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New brain centre at Surrey SFU

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A new research centre at Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus will advance the work of researchers studying the biomechanics of preventing, diagnosing and treating brain and spinal cord injuries.

Recently settled in, Carolyn Sparrey, an assistant professor in Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE), is using funds from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to set up a tissue and material characterization facility within the newly established Centre for Biomechatronics and Healthcare Innovation. The centre is headed by Sparrey and colleague Ed Park.

The facility will enable researchers to make detailed studies of human tissue.

“This specialized mechanical test equipment allows for very accurate, high rate loading of material specimens,” says Sparrey, who, since arriving at SFU Surrey in February 2010 from the University of California Berkeley, has secured half a million dollars in research funding.

Sparrey’s research focuses on quantifying the mechanisms of traumatic brain and spinal cord injury. The results will help advance the development of new protective devices, diagnostic protocols and treatment strategies for brain and spinal cord injuries.

The facility will also provide experimental resources for a broad range of applications, such as characterizing the deployment mechanics of miniature airbags, Sparrey says.

Park is also using new NSERC funding to set up a micro-incubation system that will aid in the imaging and manipulation of rare circulating tumor cells.

They’re among more than 70 SFU researchers to receive NSERC funding for new and existing research this month totaling more than $3 million.

In addition, SFU biomedical physiologist Glen Tibbits and engineering science professor Carlo Menon have each received funding from NSERC and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) together totaling nearly $1 million.

Tibbits’ research team will develop a new tool for determining the cause of a life-threatening condition that affects 20 per cent of young children after open-heart surgery. The instrument will use two existing optical mapping technologies to visualize the heart’s electrical conduction pathways and the tissue that delineates them, with the hopes of improving patient outcomes.

Menon’s group will work together with a small rehab clinic to combine emerging brain stimulation technologies with rehabilitation robotics, in an effort to facilitate the rehabilitation of impaired arm function after a stroke.

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