BME 525: Biomedical Materials and Artificial Organs

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In the fall term of 2015 this course was taught by Prof. William Reichert as BME525 to students at Duke University and BBE3102 to students at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.  Each lecture given at Duke was recorded using Panopto, and the PowerPoint lecture slides and the recorded lecture were uploaded on the MUK Moodle site.  Twice a week the MUK students gathered in a classroom to watch the downloaded lectures.  The class was taken by 25 Duke students that were either seniors majoring in BME, BME Master’s students, or BME PhD students.  The class was also taken in Uganda by 38 MUK juniors majoring in BME.  The lecture material covered the following traditional topics:

  • Materials bulk properties and characterization
  • Materials surface properties and characterization
  • Soft tissues
  • Hard tissues
  • Metallic biomaterials
  • Ceramic biomaterials
  • Polymeric biomaterials
  • Composite and textile biomaterials
  • Water and hydrogel biomaterials
  • Biomaterials egradation
  • Protein adsorption
  • Cell adhesion
  • Wound healing
  • Tissue compatibility
  • Blood compatibility
  • Infection, biofilm formation, sterilization
  • In vitro/cytotoxicity testing
  • Ex vivo testing
  • Animal testing
  • Explant characterization
  • Clinical studies
  • Device regulation

Class Outcomes

Both Duke and MUK students took the same midterm and final exams, were assigned the same weekly readings from the scientific literature, and were required to submit a weekly written synopsis of each reading.  Students at both universities also completed semester-long projects. The undergraduates and Master’s students worked in groups. A sampling of previous Duke undergraduate and Master’s student projects can be found here.  The PhD students pursued their projects individually.  

The Duke PhD students mainly built their projects around their anticipated dissertation research that included biomimetic materials, tissue engineered organs, and mechanical testing of the spine.  The undergraduate and Master’s students conducted projects on implant extrusion, biomaterials-centered infection, rhinoplasty, metallic foams, continuous glucose monitoring.  The MUK students conducted projects on the orthopedic implant supply chain, hip and knee implants, post-implant infection, diabetes management, hormone-releasing implants for birth control, biomaterials made from locally sourced materials, dentures, and leg prosthetics.  The Duke and MUK project groups were asked to interact where topical overlap was evident, and in most cases this was not very successful because of the dramatically different circumstances, difficulties with communication, and some flat out disinterest.

The one clear exception was the project on the orthopedic implant supply chain because this was the only instance where a Duke student was incorporated directly into a MUK group.  The Duke student, Ashley Reid, had a great deal of experience in working in Africa and was able to navigate the communication issues and focused mostly on the literature search aspects because of the stronger Internet infrastructure at Duke.  The MUK students, led mostly by Zoe Zuena, worked diligently with Mulago orthopedic surgeon Dr. Erisa Mwaka to gather first-hand information on trauma patients in Mulago Hospital.  The results of this project have been compiled into a manuscript that will be submitted for publication with Ashley and Zoe as co-first authors.

Challenges

To be fair, this was the first time that Duke BME has offered a class to a remote location and there were several disadvantages suffered by the MUK students, the most significant being their lack of university-level course work in materials, mechanics, and chemistry.  Secondarily, but also significantly were the inadequacies of delivering course content to MUK students by asking them to watch recorded lectures and PowerPoint slides.  Although we tried to bridge this gap by setting up weekly Skype recitation sessions for discussing the lecture material and the assigned readings, this was largely unsuccessful and was abandoned relatively early in the semester.  The MUK students also severely lacked Internet capabilities and were unable (or unwilling) to access the large video and lecture slide files by downloading these from the MUK Moodle site onto their own laptops.  Duke has since purchased a modem to improve the Skyping capability and we hope to figure out a way to improve MUK student usage of their Moodle site.

Future Classes

The course will be offered again in Fall 2016, this time by Prof. Joel Collier with the aid of Prof. Reichert who will focus on improving the communication and Skype delivery of recitation sessions to MUK.