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UH Biomedical Engineering Junior Wins Fellowship for Model of Human Vascular System

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Portia Elaine-Gant

The American Society of Artificial Internal Organs (ASAIO) awarded a $500 fellowship to University of Houston biomedical engineering junior Hassan Khalil at their 51st Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. last weekend. The ten awards offered by ASAIO are separated into two categories—one for undergraduate students and another for graduate students and professional engineers. Khalil was awarded a fellowship from the latter group.

“This is an international competition and a very prestigious award,” said professor Ralph Metcalfe, deputy director of the UH biomedical engineering program. “It’s a special honor to be considered and to get the award when the other candidates are graduate students, research engineers, assistant professors and instructors of biomedical engineering.”

Written with the aid of Kamuran Kadipasaoglu, adjunct professor of biomedical engineering at UH and assistant director of the Cardiovascular Surgery Research Laboratories at the Texas Heart Institute (THI), biomedical engineering program director Matt Franchek and Metcalfe, Khalil’s abstract detailed the research he has done with a model of the human vascular system. Though artificial organs have been in use for some time, Khalil’s model of the human vascular system will allow for new experimentation in artificial organ control.

“The end goal is not the development of the model, but one of the main things is to try to control the artificial heart,” Khalil said. “We’re still in the research stage and having a model like this is very helpful in studying feedback control of an artificial heart. I’m working on that with Dr. Franchek because he is an expert on control design.”

Due to the intent of their research, they wanted to avoid using animal test subjects at this stage; also, Khalil’s model can achieve more in-depth research.

“It’s much easier to work with models than to carry out experiments on animals, and these are things you definitely cannot do to humans,” Khalil said. “Having a model like this makes experiments easier and much more flexible because you can do different types of experiments on the same model by manipulating very simple things. If you try to do this with an animal, you have to give it drugs, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Animal models are also more expensive.”

Khalil’s abstract, titled “Simulation of Total Artificial Heart Circuit with Tandem Continuous-Flow Ventricular Assist Devices,” began with a summer internship at THI that serves as collaboration with the Cullen College of Engineering.

“For students like me, this collaboration between the University of Houston and the medical center is a very good opportunity to gain experience and to work with doctors and other professionals,” Khalil said. “I think it’s also important because at some point, engineers and engineering students have to be involved in these projects because there is an engineering aspect to every project.”

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