8 November 2018

Four TURBO grants were awarded to new technical-medical research proposals. The grants are part of the TURBO program, a collaboration between Radboudumc and the University of Twente. With these grants, research groups from both institutions can further develop an innovative idea with the intent of subsequently submitting it to an external grant provider. The TURBO program is now in its second year.

The TURBO program started in 2017 and is an acronym for 'Twente University RadBoudumc Opportunities'. It ties in with the TopFit program, which gives further effect to the ‘Concepts for a Healthy Life' innovation profile of the East region in the Netherlands. The purpose of a TURBO grant is to prepare a project for acquiring larger, external grants, such as those provided by national and European funds and companies that are active in the field of health care and technology. In the TechMed Magazine of May 2018 two scientists tell more about one of the winning studies from last year: The simulation of the blood-brain barrier for the development of personalised medicine.

This year four projects were awarded:

Tumor-on-a-chip

Hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) in a tumor increases the aggressiveness and hinders the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Currently, no therapy exists that specifically targets hypoxic cells in tumors. Roland Brock, theme Nanomedicine and Severine Le Gac (UT) will be developing a smart tumor-on-a-chip that can mimic these complex tumor structures in order to study possible ways to specifically kill hypoxic cancer cells.

A 3D brain tumor environment

At this moment, it is not yet possible to simulate the brain structure in 3D with organ-on-a-chip technology. As a result, the knowledge about the interaction between glioma cells (a type of tumor) and surrounding brain cells is still rudimentary. Peter Friedl, theme Cancer development and immune defense, and Jai Prakash (UT) want to develop a 3D brain tumor micro-environment in order to study this interaction and take further steps towards targeted treatments.

Monitoring resilience with wearable sensors

People who break a hip often do not fully recover. This leads to a heavier disease burden for the patient and increases costs to society. The outcome of treatments would improve if doctors were better able to predict and quantify the individual resilience of patients. RenĂ© Melis, theme Healthcare improvement science, and Hermie Hermens (UT) will be developing a system that uses wearable sensors and smart algorithms to measure this resilience and support treatment decisions.

Improved breathing in neuromuscular disorders

Many neuromuscular disorders, such as ALS, can lead to complete or partial loss of diaphragm function. This makes it difficult for patients to breathe. While diaphragm pacemakers (similar to those used for the heart) do exist, their possibilities are still limited: they ensure even breathing, but do not adapt to changing needs, for example, when the patient is moving. This limits their applicability.  Baziel van Engelen, theme Neuromuscular diseases and Peter Veltink (UT) will be working on the development of a new diaphragm pacemaker that responds to the needs of the individual patient and thus contributes to greater mobility and independence.

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