NYIT’s Farajivadar lands NIH neural research grant

NYIT's Aydin Farajivadar leads a team of researchers working on an implantable gastric system monitor.

NYIT professor and neural-stimulation expert Aydin Farajivadar has won a federal grant to help fund development of a wireless, implantable system to study the human body’s gastric system.

Early-stage work by Farajivadar at the NYIT School of Engineering and Computing Science’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center has earned a $457,000 National Institutes of Health grant. Ultimately ticketed to help track medical data inside human patients with stomach disorders, the tiny implant will first be tested in animals, where it will safely monitor electrical impulses produced by rhythmic stomach movements and contractions related to gastric functions.

“Right now, we have no adequate way to record the gastric signals that allow us to understand what may be happening in a patient’s stomach,” noted Farajidavar, an assistant professor in the engineering department at NYIT’s Old Westbury Campus. “External devices placed on the surface of the belly don’t always pick up the stomach’s signals or the signal recording is disrupted if a patient moves a certain way.”

Such concerns are eliminated by WINGS – or Wireless Implantable NeuroGastroenterology System – being developed by Farajidavar and his research team, which includes scientists from Pennsylvania State University, the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute in New Zealand.

WINGS features a microchip designed to be implanted during an endoscopy – a procedure in which doctors use a flexible tube to examine the digestive tract – and a stick-on patch that both wirelessly recharges the implant and transmits its data to a computer.

Implanted by surgeons through a small flap cut into the stomach lining, the chip is projected to remain active inside the patient for a month or longer, transmitting data on so-called “slow waves” that will help doctors monitor the stomach’s electrical activity.

The generated data will help detect problems with gastric movements known as dysrhythmias, which lead to multiple disorders that prevent the stomach from digesting food normally. That can negatively affect blood sugar levels, nutrition absorption and other routine biological functions.

Farajidavar, the lead researcher on the WINGS project, is director of the Integrated Medical Systems laboratory at NYIT-Old Westbury and the author of several medical journal articles and conference papers. A member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the International Neural Network Society, he serves on the editorial board of the Hong Kong-based Journal of Biological Research.

The lab director said he hopes to take WINGS to human trials “in a few years,” likening the potential benefits to recent internal-tracking and function-regulation advances made in cardiology.

“Once we know more about these gastric waves and signals, scientists can develop special therapies, similar to heart pacemakers, for patients suffering from gastric disorders,” Farajidavar noted. “These technologies have helped revolutionize diagnosis and treatment of heart issues.

“The same thing is possible for the stomach conditions but only if we have ways to monitor gastric signals in long-term studies,” he added.

Farajidavar’s grant is among the first doled out through the NIH’s Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions initiative, which is dedicated to the workings of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. The program is designed specifically to fund projects with the potential to reveal information about the role peripheral nerves play in the body’s organs and functions.

“We’re honored to be among the first responders to this initiative,” Farajidavar said.