Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln dedicate their careers to helping people in the state and around the world. Here’s a look at a few notable innovations in the medical/health industry thanks to work at Nebraska.
1. Virtual Incision is perfecting robotically assisted surgery.
Founded by faculty members at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, conducted the first known human surgery using a miniaturized robot in 2016. The miniaturized surgical robot is designed to minimize the recovery time and costs associated with abdominal surgeries, particularly colon resections. Additionally, the technology is designed to utilize existing tools and techniques familiar to surgeons, and does not require a dedicated operating room or specialized infrastructure. With a recent expansion of its headquarters, Virtual Incision is advancing its work and progressing to the next phase of commercial development.
2. Nebraska virologists have discovered a safer potential Zika vaccine.
Researcher Eric Weaver and his team identified a vaccine that could defend against the Zika virus without producing antibodies. Many studies show that antibodies against Zika virus can worsen Dengue virus infection, which, like Zika, is caused by a mosquito-borne virus. This has been an obstacle to the development of effect and safe Dengue virus vaccines but the team at Nebraska may have overcome this.
3. Nebraska researchers are readying revolutionary stroke treatment.
With the help of the university’s state-of-the-art Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior, Nebraska researchers have developed a device called Galileo that can non-invasively reverse the effects of a stroke on infants, children and adults. The device uses novel blood flow analysis; the change in blood flow it causes has been shown in animal models to provide neuroprotection, by forcing the brain to reroute blood supply to an area affected by stroke. The team will soon bring somatosensory stimulation and improved blood flow monitoring to stroke sufferers in clinical trials.
4. 3D printed medical devices could have life-saving and money-saving applications.
Nebraska engineer Michael Sealy is fine-tuning a process that allows researchers to make strong, dissolvable medical implants. These implants, he hopes, will both speed up a patient’s recovery process from major injuries and prevent the need for surgeries to remove the implants. The printing approach could also apply to manufacturing military and transportation components and for emerging technologies that are changing our daily lives.
6. A smart bandage could promote better, faster healing.
Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and MIT have designed a smart bandage that could eventually heal chronic wounds or battlefield injuries with every fiber of its being. The bandage consists of electrically conductive fibers coated in a gel that can be individually loaded with infection-fighting antibiotics, tissue-regenerating growth factors, painkillers or other medications. The bandage could be used to treat everything from chronic skin wounds that stem from diabetes to wounds suffered by soldiers in the battlefield.
7. Husker virologist eyes possible solution to fighting HIV.
With HIV, the antibodies become outdated as the virus rapidly morphs, and the body can’t keep up. But there is a small group of people whose immune systems can keep pace with HIV’s constant changes — without drugs. Nebraska virologist Qingsheng Li is looking to leverage the resilience to the mutation found in these individuals to create a new treatment for HIV. The research done will pave the way to a functional cure for HIV, meaning the patient is in a drug-free remission despite the virus’ latent presence. It may even someday contribute to an eradication cure, achieved when all virus is removed from the body.
8. Researchers have pinpointed a tumor-related protein that could help slow progression of cancers.
A study from Nebraska’s Paul Black and Concetta DiRusso suggests that targeting a particular lipid in the immune-suppressing cells could block the resulting buildup of lipids and mitigate tumor progression without significant side effects. The compound they’ve developed could be used to treat various types of cancer such as lymphoma, lung carcinoma and pancreatic cancer.
9. Nebraska is working to protect military service members from the effects of radiation exposure.
The U.S. Department of Defense has turned to the University of Nebraska to jumpstart the development of drug therapies to protect military service members from the effects of radiation exposure. In an environment where for-profit pharmaceutical companies are often reluctant to embark upon financially risky drug discovery efforts, the unique four-pronged partnership established by the university and the Department of Defense could shorten the U.S. military’s wait for drugs that prevent and counteract the effects of radiation exposure.
10. A Nebraska researcher is combating an issue affecting 80 percent of Americans during their lifetimes: chronic back pain.
Opioid addiction often begins innocently enough, with a doctor’s prescription for chronic pain. One of the most common culprits is low back pain. Rebecca Wachs is developing a targeted, biomaterials-based treatment for low back pain. Rather than simply masking pain with a pill that passes through the bloodstream, as is the strategy with opioids, Wachs’ approach tackles the pain at its source, focusing on the lower back’s nerves and spinal discs that trigger discomfort.