OptoSpine (Wait-list only)

Current project

The 2021 OptoSpine VIP team is now full.

You can join the WAIT-LIST however we recommend you apply 

for another exciting VIP team as there are many places available on other teams.

VIP Snapshot

The spinal cord is essential for communicating sensations and controlling body movement. Spinal trauma or disorders can result in aberrant sensations, pain, or paralysis. This interdisciplinary project will develop a new nanotechnology combined with an implantable device to precisely deliver drugs or genes to spinal cord neurons, then control them through light stimulation. This technology will pave the way for restoring normal spinal cord function, which is currently impossible for these patients.

Precision Pain Relief High Res

VIP ChallENG research goals

We will work to create a new program of therapy using precision nanomedicine delivery and optogenetic activation/inhibition of the spinal cord. This specifically includes:

  1. Designing the right nanoparticle conjugates that can bind with channel rhodopsin (the protein responsible for making cells light sensitive) or plasmids that express the protein.
  2. Designing an approach to selectively deliver the particles to the central nervous system, specifically the spinal cord.
  3. Designing an implantable stimulating ‘optoelectrode’, a light generating device that “shines” light on the modified neurons to excite and/or inhibit them.  

Research, design or technical ChallENG

Students will be divided into three teams, one team based at each of the following schools:  chemical engineering (goal 1), medical sciences (goal 2) and biomedical engineering (goal 3). Each team will tackle the above three goals in parallel.

Desired Background

All degrees are welcome however, students specialising in the below areas are encouraged to apply.

Desired Research Areas Desired Skills
  • Drug/gene delivery
  • Nanoparticles
  • Neuroscience
  • Electrical engineering
  • Physiology
  • Chemical synthesis
  • Nanotechnology
  • Electrical engineering
  • Software engineering
  • Computer science
  • Chemical engineering
  • Physiology
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Biochemistry and molecular biology
  • Biological science
  • Chemistry
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics
  • Materials science