Engineering contributions to advances in life sciences and medicine

William Mong Distinguished Lecture by Professor Boris Rubinsky
Dec 3, 2018

Professor Boris Rubinsky, Professor of the Graduate School at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Bioengineering from the University of California Berkeley, CA, gave a lecture on  December 3, 2018 (Monday) titled “Engineering contributions to advances in life sciences and medicine”.

Engineering has enabled many advances in life sciences and medicine, and in this presentation Professor Rubinsky described some of the advances in which he was involved and highlight the role of engineering. Cryosurgery, the use of freezing to ablate undesirable tissues has its roots in the 19th century work of Faraday and other physicist who studied the physics of low temperatures. However, only in the early 1980’s have Dr. Gary Onik and Professor Rubinsky realized that the change in the physical properties of tissue during freezing can be used to produce a real time image of the frozen lesion, and thereby, transformed cryosurgery, from a medical technology used mostly on the outer surface of the body into an important minimally invasive surgery technique deep in the body, which has treated tens of thousands of patients, since. Electroporation, the permeabilization of the cell membrane by brief high electric field pulses is of central importance in biotechnology and molecular medicine.  Taking advantage of MEMS technology, Dr. Yong Huang and Professor Rubinsky have developed the first microchip for single cell electroporation, which is now a key element in many lab on a chip devices, and which my group now develops for CRISPR based manipulation of stem cells. Using only mathematical modeling of heat transfer and electric field calculations, Dr. Rafael Davalos and Professor Rubinsky have predicted that certain electric fields can ablate tissue through a phenomenon known as irreversible electroporation (IRE), in such a way that the cell death is caused only by the irreversible permeabilization of the cell membrane without Joule heating. First clinically tested in 2008, non-thermal IRE (NTIRE) is now considered one of the most promising new tissue ablation techniques. Thousands of otherwise non-treatable cancers, such as of the pancreas, are now successfully treated with NTIRE. From fundamental principles of thermodynamics,  Dr. Alejandro Perez and Professor Rubinsky have developed the concept of isochoric freezing,  a new concept now actively developed for preservation of different biological matter, from food organs for transplantation. Recently they have successfully preserved pancreatic islets for treatement of diabetes. Using mathematical modeling of the Maxwell equations, Dr. Cesar Gonzalez, Moshe Oziel and Professor Rubinsky have developed a new non-contact diagnostic technology that can detect changes in the blood content in the brain; a technology that is now clinically used for detection of edema in the brain. Professor Rubinsky also described his group recent work on 3-D cryoprinting and cryolithography for tissue engineering and food manufacturing.