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An electronic device no larger than a grain of rice could be a key factor in treating multiple diseases ranging from glaucoma to cancer.
Babak Ziaie, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, was torn between engineering and medicine when he was deciding what to do with his life. His solution was to work in the Birck Nanotechnology Center developing small and sophisticated machines that could help provide faster and more effective health care.
Ziaie and his team are currently working on a device that will improve the way radiation therapy is applied. Patients will have a small electronic device implanted in or around the cancerous area receiving the treatment. This device will measure the amount of radiation the target area receives and relay this information to medical personnel.
"This system could greatly reduce the side effects of (radiation therapy) because the doses of radiation could be much more precise," Ziaie said. "We are the only group to be doing this kind of research."
A prototype of the device has been developed and testing is in progress. Another product from Ziaie that has been fabricated is a "plug" for the human eye.
"Sometimes, when a patient has glaucoma, pressure in the eye must be corrected with surgery," Ziaie said. "We have developed a glaucoma device that protects the eye after surgery."
The device fits into an opening in the eye and can act as a drain for excess pressure. If ignored, this pressure could damage the optic nerves that allow a person to see, possibly leading to permanent loss of vision.
The device can drain very small amounts of pressure and is biodegradable. This means that it will completely dissolve in about two weeks without harming the body.
Amani Salim is a graduate student in engineering education and a part of Ziaie's team. Salim said Ziaie encourages his team to expand on their own original concepts.
"Ziaie is dedicated to research. (He is) not a micromanager," Salim wrote in an e-mail. "It is up to (me) to think and see which ideas to pursue."
The team has many other projects and ideas, including the development of methods to deliver drugs to the brain, measure pressure in the brain and bladder, and track tumor progression throughout the body.
Trials on animals are conducted in conjunction with the Indiana University School of Medicine while all of the engineering work and fabrication takes place at Purdue.
"Seventy percent of my research is clinically based," Ziaie said. "My goal is to get products to patients for treatment."
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