Portale di Ateneo - Unibs.it Portale di Ateneo - Unibs.it

Technology for Health Protection XXVIII ciclo - Tematiche di Ricerca

  • Analysis of contaminants in environmental and biological matrices and assessment of related health risks

Occupational and environmental hazards play an etiological rule in the origin of multi-factorial and degenerative diseases that are increasingly affecting humans health, like neurodegenerative diseases, endocrine disturbances and cancer.
Adequate preventive intervention, based on available technological advances, can lower the social burden of environmentally-related health issues. Innovative methods are needed for exposure assessment, which is an emerging field of environmental sciences. At the same time, sensitive methods are required to identify exposure-related health effects at pre-clinical stage.
Health hazards derive from different sources like industrial emission, heavy traffic and agricultural use of pesticides that reach human health through air, water and food, and can be absorbed in the organism through different routes like inhalation, ingestion and skin contact.
Understanding “safe” exposure levels in these environmental media and in related biomarkers is of vital importance for prevention, and is realized with risk assessment procedures and methods that can be applied in the workplace and in the general environment.
Exposure modelling to assess related health effects and Decision Support Systems to define effective preventive measures are another important and complementary pillar.
For these reasons, this curriculum entails a highly interdisciplinary approach. Expertise in analytical measure, exposure assessment and modelling will meet toxicology, epidemiology and biostatistics.
Advanced analytical technology will be a core activity aimed to the improvement of sensitivity and specificity at very low exposure doses. Several substances are particularly of concern, like heavy metals, pesticides, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) like PCBs and dioxins, especially when transported by small sized, nano- and ultra-fine particles. New methods have been developed for the analysis of heavy metals based on Total reflection Fluorescence (TXRF) analysis. These methods, mainly developed for filters of airborne particulate matter, allow direct and non destructive multi-elemental analysis of samples, that can be easily stored for further future assessment and reference. Research is also aimed to develop new methods for the stabilisation of fly ashes, that contain high concentrations of heavy metals.
Dietary intake of pollutants is another area of research covered by this curriculum that aims to ascertain the presence and bioavailability of toxic substances in food.
Food safety is an area of great concern due to the number of threats for human health that are being increasingly recognized.

  • Computational modelling and analysis of biological systems and implants

The curriculum deals with the modelling of biological apparatus, including native organs or implants, in order to simulate and study their mechanical behaviour and interaction. Some typical applicative examples are heart valves (both native and prosthetic), dental and orthopaedics apparatus and prostheses, urological systems.
Computational analyses are carried out by developing advanced numerical models (especially finite elements models) or theoretical ones.
A crucial aspect of these analyses is their usual multi-physics nature, which requires a multi-disciplinary approach, as in the typical example of fluid-structure interaction (FSI). In particular, an accurate definition of biological materials and fluids constitutive laws, applied loads, boundary and interaction conditions between different parts of the apparatus or surrounding regions is needed. For this aim, the research activity also includes the analysis, interpretation and elaboration of experimental measurements data on biological systems and implants and the validation of the simulations results with clinical data. It therefore takes advantage by a strict collaboration between experts of engineering and medical sciences.
The study has several potential and important applications: it allows a better understanding of the biology systems physiology, which can be also useful to interpret “in vitro” experiments, by investigating the relationship between the structure of the examined apparatus and its functionality; can predict progressive organs damage and loss of functionality by simulating altered states due to pathologies; permits to optimise surgical operations, both of repair and replacement type, by simulating their effects; can furnish important information for the development of new prostheses or surgeon devices.

  • Biomechanics and mechatronics systems for biomedical applications

This curriculum concerns the study of biomechanics and mechatronics systems. Biomechanics is the science that studies the mechanical aspects of living bodies, especially the human body. Mechatronics is the science on integration of mechanical and electronic systems.
More specifically biomechanics covers many fields, including sport (e.g. injury prevention, performance improvement), safety , and medical applications (development of diagnostic systems, chirurgical devices, rehabilitation devices, prostheses development, etc.).
The PhD activity will concern all the basic issues of biomechanics as well as applications with particular interest for medical applications for humans. The interest includes the mechanics of the human body, and the mechanic and mechatronic devices, such as passive and active prostheses possibly equipped with electronic systems, artificial organs, sensors for the measurement of biological parameters (forces, motion, pressure, fluid flow, etc.), devices for rehabilitation, devices for assisted surgery.
The topics will be developed in an interdisciplinary approach that covers engineering, medical and social aspects. Research will concern theoretical and applied aspects. Theory will be dedicated to the understanding of the behavior of human beings and its organs, as well to the principle of working of the quoted devices, and of man-machines systems. Applied research will concern the practical design, optimization and test of medical devices. A relevant aspect considered is tele-medicine. From a medical point of view it includes all the aspects related to diagnosis, therapy and surgery. From the engineering point of view it includes all the aspects related to store, process and transmit information, in real time or in batch. It includes also teleoperation with visual and force feed-back (haptic interfaces) for surgery, physiotherapy.
The research will be developed in cooperation with experts of the different subjects including engineers, medical doctors, and physiotherapists.

  • New materials and protocols for Health

The programme offers a research-intensive degree focused on nano-scale materials and protocols for Health and in particular for Dentistry. A multi-disciplinary core curriculum is taken by students from diverse science and engineering backgrounds.
The aim of the research is to provide reference materials and clinically relevant measurement methods to facilitate a rational approach to dental materials design and testing, thus enabling improvements in the clinical performance of dental materials. In particular, methods for determining long-term performance of dental materials are needed to provide predictive information regarding the clinical longevity of materials being developed.
By investigating the mechanical and properties of the tooth structure, and the impact of dental materials on the teeth, jaws and general health, it is possible to assess the biocompatibility of new dental materials. It is also gathering evidence on the optimum use of new materials, including identifying how tooth cavities should be best prepared for restorations (fillings) so that as much of the natural tooth can be conserved as possible, and so that restorations adhere successfully to the tooth. Stem cells and new bone inducers together with corrosion behaviour are further topics for research and development.

  • Micro and nanotechnologies for biomedical applications

Advancing knowledge of ligand-receptor interactions confined at solid-liquid interfaces has a fundamental significance for physical chemistry and is a key issue in order to reap the full import of solid-phase biological assays, as biosensors, into biomedicine.The Ph.D. activities will move on this background, pivoting on ligand-receptor complexes that play a central role in different human pathologies, including cancer.These activities will focus on experimental and theoretical approaches to advance the understanding of interface-confined interactions of different receptor ligands,their cognate receptors and receptor antagonists by means of contact angle,surface plasmon resonance and microcantilever biosensing.Different transduction mechanisms can produce detectable responses in micro- or nano- structures,possibly functionalised with bio-chemically active sites,caused by the phenomenon under analysis.The responses can be measured with high sensitivity by sensors in the field of micro- and nano-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS).Nanomaterials and nanodevices,designed to interface with biological systems at the molecular level are rapidly emerging.Their application to medicine may complement other approaches for the study, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.The applications of nanotechnologies in basic and clinical neuroscience are in the early stages of development because of the complexities associated with interacting with neuronal cells and the central nervous system (CNS).Current research in neuroscience includes the development of nanomaterials promoting neuronal differentiation, adhesion and growth.This is an important issue since nanotechnologies have the potential to contribute substantially to novel approaches for treating neurodegenerative disorders that are clinically difficult to manage.One of the challenges in this field is the development of nanomaterials functionalized with specific adhesion or neurotrophic factors that may promote neuronal differentiation, adhesion and growth.