Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

Nanocomposites replace animal tissue in new valve design

Researchers at UBC have created the first-ever nanocomposite biomaterial heart-valve developed to reduce or eliminate complications related to heart transplants.

By using a newly developed technique, the researchers were able to build a more durable valve that enables the heart to adapt faster and more seamlessly.

Assistant Professor Hadi Mohammadi runs the Heart Valve Performance Laboratory (HVPL) through UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Lead author on the study, he says the newly developed valve is an example of a transcatheter heart valve, a promising new branch of cardiology. These valves are unique because they can be inserted into a patient through small incisions rather than opening a patient’s chest—a procedure that is generally safer and much less invasive.

“Existing transcatheter heart valves are made of animal tissues, most often the pericardium membrane from a cow’s heart, and have had only moderate success to date,” explains Mohammadi. “The problem is that they face significant implantation risks and can lead to coronary obstruction and acute kidney injury.”

The new valve solves that problem by using naturally derived nanocomposites—a material assembled with a variety of very small components—including gels, vinyl and cellulose. The combination of their new material with the non-invasive nature of transcatheter heart valves makes this new design very promising for use with high-risk patients, according to Mohammadi.

“Not only is the material important but the design and construction of our valve means that it lowers stress on the valve by as much as 40 per cent compared to valves currently available,” says Dylan Goode, a graduate researcher at the HVPL. “It is uniquely manufactured in one continuous form, so it gains strength and flexibility to withstand the circulatory complications that can arise following transplantation.”

Working with researchers from Kelowna General Hospital and Western University, the valve will now undergo vigorous testing to perfect its material composition and design. The testing will include human heart simulators and large animal in-vivo studies. If successful, the valve will then proceed to clinical patient testing.

“This has the potential to become the new standard in heart valve replacement and to provide a safer, longer-term solution for many patients.”

The new design was highlighted in a paper published this month in the Journal of Engineering in Medicine with financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

By using a newly developed technique, UBC researchers were able to build a more durable valve that enables the heart to adapt faster and more seamlessly after a transplant.

By using a newly developed technique, UBC researchers were able to build a more durable valve that enables the heart to adapt faster and more seamlessly after a transplant.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

UBCO School of Engineering researcher Mohammad Arjmand examines the new polymer-based brake pad which could revolutionize braking systems in cars and trains.

UBCO School of Engineering researcher Mohammad Arjmand examines the new polymer-based brake pad which could revolutionize braking systems in cars and trains.

Researchers look at ways to improve standard braking systems

While it’s not a case of reinventing the wheel, researchers are looking at ways to improve standard braking equipment on trains and cars.

By mixing carbon fibres into polymer-based brakes, a group of researchers at UBC Okanagan, Sharif University of Technology in Iran and the University of Toronto were able to design brakes that are self-lubricating.

These new and improved brakes can prevent wear-and-tear and have better frictional properties than brakes currently on the market, explains School of Engineering Assistant Professor Mohammad Arjmand.

“No researcher in Canada is currently working in this area,” says Arjmand, one of the lead researchers on the project, “and the work is very important for the automotive and railroad industries.”

Brake pad materials are typically available in three categories: metallic, ceramic and organic. All have benefits and weaknesses inherent to their design such as cost, durability, noise, slow response time, or increased temperature during usage, he adds.

According to statistics from the US Department of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the failure of vehicle components accounts for nearly two per cent of crashes and about 22 per cent of vehicle component faults are caused by brake-related problems.

“This new research looks at things like composite breakdown during high temperatures, durability, friction and wear testing,” says Arjmand. “Our findings show that the newly designed carbon fibre polymer brakes represent an acceleration in the science of deceleration and could be a real boon for the industry and consumers alike.”

Arjmand says the new technology can lead to smaller brake pads that are more efficient and cost-effective since the small pads can withstand greater friction and temperatures.

“As we continue to develop nanomaterials and mix them with polymers to develop multifunctional composite cocktails that can address issues such as friction, wear, and heat distribution at the molecular level, we will continue to help the industry evolve.”

These discoveries are helping make cars and trains more affordable, efficient and functional, he adds.

The research was recently published in Wear.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Gas sensing ‘artificial nose’ created on 3D-printers

A new gas detector, developed by researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus, enables highly accurate odour analysis for so many different applications it has been nicknamed the ‘artificial nose.’

Researchers in the School of Engineering have developed a state-of-the-art microfluidic gas detector that can detect small traces of gases quickly and efficiently. It has a number of potential uses including environmental monitoring, food and beverage quality assessments, and biological and chemical analytical systems.

The device, explains Professor Mina Hoorfar, is essentially ‘an artificial nose’ that can smell any sort of odour including noxious substances like natural gas, ammonia or sewage.

“Our sense of smell is one of the most important abilities humans have,” says Hoorfar. “Our nose affects the quality of our lives significantly and helps with the detection of toxic gases in the environment, fire awareness, spoiled food or triggering memories. With this in mind, there has always been interest in developing devices that can mimic human olfaction systems.”

The tiny gas detectors, developed in UBC Okanagan’s Advanced Thermo-Fluidic Laboratory, consist of 3D-printed parts, which create the microchannel and a metal oxide semiconductor. The detectors can be connected to a sampling chamber or be used in a lab environment.

Doctoral student Mohammad Paknahad, one of the lead researchers in the project, says the tiny detector uses two different channels and each channel has a different coating. During tests, several target gases from different families of volatile organic compounds were used including alcohols, ketones and alkanes. Paknahad says when a sample passes through the detector, the internal coatings direct the gases to the appropriate sensor where it is immediately analyzed.

“The gases interact differently with the channel coating and this is why it is called ‘like dissolves like,’” says Paknahad. “Our research demonstrates that these low-cost detectors can be custom-made for different applications while maintaining accuracy and precision.”

The technology—comparing two separate gas detectors with channels outfitted with special coatings that act differently when exposed to different gases—provides the user with the ability to adjust the coating based on the desired target gas.

“There are many examples of highly accurate systems,” says Hoorfar. “But despite their accuracy, the size and cost of these systems limit their applicability in the detection of volatile organic compounds in numerous applications that require portable and easy-to-use devices. Our devices offer a small, inexpensive and highly-accurate alternative.”

“This has the potential of changing the way municipalities and utilities conduct their monitoring,” says Hoorfar. “Based on the initial reaction of our municipal partners, we are excited to see what lies ahead.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

Learn about the world-changing discoveries and achievements

What: Nobel Night panel discussion at UBC Okanagan
Who: University researchers discuss this year’s Nobel Prizes
When: Wednesday, December 12, beginning at 7 p.m., refreshments to follow
Where: Lecture theatre FIP 204, Fipke Centre for Innovative Research, 3247 University Way, UBC Okanagan

On December 10, thousands of miles away from the Okanagan, world leaders will gather in both Stockholm and Oslo to watch the 2018 Nobel Prizes be officially awarded.

It was on this same day in 1901 when the first Nobel Prizes were awarded, fulfilling the intentions of Alfred Nobel’s will. For more than a century, the Nobel Prize awards and Laureates continue to garner international attention for their discoveries and achievements.

At UBC Okanagan’s Nobel Night, university professors will explain why the 2018 awards are relevant and significant in today’s changing world. From lasers to curing cancer to the economics of climate change and more, people will learn about some of the world’s most outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, medicine, peace and economics.

The event will be emceed by UBC Okanagan Chief Librarian Heather Berringer. Following the presentations, there will be an opportunity for audience questions and a social with refreshments. Admission is free. For more information and to register: nobelnight.ok.ubc.ca

About the Nobel Prize in Physics

Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Kenneth Chau will talk about the work of Arthur Ashkin, Gérard Mourou and Donna Stickland for their groundbreaking work in the field of laser physics.

About the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Associate Professor of Chemistry Kirsten Wolthers will discuss the work of Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter and their research in harnessing the power of evolution.

About the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Associate Professor of Medical Physics Christina Haston will highlight the accomplishments of James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo who were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work in discovering a new cancer therapy.

About the Economic Sciences

Associate Professor of Economics John Janmaat will discuss the work of William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer who have been awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel. The work of Nordhaus and Romer has broadened the scope of economic analysis by constructing models that explain how the market economy interacts with nature and knowledge.

About the Nobel Peace Prize

Professor of Political Science Helen Yanacopulos will speak to the accomplishments of Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad and their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Mohammad Zarifi, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan, shows his small biosensor that can be used to provides health care practitioners with a real-time diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

Mohammad Zarifi, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan, shows his small biosensor that can be used to provides health care practitioners with a real-time diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

Inexpensive biosensor provides instant and accurate results

Using a small and inexpensive biosensor, researchers at UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with the University of Calgary, have built a diagnostic tool that provides health care practitioners almost instant diagnosis of a bacterial infection.

The tool is able to provide accurate and reliable results in real-time rather than the two-to-five days required for existing processes that test infections and antibiotic susceptibility.

“Advances in lab-on-a-chip microfluidic technology are allowing us to build smaller and more intricate devices that, in the medical research space, can provide more information for health care practitioners while requiring less invasive sampling from patients,” explains Mohammad Zarifi, an assistant professor at UBC Okanagan.

According to health care statistics from 2017, every hour of delay in antibiotic treatment increases mortality rates by nearly eight per cent due to infection complications in the bloodstream.

Zarifi, and his research group in the School of Engineering’s Microelectronics and Advanced Sensors Laboratory, tested their device by tracking the amount of bacteria present in a variety of samples under various scenarios. The scenarios resembled those encountered in clinical microbiological laboratories.

By sending a microwave signal through the sample, the device quickly and accurately analyzes and then generates a profile of existing bacteria.

The diagnostic tool not only provides a rapid, label-free and contactless diagnostic tool for clinical analysis but it also goes further, says Zarifi.

“The device is able to rapidly detect bacteria and in addition, it screens the interaction of that bacteria with antibiotics,” he adds. “The combined results give health care practitioners more information than they currently have available, helping them move forward to determine accurate treatments.”

This biosensor, explains Zarifi is a significant step forward in improving the complex antibiotic susceptibility testing workflow and provides a rapid and automated detection of bacteria as well as screening the bacteria proliferation in response to antibiotics.

The research was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports with financial support from CMC Microsystems and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.