‘This is a Change and Life is Full of Changes’

When the spirit of engineering comes forth to tackle some of the biggest challenges in medicine, incredible developments can happen.

 |  Transcript [PDF]

Biomedical engineer Dena Shahriari is excited to be working at the interface between engineering and medicine. It’s an area that she says has only just started to catch on, and there are still lots of opportunities to fill unmet needs.

A major source of missed opportunities is the gap that exists between engineers and clinicians. Better cross-communication of the challenges and available technologies would help advance the field, says Shahriari, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

“We are very excited to be centred right in the hospital campus at UBC where we can have very interesting conversations very early on and throughout our project with clinicians, and bring in our engineering expertise to develop technologies to address some of these challenges in medicine,” adds Shariari.

“We are engineers at heart that work on medical problems. We like to think that we are a problem-driven, technology-based laboratory, and we develop technologies to improve human health.”

Shahriari works on a diverse set of medical conditions, from spinal cord injury to amputations and their interfaces with prosthetics.

Working with biomaterials and electronic sensors and devices, Shahriari blends concepts from both neuroscience and engineering. She uses these tools to study nerve repair, send signals to biological tissues, and improve organ function that may change after paralysis.

“Spinal cord injury can happen to anyone at any moment within a second, right?” says Shahriari.

“It’s easy to sit back as somebody who who thinks about this and say that, oh this is so devastating, this is so debilitating. But I like to think that the way we should approach this is that this is a change and life is full of changes, right? And our part as a scientist is to really try to serve the people and try to improve the quality of life more.”

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Dena Shahriari is an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia at the Department of Orthopaedics and the School of Biomedical Engineering and is a Principal Investigator at the International Collaborations on Repair Discoveries. She is the director of the BioAugmentative Interfaces Laboratory where smart biomaterials and bioelectronic devices are being developed to restore motor and organ function after injuries and diseases.

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