Universitą degli studi di Pavia


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Research Topics

The variety of interests and skills available in the research groups involved in the graduae programme allows a wide range of different research paths. For this reason, the Ph.D. programme covers three research areas:

  • Big data and biomedical informatics
  • Diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative bioengineering
  • Cell and tissue Bioengineering

A non-exhaustive list of the research topics currently carried on at the Departments affiliated to the PhD program is reported below:

  1. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: cardiotocography and fetal monitoring
    The cardiotocography (CTG) is nowadays the most widely used method for monitoring fetal well-being in clinical practice. It provides for the simultaneous recording of the FCF (through ultrasound) and of the uterine contractions (through an external pressure sensor). Although the examination is easy to perform, the analysis of the FCF variations is very complex and requires a multi-parametric approach.

  2. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: analysis of eye movements to evaluate e-learning systems
    This research activity aims to develop a methodology for evaluating e-learning systems based on the analysis of eye movements during the exploration of the human-machine interface. The project consists of several phases such as: definition of the e-learning scenarios for assessment, definition of experimental protocols, development of the software for the acquisition and the analysis of eye movements, collection of data from a large population of subjects.
    The project is carried out in collaboration with several European partners.

  3. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: natural and artificial models of sensory-motor and balance control
    The study is mainly aimed at eye-head coordination and equilibrium control in order to better understand the different ways the CNS uses to stabilize body and/or vision in different environmental conditions, by integrating different sensory information, in particular visual and vestibular. In fact, the visuo-vestibularsystem constitutes an ideal field for the study of motor coordination, movement adaptation, and integration of sensory information. The research topics pertain to (i) the specific characteristics of the two sensory-motor systems and their components, (ii) the principles and strategies for their interaction and (iii) the manifestations of their plasticity. They are addressed by integrating experimental approach, and modeling and simulation by both mathematical models and physical biomimetic models.

  4. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: bone tissue generation
    The research is focused on the production of biological tissue support (bones), with particular attention to both the experimental characterization and the analytical and numerical modeling. Tissue Engineering methodology, starting from the stromal cells of patient's bone marrow, aims to generate a functional and vascularized bone tissue which will be subsequently implanted in the patient himself.

  5. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: intelligent sensors embedded on wearable devices
    This research activity refers to European project ProeTex: MicroNanoStructured fibre systems for Emergency-Disaster Wear, aimed at producing garments in which sensors are integrated for the survey of vital signs, motion and temperature as well as transmission devices for operators acting under emergency conditions. The project relies on collaboration with leading companies in the field of wearable devices.

  6. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: development of fall prevention methods and devices
    At present time, this research branch is promoted by the EU's VII Framework Program as well as USA's NIH. In fact, in both the elderly and vestibular/cerebellar patients, falls represent an important expense chapter for the national health care system.The final goal of the research is the development of
    • new methods for evaluation of fall risk situations, based on the analysis of the output of wearable devices;
    • new devices, featuring a more effective feedback than that of those currently used;
    • new devices for the acquisition of signals capable of falls prediction.

  7. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: optimization of shape memory materials biomedical devices
    Thanks to their unusual mechanical properties, shape memory alloys and polymers offer interesting perspectives for device development, in particular in biomedical scope. Despite the great scientific and commercial attention on this matter, there is still a strong need for research tools based on engineering methods and focused on the optimization of the device plans, and more in particular on material specifics. This research aims to
    • develop experimentally validated models of the finished elements, able to replay loading state in vivo;
    • apply optimization techniques for shape memory device projects, with particular attention to biomedical devices for mini-invasive surgery or microactuators for microsystems.

  8. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: peripheral stenting devices – studying the design with the finite element method
    The success of coronary artery stenting procedures with percutaneous techniques led to the progressive application of these same techniques on more peripheral blood vessels, e.g. carotid or femoral artery. Regrettably, in these sites, vessel stenting was shown to be less effective due to frequent mechanical fatigue device failures. This research aims at optimizing peripheral stents made of nitinol, using finite element calculus and fracture/fatigue mechanics techniques.
    This research is carried out in collaboration with european partners.

  9. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: aortic valve sparing procedure optimization
    Aortic valve and root are generating more and more scientific interest, thanks to the advancements in both reconstructive and mini-invasive surgery. Traditional surgical approach for aortic root disease (such as stenosis or regurgitation) requires swapping of the aorta with a synthetic prosthesis, using mechanical or biological valves (aortic valve sparing procedure). These surgical procedures are technically complex and require a careful planning. This research aims at optimizing the “valve sparing procedure”through computational methods for both characterization of valve mechanics and planning of the surgical procedure itself.
    This research is carried out in collaboration with european partners.

  10. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: mechanical models for biomedical applications -e.g. stents – in biodegradable (or bioabsorbable) materials
    Quick and steady technological progress in the field of biomaterials is bringing on the definition of a new frontier for biomedical implants: biodegradable (or bioabsorbable) implantable devices made with materials like magnesium or polymers. As for bioabsorbable devices, interesting applications could be
    • drug releasing cardiovascular stents;
    • drug releasing devices for the treatment of cancer, lacerations and other localized degenerations;
    • devices for fixing of bone fractures like screws, plates etc.
    This project hopes to study and model the mechanical behaviour of the biomedical structures built with biodegradable materials, tying such behaviour to the progressive dispersion of the structure.

  11. Electronics and Industrial Bioengineering: investigation of three-dimensional silicon microstructures for tumor cell entrapment
    This multidisciplinary research activity has the objective of demonstrating that particular miniaturized silicon optical devices can perform simultaneously the functions of three-dimensional micro-incubator and optical transducer, able to detect the presence of cells without the use of exogenous markers (eg., fluorescent probes). These three-dimensional optical microstructures are realized with technological processes similar to those used for the fabrication of microelectronic circuits and they consist in periodic arrays of silicon walls separated by air gaps, with a thickness of a few micrometers. They are "artificial photonic crystals": their optical characteristics change significantly in the presence of cells, or other biological material, in the gaps.
    Long-term objective is to use the full potential of photonic crystals to provide direct information on the cells (on proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and cell death), also as a result of modulations and perturbations induced from outside, e.g. caused by drugs (especially for cancer).

  12. Medical and Health Informatics: intelligent data analysis
    A large class of problems in clinical monitoring involves the analysis and the interpretation of data, especially if collected in a longitudinal way on variable time horizons. In this context, we can distinguish two different types of problems: the long-term monitoring, linked to chronic diseases, and the short-term monitoring, usually related to an acute illness. In clinical monitoring the so-called "Intelligent Data Analysis" methods (IDA) play an increasingly important role. In particular these techniques combine methods from AI with the usual approaches based on classical statistics and seem to be especially useful in some domains that have both clinical aspects of short and long term monitoring such as cardiovascular diseases and chronic uremia.

  13. Medical and Health Informatics: tumor growth models in vitro and in vivo and pharmacokinetic studies for the development of new drugs
    In collaboration with Nerviano Medical Science, the problem of efficacy evaluation of anticancer drugs at different stages of the process of drug development is tackled. In particular innovative techniques for data analysis from both in vitro and in vivo experiments in animal models are currently being studied. This research also includes the study of drug effects at the level of gene expression through the use of both microarray expression and of PCR.

  14. Medical and Health Informatics: medical knowledge management systems
    This research aims to promote the use of new methodologies and technologies of knowledge management in health care. The main purpose is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of work processes in healthcare organizations by facilitating cooperation and communication between operators, allowing a more rapid utilization of medical knowledge produced by research.

  15. Medical and Health Informatics: telemedicine for patients with Diabetes Mellitus
    The AP@home project deals with the definition of a technological platform to provide an artificial pancreas at home of Diabetic patients. We are developing the telemedicine platform to support the long distance monitoring of such patients.

  16. Medical and Health Informatics: economic evaluation of health interventions
    The research aims to assess health outcomes in the light of costs necessary to achieve them. In particular, the ongoing application concerns economic assessment of neonatal screening for early detection of long-QT syndrome.

  17. Medical and Health Informatics: toxicity models for drugs in pre-clinical and clinical development stage
    The activity, carried out in collaboration with Nerviano MedicalSciences and GlaxoSmithKline Italia, aims at (i) creating models dealing with the issue of dose-escalation in Phase I clinical studies undergone during the development of new drugs, as well as at (ii) modelling the toxicity of antitumoral drugs for the immune system. In case (i), the aim is the identification of the maximum tolerable dose for both study subjects and generic patients, through definition and use of stocastic models. In case (ii) the aim is the definition of a pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic model able to highlight the correlation between drug administration and blood leucocyte concentration.

  18. Synthetic Biology
    This research activity is led in association with the Center for Tissue Engineering (CIT) of the University of Pavia, the research is focused on the study of methods for implementation of new functions in living organisms. Particular attention is given to issues both about laboratory and experimental activities, and also to simulation and modeling of the biological systems under study.
    The activity is aimed at the exploration of this new segment of bioengineering and at easing the process of engineering of biological systems, in order to actualize in an innovative way biological devices that could be used in diagnostics and therapy of various diseases, as well as in the optimisation of industrial processes involving living organisms.

  19. Bioinformatics: data analysis from DNA microarrays
    The DNA microarrays are used to determine the expression levels of thousands of genes. Measuring the gene expressions in various instants of time we obtain a time series of gene expressions (a time series for each gene), also known as gene expression profile. The gene expression profiles were used to group similar genes, under the hypothesis that genes with similar temporal profiles (and therefore belonging to the same cluster) contribute to the same function. From the functional genomics point of view, the problem to compare the time series assumes the particular features related to the very small number of samples collected over time (usually less than 20) and the presence of a very large number of time series (of the order of hundreds / thousands). The application of traditional clustering methods to "short" time series requires considerable attention. For example, neither methods based on transforms nor methods that use complex models that can not be estimated precisely can be used.

  20. Bioinformatics: proteomics
    A particular field of bioinformatics and proteomics to which scientific research is focusing its interest is the clinical serum proteomics. It aims to discover biomarkers for a specific disease by identifying the differences between the proteins present in the serum of healthy and diseased subjects. One of the most frequently used techniques in this field is the differential analysis of SELDI-TOF mass spectra, and in particular of the intensities corresponding to all mass-charge ratios that make up spectra associated with pathological samples and spectra generated from control samples. Although research has already explored this direction, a standard procedure to be used in this kind of analysis has not yet been established. The goal of the project is the development of a standard methodology for the analysis of protein expression data obtained through SELDI-TOF mass spectrometry.

  21. Bioinformatics: Clinical Bioinformatics – i2b2 project – Pavia – Data usage and integration in biomedical research
    The i2b2-Pavia project aims at creating an IT framework for biomedical research integrating all the data produced in clinical practice and hospital stays, the data will then be made available to biomedical researchers in Pavia's health-care facilities. The system should then be connected to a bio-bank allowing the storage, after specific consent is given, of unused biological samples.
    This project is inspired by the collaboration with the National Center for Biomedical Computing known as i2b2 and wants to use the i2b2 architecture to support the research activities of the many IRCCS in Pavia. The Onco-i2b2 project, funded by Regione Lombardia and carried out in cooperation with IRCCS Fondazione S. Maugeri, is aimed at implementing an integrated framework capable of supporting oncology research, particularly on breast cancer.

  22. Bioinformatics: Computational analysis methods for data produced in genetic association studies and in population genetics studies
    Today, the study of the genome allows for the analysis of the genetic causes of many pathologies. In this research activity we face the analysis of data produced in various clinical studies on complex trait diseases. In particular, advanced statistical analysis methods are used to select genetic markers that are relevant to the clinical phenotype at hand.

  23. Bioinformatics: Bioinformatic support for high density sequencing
    Today, thanks to the Human Genome project results, it is possible to screen the whole genome of each individual in order to find the genetic alterations that could explain many individual phenotypical variations with sequencing techniques that are getting more and more cheap and quick. In particular, today it is possible to run a large number of contemporary analysis on one or more genomic DNA samples, and output a large quantity of data on the molecule in a few days. This new scenario is known as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS).

  24. Bioinformatics: computational methods for biomarker research and surrogate end-points of Type I Diabetes complications
    This research activity joins with the SUMMIT project (European Community - VII Framework Programme) and aims at identifying and characterizing biomarkers that can function as end-point surrogate in clinical trials addressing the study and treatment of Type 1 Diabetes.
    In the scope of this project, the Department is working at the following tasks:
    • data mining and knowledge integration: software tools development for information recovery and automated literature analysis;
    • development of predictive models able to integrate the available knowledge qith data mining techniques; application of Bayesian Networks;
    • creation of an in silico model of Diabetes Mellitus complications.

  25. Bioinformatics: knowledge management and data mining methods for translation of base knowledge about hereditary cardiomyopathies in clinical practice
    INHERITANCE is a multi-centered multi-disciplinary project aimed at translating the knowledge about etiology and pathophysiology of familial dilatative cardiomyopathies (DCM) in clinical practice and also at defining new treatment strategies. The research will steer in particular towards creating an integrated cluster of platforms for knowledge – management that encompass phenotype data management, remote access to networked resources (biological databases and ontologies), and to automated literature research.

  26. Bioinformatics: (bioinformatic for tissue engineering): building an International Research Group
    The project aims at realizing a Bioinformatics unit for Tissue Engineering; this unit will support the activities of the Interdepartmental Centre for Tissue Engineering (CIT) of the University of Pavia. This new unit's activitis are focused on the study of molecular mechanisms causing muscular hypertrophy in mammals, in the field of embryonic development and stem-cell differentiation. The most advanced phase of the work concerns the study of integrative methods for discovery of new biomarkers. In detail, the gene expression data will be integrated both with information about position on the genome and with proteic pattern analysis obtained through mass spectrometry.

  27. Biogenesis: Gene expression regulation during mouse embryonic pre-implantation development
    Knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell differentiation during preimplantation development from the zygote to the blastocyst is fundamental to the understanding of the factors that regulate the process of cell differentiation, including those involved in genetic diseases. The activation of embryonic genes (Embryonic Genome Aactivation, EGA) occurs in the mouse from the stage of two cells and represents a crucial event in the life of the embryo, as the failure or the incorrect activation of gene expression causes embryonic death. The research will aim to define the temporal dynamics of quantitative expression of key genes during the development of mouse pre-implantation embryos.

  28. Biogenesis: Systems biology of the mammalian ovarian follicles
    Mammalian antral oocytes posses two different types of chromatin organisation depending on the presence (surrounded nucleolus, SN) or absence (non surrounded nucleolus, NSN) of a ring of heterochromatin around the nucleolus. An important feature of this model study is that when fully-grown antral SN oocytes are isolated from the ovary, cultured in vitro to the MII stage and inseminated, they complete preimplantation and full-term development; on the contrary, fully-grown NSN antral oocytes arrest development at the 2-cell stage. Using a multidisciplinary systems biology approach (transcriptomics, genome-wide DNA-methylation, miRNA), the main aim of this research is the identification of the molecular networks that regulate the follicle differentiation and the acquisition of the oocyte developmental competence.

  29. Biogenesis: Effects of pollutants on the differentiation of embryonic stem cells into cardiomyocytes
    Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are generally recognized as the primary cause of mortality in the industrialized world. The last decade has seen a remarkable growth in the evidence establishing exposure to pollutants as a risk factor for CVDs. Making use of an embryonic stem cell-platform, the aim of this study is to identify the molecular and functional alterations induced by the pollutant molecules tested (e.g., arsenic, dioxin, PCBs) during cardiomyocyte differentiation.
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