margaret Sunghe Paek, and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, for an artist residency Tuesday, October 31st through Friday, November 3rd , 2017 on the Boston University Charles River campus. The residency will include public performances on November 2nd and 3rd of their piece entitled 2125 Stanley Street held at 808 Gallery (808 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215). Performances are free, and open to the public, but a rsvp is required. RSVP and artist biographies are available at bu.edu/arts/dahlia/.

Working with collaborators Margaret Paek and Loren Kiyoshi Dempster, in 2125 Stanley Street, choreographer and dancer Dahlia Nayar examines “home” as an archaeological site where minimal artifacts offer points of departure for the re-imagination and reconstruction of a domestic space. They excavate the everyday and the mundane in search of a poetic consciousness. Household objects transform into potential sources of revelation and reflection. Basic tasks are infused with virtuosity and nostalgia. Fragmented lullabies and nursery rhymes create an evocative soundscape. Ultimately, the installation invites the audience into a home that unfolds through movement and sound, a home that exists in the present moment through intimate exchange, a home that is both familiar and yet cannot exactly be located. Downeast Magazine awarded 2125 Stanley Street the 2015 Best of Stage and Screen noting that “2125 Stanley Street gorgeously explores domesticity and notions of home using mops, laundry, and other domestic props in beautiful and unexpected ways.”

During the residency, the artists will be conducting workshops and visiting classes, including professor Regina Hansen’s Rhetoric class in the College of General Studies. Hansen says “One of the goals of the Rhetoric course is to think critically about terms and concepts we take for granted, terms such as beauty, monster, city, and in this case ‘home.’ How we interpret and express supposedly simple concepts contributes to the arguments we make about ourselves, our beliefs our understanding of the world. And not all such rhetoric takes place in the form of an essay.  To see the concept of home expressed and interrogated through sound and movement will
be of great value to my students.”

The Boston University Arts Initiative in the Office of the Provost was created in the fall of 2012 to ensure that the arts are a vital component of the student experience at Boston University by working to deepen the presence and impact of the arts in the academic life of the university. Our programming reflects interdisciplinary, global, and urban nature of Boston University.

The presentation of 2125 Stanley Street is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

More information on 2125 Stanley Street at Boston University including artist biographies is available at bu.edu/arts/dahlia/. Press photos can also be made available.

BU-Wheelock Merger Will Create New College

October 11th, 2017in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Rachel Lapal, rlapal@bu.edu

The merger of Boston University and Wheelock College will create a new school of education that will combine the doctoral programs and research capabilities of BU’s School of Education with the early childhood expertise of Wheelock’s School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies, while other Wheelock programs will be joined with appropriate programs at BU. The new college will be called the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development (WCEHD), according to a definitive agreement reached by the parties.

In a letter sent to the BU community this morning, BU President Robert A. Brown says he is pleased that the two schools have reached agreement on the merger. “We believe that BU’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development will be one of the leading colleges of education in the country, with its focus on clinical practice, scholarship, and community engagement,” Brown says. “The commitment to establish and support this new college will, I believe, appropriately preserve and enhance the great legacy of Wheelock College.”

Wheelock and BU will immediately form a Transition Committee charged with advising Jean Morrison, BU provost, on the academic programs that will be offered by the new college. The committee will be chaired by David Chard, Wheelock president, and vice-chaired by Catherine O’Connor, interim dean of BU’s School of Education, and will include four faculty members from Wheelock and four from the BU School of Education. In addition to this committee, Wheelock and BU will put in place a transition implementation structure to ensure that the integration of Wheelock and BU proceeds smoothly and includes input from stakeholders at both institutions.

The merger, which is scheduled to take place on June 1, 2018, gives BU ownership of all assets and liabilities of Wheelock College, and combines Wheelock’s School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies with BU’s School of Education, establishing a single school, BU’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development (WCEHD), which will be a centrally budgeted academic unit of Boston University, managed by University leadership and governed by BU’s Board of Trustees. The plan calls for Chard to serve as interim dean of WCEHD from the time of the merger to July 1, 2020, and to report to Morrison. The parties have agreed that immediately following the merger, the Wheelock campus will be used for Boston University academic programs.

“There is a great deal of work to be done,” says Brown. “That work will include some difficult decisions about the scope and organization of the combined college and the integration of other programs of Wheelock College into Boston University; however, we are confident that the results will be worth the effort. Our goal is to treat the Wheelock College students who join us in the fall of 2018 and all Wheelock College alumni as part of the Boston University family.”

Students currently enrolled at Wheelock will either become students in existing programs at Boston University, will continue in select Wheelock programs that will be newly incorporated into Boston University, or in some cases, will enroll in a transitional program that will allow them to complete their Wheelock course of study.

Boston University will honor the tuition rates and financial aid packages of current Wheelock students. They will not have to pay BU rates, although their tuition may increase with inflation.

All applicants seeking admission to WCEHD after the merger has been completed will be evaluated in accordance with Boston University admissions requirements, and BU’s tuition, financial aid strategies, and scholarship funds will apply to those students. WCEHD students will be part of BU’s student body, will complete the same general education program, and will have access to the same educational and cocurricular opportunities as other BU students. Requirements for graduate students, including academic and admissions standards and financial aid strategies, will be developed by BU’s Office of the Provost. Alumni of Wheelock College will be treated as alumni of WCEHD and Boston University.

Morrison says BU and Wheelock have agreed on a process for determining the titles and responsibilities that will be assumed by currently tenured Wheelock faculty at BU. She says decisions about nontenured faculty will be made on a case-by-case basis and will depend on the needs of relevant academic units at BU.

BU and Wheelock have agreed that administrative and operational functions of Wheelock will be merged with corresponding units at BU, and the University will offer Wheelock staff appropriate positions where it is practical to do so.

The endowment of Wheelock College will be integrated into that of Boston University and will be managed by the University’s investment office. Income from Wheelock’s endowment will be dedicated to support the Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. All donor restrictions will be honored, and unrestricted funds will also go to support of WCEHD.

Administrators from both schools see the pending merger as beneficial to the two institutions with deep and long-standing commitments to public education in the city of Boston.

“The combination of the programs of the two schools and the additional resources we plan to deploy gives Boston University the opportunity to commit with renewed energy to our long-standing efforts to promote quality early childhood and K-12 education,” says Brown. “That is the foundation for the prosperity and stability of our city and the nation.”

“It’s a very good match,” says Chard, who taught at BU’s School of Education from 1995 to 1997 and was dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development at Southern Methodist University from 2007 to 2016. “In addition to the proximity of our campuses, the schools were similar and complementary. Boston University and Wheelock both have a historical focus on the city, and they both have a desire to double down on efforts to support the institutions that are most important to the city: its public schools and social services.”

Chard says the merger will create an institution with the resources to bring much needed innovation to public education. “Wheelock really hasn’t had the resources to focus on innovation,” he says. “And this is a time when more of the same in education is not going to get us where we need to be. Education needs new and effective ideas, and this merger will give us an opportunity to be more innovative.”

The Wheelock president says he also sees an opportunity for BU to reenergize some legacies of its School of Education, such as its historical focus on special education, while enhancing its focus on college access.

BU administrators see similar benefits. They point out that BU’s School of Education excels in clinical education, doctoral education, and research, while Wheelock, which also has a strong presence in clinical education, excels in early childhood education and continuing teacher education.

Morrison has high praise for Wheelock’s Field Education program, which places students in schools, hospitals, and nonprofit agencies, guaranteeing that all graduates have hands-on real-world experience, and also for its partnerships that send students into classrooms in Brookline and Boston and provide support for the school districts’ commitments to improve literacy in multilingual urban schools.

“Programs like those are consistent with BU’s goals and perspectives,” she says. “Bringing our schools together gives us an opportunity to create a strong, nationally recognized school of education with a local footprint with Boston Public Schools. That’s important to us.”

For Wheelock, the merger stands to invigorate a venerable Boston institution whose future was imperiled by the same recent economic developments that plague many small private colleges. Moody’s Investor Services has reported that almost one third of all colleges with fewer than 3,000 students lost money in 2016, up from 20 percent three years earlier.

Founded in 1888 with the goal of educating the children of immigrants, Wheelock’s current three schools—the School of Education, Child Life and Family Studies, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Social Work, Leadership, and Youth Advocacy—had a total of 1,157 students in 2016, a drop of 39 percent from a decade earlier. Financial statements show losses in 2015 and 2016 and project a fiscal year 2018 loss of $6 million on an operating budget of about $30 million.

“The challenge,” says Chard, “is that small schools like Wheelock have to be all that larger schools are. We have to have all of the same components, but in the past five years the costs of those components have gone up significantly relative to our net tuition.” Merging with a larger school, he says, provides critical cost savings on increasingly expensive central services.

In May, the college decided to put its president’s house and one of its residence halls on the market. At the same time, it solicited proposals for mergers from 60 institutions of higher learning across the country. Of the six who responded, Chard says, BU was the best fit, not only for Wheelock, but for education in the city of Boston.

Can the U.S. Repair Its Health Care While Keeping Its Innovation Edge?

The New York Times

Austin Frakt

The United States health care system has many problems, but it also promotes more innovation than its counterparts in other nations…

Expert quote:

“Strong promotion of innovation in health care is one reason the United States got as far as it did in our recent bracket tournament on the best health system in the world.”

View full article

BU Wins $20M for NSF Engineering Research Center

September 14th, 2017in 2017, News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 14, 2017
CONTACT: Rachel Lapal, rlapal@bu.edu

Boston University has won a $20 million, five-year award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a multi-institution Engineering Research Center (ERC), with the goal of synthesizing personalized heart tissue for clinical use. The grant, which is renewable for a total of 10 years and $40 million, is designed to accelerate an area of engineering research—in this case, bioengineering functional heart tissue—that is likely to spur societal change and economic growth within a decade.

“The goal is moving from the basic research capability to a technology that could be disruptive,” says Kenneth Lutchen, dean of the College of Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering, who notes that the ERC program is designed to stimulate translation of research to practice by facilitating worldwide corporate, clinical, and institutional partnerships. “The center will transform cardiovascular care by synthesizing breakthroughs in nanotechnology and manufacturing with tissue engineering and regenerative medicine,” he says.

ERC grants are extremely competitive. Of more than 200 applicants, only 4—Boston University, Purdue University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Texas A&M University—received awards in 2017. “The awarding of the NSF ERC is outstanding recognition of the quality and creativity of our faculty team from across the College of Engineering,” says Robert A. Brown, president of BU. “Their efforts will help make the creation of personalized human tissue for cardiac applications a reality.”

The Engineering Research Center will be housed at Boston University, the lead institution on the grant. The award hits a “sweet spot” at the intersection of BU’s strengths in biomedical engineering, photonics, and nanotechnology, says Lutchen. David Bishop, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of physics, and head of ENG’s Division of Materials Science & Engineering, will direct the center. Working with him will be four leaders in specific areas—or “thrusts”—of technical expertise: Thomas Bifano, an ENG professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Photonics Center, will direct imaging; Alice White, an ENG professor and chair of the mechanical engineering department, will direct nanomechanics; Christopher Chen, an ENG professor of biomedical engineering, will direct cellular engineering; and Stephen Forrest, a University of Michigan professor of materials science and engineering, will direct nanotechnology. Arvind Agarwal, a Florida International University (FIU) professor of mechanical and materials engineering, will work with White’s team to advance nanomechanics methods, and will also lead FIU’s involvement in the ERC, with a crucial role in education and outreach.

The ERC will also develop areas of expertise in education, diversity, administration, and outreach. Helen Fawcett, an ENG research assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will lead the diversity team. Stormy Attaway (GRS’84,’88), an ENG assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will colead the workforce development and education team with Sarah Hokanson (CAS’05), Professional Development & Postdoctoral Affairs program director. The administration team will be led by Robert Schaejbe, Photonics Center assistant director of operations and financial administration. Thomas Dudley, Photonics Center assistant director of technical programs, will lead the Innovation Ecosystem team, a group of companies and research consortia that will serve as advisors and work with the ERC to commercialize the technologies it creates.

Two partner institutions—the University of Michigan and Florida International University—as well as six affiliate institutions—Harvard Medical School, Columbia University, the Wyss Institute at Harvard, Argonne National Laboratory, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and the Centro Atómico Bariloche/Instituto Balseiro in Argentina—will offer additional expertise in bioengineering, nanotechnology, and other areas.

“We have assembled a very competitive team from world-class institutions with a compelling vision,” says Bishop, noting that the grant is designed to move research from the lab into industry, while also creating education, job training, and employment opportunities. “This grant gives us the opportunity to define a societal problem, and then create the industry to solve it. Heart disease is one of the biggest problems we face. This may allow us to solve it, not make incremental progress.”

Heart disease—including coronary heart disease, hypertension, and stroke—is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. About 790,000 people in the United States have heart attacks each year, about one every 40 seconds. Of those, about 114,000 will die. Statistics like these, and the fact that cardiovascular disease is relatively advanced in terms of regenerative medicine, led the team to target heart disease in their ERC proposal.

Scientists and engineers have been struggling to build or grow artificial organs for decades. But aside from simple, nonmoving parts, like artificial windpipes, the field has not lived up to its early promise. This is partly because organs, with their multiple cell types, have proved difficult to synthesize, and also because researchers have learned that the body’s dynamic stresses—beating hearts, stretching lungs—play a larger role in how tissues grow and perform than originally thought.

The ERC plans to accomplish four goals with the cellular metamaterials it intends to build: fabricate responsive heart tissue containing muscle cells and blood vessels; understand and control the tissue using optical technologies; scale the process up to easily create multiple copies of the tissue; and personalize the product, so it can be tailored to individual patients. The first goal will be to create “functionalized heart tissue on a chip,” says Lutchen, tissue that could be built with a specific patient’s cells and used to test new drugs and therapies. The ultimate goal is to fabricate heart tissue that could replace diseased or damaged muscle after a heart attack.

“It’s humbling to have the opportunity to work on something that could really be a game changer,” says Bishop. “If we succeed, we’ll save a lot of lives and add meaningful years for many people.”

New Kilachand Center Links Key Research Disciplines

September 14th, 2017in 2017, News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 14, 2017
CONTACT: Rachel Lapal, rlapal@bu.edu

With a powerful boost from the largest gift in its history, Boston University on Thursday officially opened the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering, a state-of-the-art research facility that brings together life scientists, engineers, and physicians from the Medical Campus and Charles River Campus and promises to speed life-changing developments in the fields of human health, environment, and energy.

The nine-story, 170,000-square-foot building at 610 Commonwealth Avenue represents an investment of a quarter of a billion dollars—a $135 million construction commitment from BU and a $115 million gift from Rajen Kilachand(Questrom’74, Hon.’14). The BU trustee designated $15 million to support construction of the center and $100 million for an endowment to support research at the intersection of engineering and the life sciences. Kilachand, the University’s most generous donor, pledged $25 million in 2011 to establish Kilachand Honors College and $10 million in 2012 for renovations to Kilachand Hall, at 91 Bay State Road.

University President Robert A. Brown says Kilachand’s latest contribution will fund research that could change the future of health care. “Rajen Kilachand’s gift establishes an endowment that will support research in perpetuity,” says Brown. “It will support hundreds of scientists, researchers, and graduate students working on research that will affect the human condition through research as varied as direct applications to human health, sustainable methods for producing organic materials, food security, and understanding the impact of climate change on all life. The Kilachand Center and the Research Fund will influence all the ways that life sciences and engineering come together to affect our future.”

Kilachand says he believes the new center’s combination of researchers from medicine, engineering, and neuroscience will be the model for future life sciences research, in both academia and industry. “I’m very excited about that collaboration,” he says. “I’m convinced that this research center is going to be the front-runner. I believe from the bottom of my heart that this will become one of the leading research institutes on the planet.”

The Kilachand Center will eventually be home to about 160 researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and staff, as well as 270 graduate students, all of whom will work in shared, flexible work spaces, meeting rooms, and other common areas designed to encourage collaboration. The center will include researchers from the Biological Design Center, where, under the leadership of Christopher Chen, a College of Engineering Distinguished Professor and a professor of biomedical engineering, researchers will use technologies like DNA sequencing and synthesis, 3-D printers, and robotics to deepen their understanding of synthetic biology and tissue engineering. At the Center for Systems Neuroscience, led by Michael Hasselmo, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of psychological and brain sciences, researchers will explore the ways nerve cells in different brain regions interact to guide functions such as learning, memory, speech, perception, and attention. And at the Center for Research in Sensory Communication & Emerging Neural Technology, directed by Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, an ENG professor of biomedical engineering, neuroscientists and sensory physiologists will study hearing, speech, and language.

“Each of these centers incorporates faculty from a wide range of disciplines,” says Gloria Waters, BU vice president and associate provost for research. “We have faculty who are taking computational approaches to these areas, faculty who are involved in basic science, basic biochemistry. And we have faculty doing behavioral testing of various sorts. Those are really nice combinations of faculty from a variety of schools and colleges, a variety of departments, and a variety of disciplines.”

Those faculty, says Waters, are among the most innovative researchers in their fields, and the Kilachand Center will be home to one of academia’s largest and most highly regarded clusters of researchers working in neuroscience. In addition, the ENG biomedical engineering department is routinely ranked among the top 10 in the country and is the only biomedical engineering department to have received both a Whitaker Foundation Leadership Award and a Coulter Foundation Translational Research Award.

Waters says recent decades have seen a revolution in the ways we solve problems at the nexus of life sciences and engineering. “Researchers have done an amazing job of bringing ideas and technology from engineering, as well as from the physical sciences and computational sciences, to the field of life sciences,” she says. They are working on technologies that will help such things as drug delivery to specific targets and on tissue engineering, Alzheimer’s disease, and new hearing aids. “There is tremendous potential for faculty at the Kilachand Center to make significant impacts in areas of disease and disability.”

Robert A. Knox (CAS’74, Questrom’75, Hon.’17), a current trustee, former Board of Trustees chair, and a longtime investor in health care companies, has spent decades observing two things he cares deeply about: new developments in health care technologies and the steady upward journey of Boston University. In the Kilachand Center, he says, he is seeing the potential for both to reach new heights.

“This kind of collaboration between different groups of scientists has been common in the commercial world,” says Knox. “What’s going to happen at the Kilachand Center is it will be institutionalized within the academic world. That is an incredibly powerful positioning, for BU to have this kind of interdisciplinary activity going on. This is a huge reputation boost for the University.”

Knox sees the Kilachand Center as a magnet that will attract a high-caliber level of students, “who want to come into these kind of interdisciplinary situations and get an education that will be very distinctive. And it will allow them to graduate and pursue research or find and fund new companies that will commercialize some of these ideas.”

“When you think about great research universities,” Brown says, “many have been built on tremendous strength in traditional disciplines. We believe that a differentiator for Boston University, both educationally for our students and in our impact on society through our research and scholarship, is to be very, very good at bringing those people together across those boundaries to work on the grand challenges—the very important problems the world has today. If we can be an institution that is known as having both the disciplinary strength and one that is singularly good at bringing those people together in unique combinations that solve the problems of the time, that will be a rare environment for our students to study and do research in. That’s the university we’re trying to create, and I think step-by-step, piece by piece, we’re doing this.”

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with Wyss Institute’s exosuit technology

July 26th, 2017in 2017, News Releases

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with Wyss Institute’s exosuit technology

A soft wearable robotic suit promotes normal walking in stroke patients, opening new approaches to gait re-training and rehabilitation 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2017
CONTACT: Stephanie Rotondo, rotondos@bu.edu, +1 617-353-7476

By Benjamin Boettner

(BOSTON) — Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, it is typical that one limb loses its ability to function normally — a clinical phenomenon called hemiparesis. And even patients who recover walking mobility during rehabilitation retain abnormalities in their gait that hinder them from participating in many activities, pose risks of falls, and, because they impose a more sedentary lifestyle, can lead to secondary health problems.

To help stroke patients regain their walking abilities, various robotics groups from industry and academia are developing powered wearable devices — so-called exoskeletons — that can restore gait functions or assist with rehabilitation. Historically, these systems restricted patients to a treadmill in a clinical setting, but in recent years portable systems have been developed that enable walking overground. Working towards the long-term goal of developing soft wearable robots that can be worn as clothing, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Boston University’s (BU) College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College have developed a lightweight, soft, wearable ankle-assisting exosuit that could help reinforce normal gait in people with hemiparesis after stroke.

In previous studies performed in healthy people, the team demonstrated that their exosuit technology can deliver assistive forces during walking and jogging and that they produce marked reductions in energy costs.  Now, in a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, a research team led by Conor Walsh collaborating with BU faculty members Terry Ellis, Lou Awad, and Ken Holt have demonstrated that exosuits also can be used to improve walking after stroke — a critical step in de-risking exosuit technology towards real-world clinical use.

“This foundational study shows that soft wearable robots can have significant positive impact on gait functions in patients post-stroke, and it is the result of a translational-focused multidisciplinary team of engineers, designers, biomechanists, physical therapists and most importantly patients who volunteered for this study and gave valuable feedback that guided our research,” said Wyss Core Faculty member Walsh who is also the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS and the Founder of the Harvard Biodesign Lab.

Patients recovering from a stroke develop compensatory walking strategies to deal with their inability to clear the ground with their affected limb and to “push off” at the ankle during forward movement. Typically, they have to lift their hips (hip hiking) or move their foot in an outward circle forward (circumduction) rather than in a straight line during walking. Usually, rigid plastic braces worn around the ankle are prescribed to help with walking, but they do not help overcome these abnormal gait patterns and about 85% of people who suffered a stroke retain elements of their gait abnormalities.

“Current approaches to rehabilitation fall short and do not restore the mobility that is required for normal life,” said Ellis, Ph.D., P.T., N.C.S., Director of the Center for Neurorehabilitation at BU’s College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College and Assistant Professor at BU. In the new study, the team asked whether the exosuit’s beneficial impact on gait mechanics and energy expenditure during walking they observed in healthy people would also be observed in patients post-stroke who were recruited and enrolled in the study with the help of the Wyss Institute’s Clinical Research Team.

Exosuits are anchored to the affected limb of a hemiparetic stroke patient via functional apparel, and they provide gait-restoring forces to the ankle joint by transferring mechanical power via a cable-based transmission from battery-powered actuators that are integrated into a hip belt or an off-board cart located next to a treadmill. “Indeed, in treadmill experiments we found that a powered exosuit improved the walking performance of 7 post-stroke patients, helping them to clear the ground and push off at the ankle, thus generating more forward propulsion,” said Jaehyun Bae, a co-first author on the study and graduate student at SEAS. Interestingly the team also observed a reduced functional asymmetry between the paretic and non-paretic limbs of participants and found that the exosuit’s assistance enabled them to walk more efficiently.

Because walking mechanics and dynamics differ between controlled walking on a treadmill and walking overground in the home or communal environment, the team went on to assess exosuit-provided benefits in an overground walking experiment. “It was extremely encouraging to see that an untethered exosuit also had the ability to facilitate more normal walking behavior during overground walking. This is a key step toward developing exosuits as rehabilitation devices for patients to use outside of the clinic and in their normal lives,” said Lou Awad, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D., the study’s other co-first author, who at the time of the study was a postdoctoral fellow with Walsh and since has become an Associate Faculty member at the Wyss Institute and Assistant Professor at BU’s College of Health and Rehabilitation: Sargent College.

In ongoing and future research the team is looking to further personalize exosuit assistance to specific gait abnormalities, investigate assistance at other joints such as the hip and knee, and assess longer-term therapeutic effects of their technology. In addition to this research, Wyss Institute staff member Kathleen O’Donnell leads the Wyss Institute’s efforts to translate the technology to the clinic with industrial partner ReWalk Robotics.

“In an ideal future, patients post-stroke would be wearing flexible adjusting exosuits from the get-go to prevent them from developing inefficient gait behaviors in the first place,” said Ellis.

The study was also authored by Kenneth Holt, Ph.D., P.T., Associate Professor at BU’s College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, former and current members on Walsh’s team Stefano De Rossi, Ph.D., Lizeth Sloot, Ph.D., Pawel Kudzia, and Stephen Allen, as well as Katy Hendron, P.T., D.P.T., N.C.S., who worked in Ellis’ group at BU.

“This study provides a glimpse of a new future where much of patient care will be carried out at home with the help of human-friendly robots, which look nothing like the robots we see in television and movies.  This exosuit looks more like sports clothing than R2D2, yet it is equally programmable and carries out tasks on command; however, the exosuit is lightweight, flexible, virtually invisible to others, and individualizes itself for each patient. We hope that it will soon enter clinical use where it undoubtedly could transform the lives of stroke patients for the better,” said Wyss Institute Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., who also is the Judah Folkman Professor of Vascular Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as Professor of Bioengineering at SEAS.

The study was supported by a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Warrior Web Program, grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, a Rolex Award for Enterprise, a Harvard University Star Family Challenge, as well as Wyss Institute and SEAS funding.

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The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (http://wyss.harvard.edu) uses Nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing that are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and formation of new startups. The Wyss Institute creates transformative technological breakthroughs by engaging in high risk research, and crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers, working as an alliance that includes Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, Arts & Sciences and Design, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University, Tufts University, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, University of Zurich and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (http://seas.harvard.edu) serves as the connector and integrator of Harvard’s teaching and research efforts in engineering, applied sciences, and technology. Through collaboration with researchers from all parts of Harvard, other universities, and corporate and foundational partners, we bring discovery and innovation directly to bear on improving human life and society.

Boston University College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College (https://www.bu.edu/sargent/ )is an institution of higher education which fosters critical and innovative thinking to best serve the health care needs of society through academics, research, and clinical practice. As reported by U.S. News and World Report, its graduate programs in Speech-Language Pathology and Physical Therapy rank in the top 6% of programs while Occupational Therapy is #1 in the nation. The College has more than 25 on-campus research facilities and clinical centers and offers degree programs in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, language and hearing sciences, health science, athletic training, human physiology, behavior and health, and nutrition. For more information, visit bu.edu/sargent.

Founded in 1839, Boston University (http://www.bu.edu) is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research.  With more than 33,000 students, it is the fourth-largest independent university in the United States.  BU consists of 17 schools and colleges, along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes integral to the University’s research and teaching mission. In 2012, BU joined the Association of American Universities (AAU), a consortium of 62 leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

CARB-X announces funding for global scientists racing to discover new antibiotics to treat superbugs

July 25th, 2017in News Releases

Scientists developing promising new antibiotics in India, Ireland, France, Switzerland, the US and UK are to share up to US$17.6m to speed treatments for the world’s deadliest superbugs.

A year since launching, the international partnership CARB-X today announces its second round of antibiotic research and development funding – alongside a call for greater global support.

The seven projects supported include:

  • Five potential new class antibiotics for Gram-negative bacteria
  • Potential new treatment for drug-resistant gonorrhea
  • New molecule targeting a superbug causing serious infections in cystic fibrosis patients
  • Phase 1 clinical trial of a new oral broad-spectrum antibiotic

Drug-resistant infections currently cause around 700,000 deaths worldwide annually – if antibiotic resistance continues at its current rate that could rise significantly within a generation.

Kevin Outterson, Executive Director of CARB-X and Professor of Law at Boston University said: “Drug-resistant infections are complex and developing new antibiotics challenging, timely and costly. But restoring the R&D pipeline is vital to address the seriously increasing threat of superbugs which have become resistant to existing drugs. This is a global problem and CARB-X is a critical part of the global solution. We are looking to support the best potential new treatments and diagnostics across the world. We are especially pleased that today’s awards mean we are now supporting scientists in six countries. The projects offer exciting potential. But we need greater global support from governments, industry and civil society to get the new treatments the world urgently needs.”

CARB-X – which stands for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator – is a partnership between UK charity Wellcome Trust and the US Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

CARB-X was launched in July 2016 to address the gap in antibiotic research and development and innovations to improve diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant infections. The G20 has called for global antibiotic R&D efforts like CARB-X to refill the pipeline with safe and effective drugs.

Antibiotic discovery is challenging due to the complexity of bacteria which are easily able to genetically modify and become resistant to medicines, but also because of declining investment by larger companies.

The most recently approved new class of antibiotics was discovered in the early 1980s. However, CARB-X funding is focused on the most resistant, Gram-negative, bacteria, and the last new class of antibiotics approved for treatment against these was discovered in 1962.

Responsible use of existing antibiotics and equitable access, particularly in low-income countries where need is greatest, is also vital to address the global health problem. Both are a condition of CARB-X funding.

Tim Jinks, Head of Drug-Resistant Infections at Wellcome said: “Antibiotics are fundamental to modern medicine but overuse and inappropriate use have led to dangerous bacteria developing deadly resistance. Wellcome is committed to helping ensure we get the urgently needed new treatments. Drug discovery must also go hand-in-hand with concerted action to ensure antibiotics of last resort are reserved for patients where first-line treatments will not work. And we must ensure these treatments can be made available in all countries for those who need them.”

Today’s funding announcement is for one company in France, one in India, one in Switzerland, two in the US, one in the UK and one in Ireland.

Many of the CARB-X projects are at an early stage and it will still take some time before it is known whether they can become safe, effective treatments for patients. CARB-X is also supporting a Phase 1 clinical trial of a new oral and intravenous broad-spectrum antibiotic. Ensuring appropriate use of this type of antibiotic is critical – and used appropriately it can save lives.

BARDA’s Director Rick Bright, Ph.D., said: “The support announced today will help speed development of new antibacterial products to treat patients with serious, life-threatening infections to enhance domestic health security and global preparedness. We are committed to revitalizing the antibacterial pipeline through a combination of incentives; today’s announcement is another example of our commitment to promote and accelerate medical countermeasure innovation through novel public-private partnerships like CARB-X.”

“These awards build upon the scientific opportunities created by prior NIAID investments in drug development programs to assist with antibiotic development, and are consistent with our strategies for new approaches to address antibiotic resistance,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

This latest funding is part of an overall commitment of up to US$455m by the US government and Wellcome over a five year period and follows the announcement in March 2017 of the first 11 projects to receive funding – eight in the US and three in the UK.

The projects were selected from among 368 applications from around the world. CARB-X expects to make further funding announcements later this year. Product developers can visit CARB-X.org for additional information on funding opportunities.

Contact:

CARB-X: Jennifer Robinson  +1-514-914-8974 jcrobinson119@icloud.com

Notes to Editors:

 

  • CARB-X was created in response to the US government’s 2015 National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB) and the UK government’s call in 2016 for a concerted global effort to tackle antibiotic resistance. A non-profit partnership, it is headquartered at Boston University. CARB-X was launched by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID/NIH). Initial funders are BARDA and Wellcome Trust. NIAID provides preclinical services support. Other partners include the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio), the California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI), and RTI International. CARB-X projects are selected through a global competitive process. Applications are vetted by the CARB-X Advisory Board, comprised of leading antibiotic experts. To be considered, projects must target one of the antibiotic resistant bacteria on the Serious or Urgent Threat List prepared by the CDC or on the Priority Pathogens list published by the WHO. BARDA funding is provided to CARB-X under Cooperative Agreement 5 IDSEP160030-02-00.
  • Further information on funded projects announced July 2017:

Achaogen Inc.: Progressing a new class of antibiotics into Phase 1 trials – LpxC inhibitors to treat Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Initial investment of up to $3.2m with potential option payments up to $8.2

Achaogen is developing a new class of antibiotics that inhibit LpxC, an essential enzyme unique to Gram-negative bacteria. Achaogen’s lead LpxC inhibitor has the potential to treat infections due to multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one of the drug-resistant bacteria on the World Health Organization’s top priority list, and positively impact the excess morbidity and mortality in affected patients. Funding under CARB-X will support Achaogen in advancing their lead LpxC inhibitor through initial Phase 1 clinical trials, with the potential to bring a new class of antibiotic with activity focused on Gram-negative infections to patients for the first time in decades. Achaogen (NASDAQ:AKAO) is a South San Francisco-based late-stage biopharmaceutical company passionately committed to the discovery, development, and commercialization of innovative antibacterial treatments for multi-drug-resistant Gram-negative infections. For information: http://www.achaogen.com/. Media contact: Denise Powell at dpowell@achaogen.com

Antabio SAS: Developing a novel virulence-inhibitor that can boost the effect of antibiotics in the treatment of Cystic fibrosis.

Initial investment of up to $2.8m with potential option payments up to $6.1m

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition leading to long-term infections and progressive lung damage. The most frequent infection in adult patients is caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA), which grows as biofilm clusters that are resistant to immune clearance and conventional antibiotics. CARB-X funding will help support Antabio’s Pseudomonas Elastase Inhibitors (PEI) project. The PEI project seeks to develop inhibitors of the PA LasB elastase virulence factor, thereby targeting the bacterium’s ability to evade the immune system and cause disease, and when given alongside antibiotics, helping to clear PA infections. Antabio is a private biopharmaceutical company developing novel resistance-inhibitors that can be combined with antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections caused by the most critical Gram-negative pathogens. Antabio is headquartered in Labège, France. For information: www.antabio.com. Media contact: press@antabio.com

Bugworks Research India Pvt Ltd: Developing a new class of antibiotics to inhibit bacterial DNA topoisomerases

Initial investment of up to $2.6m with potential option payments up to $3.6m

In partnership with CARB-X, Bugworks is developing a novel first in class broad-spectrum antibiotic to kill multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria that have been identified by the World Health Organization as critical and high priority infection threats. Our lead compound, a Gyrase-topoisomerase inhibitor, is being developed as an intravenous and oral treatment for multi-drug resistant infections, with a low risk of developing resistance because it inhibits two essential targets in the replication machinery and has been designed to by-pass efflux resistance mechanism of the bacteria. In pre-clinical testing, Bugworks’ novel broad-spectrum antibiotics have demonstrated efficacy against deadly Gram-negative superbugs. Bugworks is based in Delaware, US, and operates its R&D facilities in Bangalore, India. For information: http://bugworksresearch.com/ Media contact: Anand AnandKumar at anand@bugworksresearch.com

Debiopharm International SA: Developing a new class of antibiotics to treat drug-resistant gonorrhea

Initial investment of up to $2.6m with potential option payments up to $1.4m

Debiopharm International SA, a Swiss-headquartered global biopharmaceutical company, has developed a novel class of antibiotics which inhibit bacterial fatty acid biosynthesis, an essential pathway in major pathogens including Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative bacterium in the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea.  N. gonorrhoeae’s resistance to antibiotics is a major global medical problem having acquired resistance to practically all classes of antibiotics (CDC). Debiopharm, in collaboration with CARB-X, will utilize their state-of-the-art Fabiotics drug discovery platform to develop novel therapeutics to combat drug-resistant gonorrhea. For information: www.debiopharm.com. Media contact: Christelle Tur at christelle.tur@debiopharm.com.

EligoChem Ltd.: Antimicrobial peptides have the potential to be potent antibiotics to treat drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria

Initial investment of up to $1.5m with potential option payments up to $3.3m

EligoChem Limited is progressing a project, powered by CARB-X, to select and develop antimicrobial peptides as Gram-negative antibiotics. The CARB-X funded project focuses on candidate selection from of a series of helical antimicrobial peptides with potent Gram-negative antibiotic action and low frequency of resistance potential.  These peptides have significantly reduced toxicity potential compared to other known antimicrobial peptides. EligoChem is based in Discovery Park, Kent, UK, and focused on the design of amphiphilic compounds that possess good absorption and low attrition risks, particularly suited to antibiotic research. For more information:  www.eligochem.com. Media contact: Andy McElroy at andy@eligochem.com.

Iterum Therapeutics: Oral and intravenous formulations of sulopenem under investigation in Phase 1 clinical trials for the treatment of serious drug-resistant infections

Investment of up to $1.5m

Sulopenem, which is being supported by CARB-X funding, is an antibiotic under study for the treatment of infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria in hospital and community settings. These include the most urgent drug-resistant antimicrobial threats defined by the US Centers for Disease Control. Sulopenem is highly effective against the pathogens most commonly associated with uncomplicated urinary tract infections, complicated urinary tract infections and complicated intra-abdominal infections, including potent in-vitro activity against Enterobacteriaceae mutants of E. coli and K. pneumonia. If approved, sulopenem will be available as a tablet and an intravenous formulation. Future clinical studies will focus on urinary tract and complicated intra-abdominal infections. With careful stewardship from medical professionals and appropriate use by patients, sulopenem could be effective in the treatment of infections in patients in the community and could be useful in the early discharge of patients from hospital. Iterum Therapeutics is headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. For more information: www.iterumtx.com. Media contact: Stephen Lederer at stephen.lederer@ymail.com.

VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals:  Working to discover a new class of antibiotic that beats resistance caused by beta-lactamase enzymes

Initial investment of up to $3.4m with potential option payments up to $6m

VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals is aiming to develop a new antibiotic class that circumvents the most prevalent form of antibiotic resistance.  Since the discovery of penicillin, dozens of drugs, collectively known as beta-lactams, have been introduced that kill bacteria by targeting their cell wall.  Unfortunately, bacteria have developed hundreds of beta-lactamase enzymes that prevent these drugs from working. VenatoRx has found a new drug class that kills bacteria by hitting the same cell wall target, but is impervious to beta-lactamase enzymes. VenatoRx is a private pharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of novel anti-infective agents. It is headquartered in Malvern, PA, USA. For more information: http://www.venatorx.com. Media contact: IR@venatorx.com 

About CARB-X

CARB-X is the world’s largest public-private partnership devoted to early stage antibacterial R&D. Funded by BARDA and Wellcome Trust, with in-kind support from NIAID, we will spend up to $455 million from 2017-2021 to support innovative products from ‘hit-to-lead’ stage through to Phase 1 clinical trials. CARB-X focuses on high priority drug-resistant bacteria, especially Gram-negatives. CARB-X is a charitable global public-private partnership led by Boston University. Other partners include the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, MassBio, the California Life Sciences Institute and RTI International. For more information, please visit www.carb-x.org and follow us on Twitter @CARB_X.

About Wellcome Trust

Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate. The Wellcome Trust is a charity registered in England and Wales, no. 210183. Its sole trustee is The Wellcome Trust Limited, a company registered in England and Wales, no. 2711000 (whose registered office is at 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, UK)

About Boston University

A leading research university with over 33,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 130 countries, nearly 10,000 faculty and staff, 17 schools and colleges, and 250 fields of study.  Boston University is consistently ranked among the world’s best research universities and is a member of the American Association of Universities.  For further information, see www.bu.edu or contact Ann Comer-Woods anncomer@bu.edu

About HHS, ASPR and NIH

HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

ASPR leads HHS’s efforts to prepare the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. Within ASPR, BARDA provides a comprehensive integrated portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threat agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases.

NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website: https://www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was launched in 2004 to empower this generation of creative scientists to transform medicine. The Broad Institute seeks to describe all the molecular components of life and their connections; discover the molecular basis of major human diseases; develop effective new approaches to diagnostics and therapeutics; and disseminate discoveries, tools, methods, and data openly to the entire scientific community. Founded by MIT, Harvard, Harvard-affiliated hospitals, and the visionary Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe L. Broad, the Broad Institute includes faculty, professional staff, and students from throughout the MIT and Harvard biomedical research communities and beyond, with collaborations spanning over a hundred private and public institutions in more than 40 countries worldwide. For further information about the Broad Institute, go to http://www.broadinstitute.org. In support of CARB-X, the Broad Institute created the Collaborative Hub for Early Antibiotic Discovery (CHEAD), which serves an interdisciplinary center that partners with academic investigators engaged in antibiotic development and/or resistance research to accelerate their early-stage, small molecule therapeutics toward Investigational New Drug (IND) application. For further information about CHEAD, go to https://www.broadinstitute.org/infectious-disease-and-microbiome/carb-x-collaborative-hub-early-antibiotic-discovery. 

About MassBio

MassBio is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1985 that represents and provides services and support for the world’s leading life sciences supercluster.

MassBio is committed to advancing Massachusetts’ leadership in the life sciences to grow the industry, add value to the healthcare system and improve patient lives.

Representing 1000+ biotechnology companies, academic institutions, disease foundations and other organizations involved in life sciences and healthcare, MassBio leverages its unparalleled network of innovative companies and industry thought leaders to advance policy and promote education, while providing member programs, events, industry information, and services.

About the California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI)

The California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) supports the foundations of innovation that have made California home to the world’s most prominent life sciences ecosystem. With a focus on the San Francisco Bay Area, CLSI’s mission is to maintain California’s leadership in life sciences innovation through support of entrepreneurship, education and career development. CLSI is a member of the CARB-X consortium, serving as an accelerator. CLSI is an affiliate of the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA), which represents California’s leading life sciences organization. The California Life Sciences Institute is a non-profit 501(c)(3), and was established in 1990 as the BayBio Institute. Learn more at http://califesciencesinstitute.org.

About RTI International

RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. Clients rely on us to answer questions that demand an objective and multidisciplinary approach—one that integrates expertise across the social and laboratory sciences, engineering, and international development. We believe in the promise of science, and we are inspired every day to deliver on that promise for the good of people, communities, and businesses around the world. For more information, visit www.rti.org.

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Neurological issues may drive common voice disorders

June 7th, 2017in News Releases, Sargent College

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 7, 2017
CONTACT: 
Stephanie Rotondo, Sargent College at 617-353-7476 or rotondos@bu.edu

Neurological issues may drive common voice disorders

Abnormal voice patterns thought to be created by emotional stress may instead be due to breakdowns in speech motor control.

Hyperfunctional voice disorders (HVDs) are hard to describe but easy to hear. People with the condition produce a grab-bag of forms of unusual voice behaviors that make them more difficult to follow. Nodules on the vocal cords may trigger the condition, but it may linger after the nodules are removed by surgery. Voice exercises or other treatments sometimes work and sometimes do not.

And although HVDs are the most common class of voice disorders, afflicting about 3% of the U.S. population, their causes are not well understood. Doctors typically attribute the condition to emotional stress that affects the performance of muscles involved in speech.

A study by researchers at Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, however, suggests that a neurological problem affecting those muscles also can be to blame.

“We show the first evidence that some HVDs may be due to a motor control disorder, in which patients improperly process what they hear,” says Cara Stepp, an assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences at Sargent College. “This is a very small study, but it’s important because no one previously showed a neurological cause for this condition.”

“Calling this condition ‘hyperfunctional’ suggests that it is something that you should just be able to stop doing, but that’s clearly not true,” says Stepp, the lead author on a paper about the research in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research.

In some cases, she notes, people can regain their normal voices after rigorous massages or other treatments, but these successes are often followed by a relapse of the condition.

Stepp and her colleagues hypothesized that some HVD patients might have neurological difficulties in integrating audio cues into their voice control, a breakdown that occurs in many other types of communication disorders.

The team tested their theory with experiments on two groups of nine people—one group with HVD and one group without. Participants were outfitted with headsets and microphones, and told to repeat a series of “ahs”, maintaining their pitch and volume as well as possible, while listening to their own voices in the headsets. The researchers very slowly raised the pitch of the participant’s voice until it was higher by one semitone (the interval between two adjoining piano keys), and then returned it to the original pitch.

As they heard their voices rise in pitch, people with normal vocal control lowered the pitch of their speech to try to compensate. “When we move the pitch up, your brain realizes that it’s higher than your target, so next time you produce your pitch a tiny bit lower,” says Stepp who runs the Sensorimotor Rehabilitation Engineering Lab.

Five of the people with HVD, however, instead raised the pitch of their speech, “which was extremely strange,” she says. And when they heard their voices on the headsets return to the original pitch, these five participants did not go back to the baseline.

“This finding suggests that they have a problem with properly utilizing auditory feedback to control their voice,” Stepp says.

The results correspond closely with some clinical observations, she adds. “It’s quite common for someone with HVD to say that the condition started when they had a cold, and then it just never went away. That’s an interesting match with our findings—when the perturbation we create is done, they ramp up their pitch even further and create a voice that’s even worse.”

Through recent funding from the National Institutes of Health, her lab is collaborating with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Laryngeal Surgery and Voice Rehabilitation to recruit participants for a larger five-year HVD project. The researchers will examine a larger group of participants in greater detail, adding other forms of audio-feedback tests.

“We then can make individual computational models of the vocal motor control system for each participant, which will get us much closer to understanding the mechanisms,” she says.

This work will exploit a model of speech motor control called DIVA (Directions Into Velocities of Articulators) developed by Frank Guenther, a BU professor of speech, language and hearing sciences.

DIVA can help to highlight activity in specific areas of the brain, potentially allowing researchers to design brain imaging experiments that highlight the precise neurological pathways that go astray with HVDs, Stepp says.

Her group also will compare motor-control behaviors of HVD patients both before and after successful voice therapy. These analyses may demonstrate either that people who are successful at voice therapy learn to compensate for their abnormal motor-control responses, or that the rehabilitation actually fixes the neurological glitches, she says.

“By cataloguing exactly what happens during voice therapy, we hope to tease out the relationship between who resolves these responses and what kinds of therapies did they get, which is how this research could directly lead to better rehabilitation,” Stepp says. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’ll know a lot more in five years.”

Other co-authors on the paper, all from Boston University, included Rosemary Lester-Smith, Defne Abur, Ayoub Daliri, J. Pieter Noordzij and Ashling Lupiani.

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Deployment Stress Impacts Well-Being through Different Mental Health Issues for Female and Male Veterans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 1, 2017
CONTACT: Gina DiGravio, 617-638-8480, ginad@bu.edu

Deployment Stress Impacts Well-Being through Different Mental Health Issues for Female and Male Veterans

(Boston)— Experiencing stress-related mental health issues following deployment exposures increases risk of reduced well-being in other life domains in the years following military service for veterans. Gender plays an important role in these associations.

The findings, which appear in Clinical Psychological Science, have implications for better understanding the challenges female and male veterans face upon returning from service and may lead to ways care can be optimized with consideration of the role gender may play.

According to the researchers, previous studies have shown a relationship between the development of mental health issues, particularly PTSD, and decreased functioning and satisfaction with family and work for veterans. However, gender often has been overlooked as a variable, and the role of particular deployment stressors have not been extensively examined. “Our study illustrates the complex interplay between specific military exposures, mental health, and subsequent post deployment well-being between the genders,” explained lead author Brian Smith, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and research psychologist in the Women’s Health Sciences Division, National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System.

In this study, which was completed at the VA Boston Healthcare System, 522 male and female Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans completed two surveys. The first was completed within two years of separation from military service, and included questions about veterans’ military experiences as well as their current mental health. The second survey was completed approximately three and a half years later and included questions about functioning and satisfaction in the domains of work, romantic relationships and parenting.

The researchers concluded that each of the deployment stressors examined—warfare exposure, military sexual harassment and family stressors—had implications for veterans’ subsequent functioning and satisfaction in the areas of work and family. In addition, these exposures were often indirectly linked to functioning and satisfaction via mental health. Interestingly, the links differed between men and women. While PTSD symptoms played an important role for both genders, depression played a role as well, especially for female veterans. For example, PTSD linked all three deployment exposures and subsequent functioning and satisfaction in romantic relationships for men, while both PTSD and depression played significant roles for women.  However, it is important to note that there were some similarities in risk as well. In the context of parenting, PTSD linked deployment exposures with reduced functioning for male and female veterans alike, and depression was the most important link in predicting lower satisfaction.

In addition, there was evidence for direct effects of military exposures on work and family quality of life. Again, some differences between males and females were found. For example, family stressors during deployment were directly associated with increased risk for parental impairment for female veterans, whereas for men the effect was only indirect through PTSD. These findings support the position that men and women may experience different military exposures and react in different ways. “This understanding of risk for reduced well-being, including the role of gender differences, may provide further important insight as to how to best cater post-military services to veterans’ unique needs following military service,“ added Smith. “From a clinical perspective, these findings suggest that services aimed at addressing returning veterans’ reintegration into work and family life might pay particular attention to male and female veterans’ experiences while deployed, as well as their current mental health.”

Funding for this study was provided by two Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Services Research and Development Service grants: “Validation of Modified DRRI Scales in a National Sample of OEF/OIF Veterans” (DHI 09-086), Dawne Vogt, Principal Investigator, and “Work and Family Functioning in Women Veterans: Implications for VA Service Use” (IIR 12-345), Dawne Vogt and Brian Smith, Principal Investigators.

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