Carolina Gouveia, a PhD student from IT and the University of Aveiro, was distinguished with the second prize in the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2018, for the work developed within her MsC thesis entitled “Bio-Radar”.
The measurement of cardiopulmonary activity without the need for any physical contact with the human body has many applications, such as monitoring the vital signs of hospitalized patients or vehicle drivers, analyzing sleep disturbances, experimental psychology or even aiding recovery missions in the event of natural disasters.
The Bio-Radar prototype that Carolina developed during her MsC, under the supervision of José Vieira and Pedro Pinho (both from IT in Aveiro), "Enables these vital signs to be reliably captured using radio waves to accurately measure the distance between the antennas and the patient's rib cage", explains Carolina Gouveia. The system comprises a continuous wave radar, which digitally generates a sinusoidal signal, modulated by a carrier of 5.8 GHz. The received signal is a version of the transmitted signal, modulated in phase by the movement of the chest while the patient is breathing.
"Since a periodic movement of the rib cage occurs after breathing, the radar is able to measure this variation and determine the period of the respiratory rhythm. The developed prototype executes this measurement in real time through two antennas designed for the purpose that concentrate the radio waves in the user's chest, "says Carolina Gouveia.
Created in 2010, the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge is sponsored by the Fraunhofer Portugal Research Association. The ideas competing in the contest must be based on MsC´s or PhD thesis, whose research is of practical utility, market oriented and focused on the areas of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), Multimedia and other related sciences.
Photo: Carolina Gouveia with her supervisors José Vieira (on the left), Pedro Pinho (on the right) and the Bio-Radar prototype
Sanaz Asgarifar, a PhD student from IT and the University of Algarve (UAlg), was the winner of the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge 2018, winning the first prize in the PhD theses category with the work "Novel Treatment of Glioblastoma Brain Tumor using Bioelectronic Devices".
Created in 2010, the Fraunhofer Portugal Challenge is a contest sponsored by the Fraunhofer Portugal Research Association, a non-profit organization, funded by the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, a research company with 58 institutes spread all over Germany. The ideas competing in the contest must be based on MsC´s or PhD thesis, whose research is of practical utility, market oriented and focused on the areas of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), Multimedia and other related sciences.
As the title announces, in her thesis, under the supervision of Henrique Leonel Gomes (IT/UAlg) and Maria da Graça Ruano (UAlg), Sanaz Asgarifar proposes using bioelectronics devices in the treatment of Glioblastoma Brain Tumor, the most common cancer of the central nervous system. The method uses electronic components capable of interacting with the cell signaling mechanism to regulate biological functions, that is, the device uses electrical signals to instruct cancer cells to enter into a quiescent state or die.
The work developed by Sanaz Asgarifar shows that the cancer cells communicate with each other, using electrical oscillations. However, the amplitude of these oscillations is of only a few microvolts, which is 1000x weaker than the action potential of a neuron, which reaches amplitudes of millivolts. Therefore, measuring and understanding these signs is a priority for the treatment of cancer.
This thesis proposes using electronic devices to decode a "dictionary" of signals used by cancer cells and determine their impact on cell activity and migration. Once these signals are decoded, the devices can stimulate the tumor with electrical signal patterns to inhibit cell growth and even evoke apoptotic signals.
The hope is that this research can be applied to develop a prototype of a biomedical device adhering to the skin. The device can be implemented in flexible, soft and biocompatible substrates to act locally, with minimal effects on nearby healthy tissues. The results of this study will lead to the development of new locoregional therapies to inhibit and suppress brain tumors.