Innovation Maturation Fund provides grants for healthcare innovations for pain and diabetes management

Researchers at Clemson University and Prisma Health have received grants that will help them find new ways to treat cancer and manage chronic pain and diabetes.

Researchers from the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences have been awarded funding through the Innovation Maturation Fund, a joint effort of the Clemson University Division of Research and the Health Sciences Center at Prisma Health.

The Innovation Maturation Fund program serves as a catalyst to increase applied research collaborations between Clemson University research faculty and Prisma Health clinicians. The goal is to promote multidisciplinary scientific collaborations to develop healthcare innovations, said Chris Gesswein, executive director of the Clemson University Research Foundation.

“We are pleased to announce the third round of funding from this highly competitive and unique maturation program,” Gesswein added. “The proposed projects address significant healthcare needs, and we look forward to working with the research teams to improve healthcare delivery efficiencies and outcomes.”

This year’s Innovation Maturation Fund awards totaled nearly $80,000 and were granted to the following researchers

  • Brian Booth, assistant professor in the department of bioengineering, and Prisma Health physician John O’Connell plan to test a new method of cancer treatment called oscillating electric fields. This new method is a Food and Drug Administration-approved cancer treatment still in its infancy and is being used with other therapies such as chemotherapy to improve survival rates of patients with advanced cancers. This treatment emits a low-intensity oscillating electric field that works to prevent cancer cells from multiplying. To generate and monitor these specifically-tuned electric fields, the team has designed, built and tested a device capable of delivering treatment over a broad range of electric field intensities.
  • Matthew Browning, an assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, and Prisma Health physician Teny Henry Gomez are working to refine their virtual reality-assisted guided imagery prototype for advanced-stage cancer patients. Patients with advanced cancer often experience high levels of debilitating pain and pain-related psychological distress. While medications remain the preferred treatment for pain, Browning and Gomez say there is a pressing need for safe, home-based, non-drug interventions to treat cancer pain. Virtual reality interventions are effective in managing short-term pain in acute healthcare settings, but their role in cancer pain and home-based settings is not as well understood. The team plans to use their prototype to assess the outcomes of using virtual reality at home to manage a patient’s chronic pain.
  • Hamed Rahimian, assistant professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering, and Prisma Health physician Meenu Jindal are working together to create software that will help patients treat their diabetes using individualized plans. A challenge to treating diabetes is knowing the patient’s reaction to a specific medication and dose of the drug, which is often found through trial and error. The team plans to take the guesswork out of finding the right medication and dosage for patients by creating an adaptive machine learning and optimization framework. The framework will be programmed with each patient’s disease progression from electronic medical records (EMR) and determine optimal personalized treatment recommendations. The team plans to test this framework and then develop software using an algorithm to create personalized treatment recommendations so health­­­care providers can better help their patients.
  • Kuang-Ching Wang, professor of electrical and computer engineering and C. Tycho Howle Chair of Collaborative Computing Environments, and Prisma Health physician Scott Annett are working to create a new solution for enhancing the diagnosis, assessment and management of myofascial pain. Myofascial pain is chronic sensitivity in muscles that occur around palpable tense tissues. It is the most common cause of chronic pain in the United States. However, currently, there are no biomarkers that can quantify myofascial tissue abnormalities. Typical treatments include physical therapy, medication or acupuncture. Combining the power of functional ultrasonography, smart needle measurement, and machine learning, the team will develop a solution that will deliver unprecedented, quantitative diagnosis and assessment of the muscle tissues, thereby enabling better understanding and more effective management of this pain.

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