University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Priority Research Themes

Submitted by mclean1 on Mon, 01/30/2017 - 9:16am

BME Theme 1

Integrated approaches to enable prevention of injury and disease and support healthy aging

Goal: To invent and implement technologies that will keep people healthy and minimize complications from diseases, while also helping predict injury and illness.

Engineering methodologies can increase our fundamental understanding of human and animal health and disease across the lifespan. Based on this understanding, new integrated biomedical engineering technologies and solutions will be created for monitoring health and promoting prevention. Imagine a family member recovering from a heart attack – biomedical technologies will allow us to assess their disease type, limit disease progression and prevent loss of quality of life, while also identifying whether younger family members are at risk for heart disease.

Submitted by mclean1 on Mon, 01/30/2017 - 9:21am

Lead Challenges

  • Detection and monitoring technologies for improving whole body and mental health including personalized disease monitors and technologies to assess body or organ function.
  • Processes for preventing the risks associated with acute and chronic diseases, including technologies and devices to support safe and healthy aging, assist with balance control to reduce the risk of falls, assist with navigation and location-tracking, and support mobility independence for seniors.
    • Understanding and predicting the role of multiple factors such as diet and activity level under normal and abnormal conditions (exercising, extended bed-rest) in developing, adolescent, mature and elderly populations. For instance, personalized devices to provide guidance on activity levels to prevent chronic joint injuries based on oxygen consumption, joint movement and muscle activity patterns.
    • Investigating integrated (multi-system) processes of healthy aging including cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, nervous and respiratory systems. This could include people with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, obesity or mental illness being provided with devices with real-time feedback for physician consultation to allow for activity modification based on blood levels of critical components (e.g., oxygen and insulin), heart rate, as well as local environmental factors (e.g. smog, altitude, temperature).


  • University of Calgary researchers have already pioneered unique approaches to study muscle activity and molecular motors, established guidelines for comfort in footwear, developed high-performance footwear, and invented shoe designs for rehabilitation, incorporating concepts that are commercially marketed by major footwear suppliers.
  • Our researchers have also developed a dynamic 3D fluoroscopy system to look inside functioning joints and quantify movement and forces acting on joint surfaces and bones. This allows University of Calgary researchers to understand how healthy joints change across a lifespan of growth, injury, weight change, and exercise.
  • We have also leveraged state-of-the-art medical imaging infrastructure and novel analytical approaches to support and participate in international pharmaceutical trials that help bring new medications to market.

Areas of Expertise

  • identifying and promoting heart health
  • computer models to help understand healthy blood circulation and the effects of aging
  • new protective gear for injury prevention
  • devices to monitor sleep patterns and treat sleep apnea
  • new tools for understanding blood flow and oxygen consumption in the brain
  • influence of environmental factors such as sleep and exercise to develop strategies for maintaining health

BME Theme 2

Technologies for improved diagnostics

Goal: To develop more accurate imaging and diagnostics to detect disease earlier, provide biomarkers for evaluating new therapies, and enable personalized treatments optimized for the individual patient. 

Early and accurate detection is crucial to precisely identify and treat the correct disease or dysfunction. Biomedical engineering offers ways to develop new instrumentation, data handling systems, and technologies that assess organ and body function, dysfunction, and disease at earlier stages, with higher sensitivity, and with more high quality information. Having an earlier and more accurate diagnosis greatly improves the chances of successful treatment leading to better outcomes following injury or disease. 

Submitted by mclean1 on Mon, 01/30/2017 - 9:23am

Lead Challenges

  • Improved understanding of the damage and repair processes in disease — including stroke, cardiovascular diseases, joint trauma, bone fractures, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, dementia and cancer — to enable development of novel detection and assessment technologies.
  • More detailed assessment of bone health and repair through functional, multi-modal imaging and analysis
  • New technologies to enable earlier detection, assessment and risk prediction of cardiovascular disease, bone and joint disease, and cancer for precision medicine.


  • University of Calgary research teams have developed new analytical techniques to extract information from digital medical images. Calgary Scientific Inc. is a spin-off company that commercializes our medical imaging technologies and is delivering these robust and accessible platforms to the broader medical community so we can transform care delivery at hospitals.
  • Our researchers have pioneered the development of routine protocols for cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging, developed novel software in cardiology diagnostics, and established a spin-off company, Circle Cardiovascular Imaging Inc. This technology maximizes a patient’s achievable benefit by allowing healthcare providers to perform effective and precise analysis of cardiovascular images.
  • Our researchers have developed the first “brain on a chip” that connects brain cells to a silicon chip, demonstrating that living cells can communicate directly with an electronic device. The resulting spin-off company, NeuroSilicon, was able to take a research product to market in under two years. The neurochip puts Alberta at the forefront of innovation for new approaches to drug screening devices for neurodegenerative diseases and disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
  • University of Calgary researchers are developing novel multi-modal 3D imaging methods to identify breast cancer much earlier and to image joints and other tissues. New imaging technologies can provide new ways to help surgeons plan their procedures, leading to better surgical outcomes for patients.
  • Our researchers have also developed new systems to diagnose and monitor scoliosis progression, as well as the Eagle Brace, a flexible device that can be designed and built for the specific needs of individual patients. A properly fitted brace improves comfort and brace efficacy to improve quality of life for people affected by scoliosis. 

Areas of Expertise

  • imaging and optical instrumentation
  • personalized cardiac pacemakers
  • blood vasculature-function monitoring devices
  • cardiac-function analysis software and early diagnostic devices
  • blood tests for early disease diagnosis and characterization
  • micro-needles
  • bio-nano sensors
  • wireless remote-controlled devices that monitor brain function

BME Theme 3

Engineered novel therapeutics

Goal: To develop high-quality, long-lasting treatments for injury and disease, based on stem cells, targeted drugs and novel devices.

Developing novel therapeutic devices and molecular medicines and harnessing the power of stem cells to exploit the body’s inherent repair mechanisms will be advanced by biomedical engineering technologies. With a focus on developing new personalized treatments to repair, regenerate or replace dysfunctional cells and tissues, these integrated therapies are designed to work with the body’s natural healing processes. By using the body’s own cells, the need for donors is eliminated, the chance of infection is reduced, and the overall outcome is a solution that functions more closely to the native cells or tissue.  

Submitted by mclean1 on Mon, 01/30/2017 - 9:37am

Lead Challenges

  • Engineering functional tissues for regenerative medicine by incorporating molecular, cellular, tissue and whole organism analysis, micro-environmental effects (such as mechanical forces), stem cells, and bioreactor technologies.
  • Enabling more advanced treatments through new technologies building on bioprocesses, microfluidics, 3D-printing and nanomaterial design.
  • Improving surgical outcomes through design of computer-assisted surgical techniques and tools and testing systems for device development.
  • Advancing pharmaceutical development through the creation of drug-delivery systems, model systems and new devices that more accurately assess the therapeutic targets, benefits and potential side effects of novel drugs.


  • University of Calgary research teams have already developed and translated a novel technology, which resulted in the neuroArm surgical robotic system that has been used to pioneer the surgical removal of complex brain tumors while the patient is inside an MRI. The robot allows for advanced visualization during surgery, resulting in increased precision and accuracy to significantly improve surgical outcomes for patients suffering from brain tumors.
  • Our researchers were among the first to expand human neural stem cells in stirred suspension bioreactors and are now extending these results to mesenchymal stem cells for bone and cartilage, skin stem cells for burn survivors, and pluripotent stem cells for cardiac regeneration. They have also developed new ways to generate enough cells safely and rapidly for personalized therapies and for engineering replacement tissues, pharmaceutical testing systems to increase the success of drugs coming to market and new surgical techniques to improve patient recovery.
  • University of Calgary researchers have helped develop better therapeutic biomaterials as effective treatments for dry-eye disease and osteoarthritis, which may also prolong the performance of implant materials used for joint replacement. This technology has been successfully moved from the lab to a commercial entity, Lμbris LLC, so we can deliver these therapies to the people who will benefit most from them.
  • Our researchers have created a model that was the first in the world to isolate mechanical factors from biological factors in studying osteoarthritis in humans, informing our goal of early risk detection. Knowing and understanding that an individual will develop osteoarthritis early will better equip that individual to manage the onset of this crippling disease, and assist clinicians in developing more effective intervention strategies.
  • Researchers at the University of Calgary have pioneered novel sternal closure techniques for heart surgery using a type of bone glue called Kryptonite™ to close the breastbone after it has been opened to perform heart surgery. This cutting edge technique is a huge improvement over the previous procedure which used metal wires to bring the breastbone back together.  

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise

  • developing stem cell and tissue engineering approaches for bone and cartilage repair
  • implantable and regenerative devices for vascular and heart treatment
  • devices to repair damaged nerves and to regain lost brain function
  • implantable devices to control seizures, tremors, addiction and pain
  • brain pacemakers and robotic surgical-imaging rehabilitation devices
  • artificial prostheses
  • bio-imaging technologies, bio-films and biomaterials to prevent infection after implantation
  • biomechanics analysis for arthritis
  • biomechanical approaches and devices for cardiovascular disease
  • neuromuscular adaptations for aging, bone and joint injuries
  • technologies for mitigating diabetes complications

BME Theme 4

Emerging theme: Optimized health care system performance

Goal: To deliver research built on our emerging strengths, using engineering tools and approaches to improve patient flow through the health care system.

Engineering tools and approaches are ideally suited to improving the flow of patients, data and resources through the healthcare system. Research within this theme will investigate new tools for evaluating healthcare system performance and technology assessment. Operational modelling technologies at the University of Calgary will ensure that all patients are able to access the care they need by optimizing the system for delivery of care – this will maximize the chances of a full recovery from a medical event.

Submitted by mclean1 on Mon, 01/30/2017 - 9:39am

Key areas of investigation

  • Operations research and operations management tools and approaches for improving the quality and productivity of the system for the delivery of health and wellness services.
  • Life-cycle assessments and examination of economic, legal, regulatory, policy, and social issues of proposed biomedical engineering solutions.
  • Novel methods to create scalable and sustainable biomedical engineering solutions based upon the ability to capture value through social entrepreneurship.
  • Clinical studies, leveraging expertise in patient safety and quality of care, to provide quantitative user outcome measures, which can be augmented by qualitative data.