HST faculty member Ellen Roche featured in "Understanding and Treating Disease"

photo: John Reidah
story by: Mary Beth O'Leary 

Excerpt, read full story here

Treating Disease

Armed with more knowledge of how diseases grow and spread, researchers are better able to develop new ways to treat, and in some cases cure, disease. Among them is Assistant Professor Ellen Roche, who is taking a unique dual approach to treating heart disease using both mechanical and biological therapies.

“The idea is to mechanically assist the heart,” says Roche, who also serves as Helmholtz Career Development Professor at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. “Rather than take over its function we just assist and augment it using a biomimetic approach.”

Roche uses new techniques like soft robotics to develop devices that mimic both the tissue properties and the motion of the heart. One such device is a sleeve that wraps around the heart to assist with pumping. Soft robots like this sleeve use elastomeric materials and fluidic actuation to mimic an organ’s movement. “By smartly designing simple fluidics channels and reinforcing soft materials in just the right way, you can achieve very complex motion with just elastomeric changes, and pressurized air or water,” says Roche.

MEMP student Erica Mason and her work at the MGH Martinos Center

Graduate student Erica Mason is as diligent and industrious as they come. Since joining the Wald Group in the MGH Martinos Center in January 2015, she has immersed herself in a project developing an innovative technology for the imaging of breast cancer, tackling the many facets of the project with no small amount of skill and finesse.

MEMP Alumni Profile: Fighting Cancer and Disease, One Lymph Node at a Time

Timothy P. Padera, MEMP PhD, ‘03, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School

Tim Padera works to fight cancer and disease by focusing his research on a far-reaching system of the body—the lymphatic system. As part of the Edwin L. Steele Laboratories for Tumor Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Padera Laboratory uses novel intravital microscopy tools to examine how the lymphatic system drives the progression of cancer through metastatic spread as well as impairment in anti-tumor immune function. In addition, the Padera Lab studies the molecular control of lymphatic pumping and how pumping regulates antigen transport and the initiation of an immune response. These processes are dysfunctional in a variety of disease states including lymphedema and bacterial infections.

Although Padera’s research program is based in the lab, his clinical experiences as an HST MEMP student helped him define what is needed to have an impact on patient care. Patient care is ultimately what drives the work of the Padera Lab.