Voit was one of 25 junior faculty members in the country selected to receive a DARPA Young Faculty Award. The long-term goal of the
"Dr. Voit is a pioneer in our department by developing materials for critical medical applications," said Dr.
Current prosthetics and other implantable medical devices often fail within a year because tissue separates from the device. This can cause bleeding and scar tissue, which ultimately can prevent the device from stimulating the targeted nerve. The devices are also too large to operate with tissues as small as specific nerves.
Voit has created shape memory polymers - materials that can respond to the body's environment and become less rigid when implanted in the body. These polymers are implanted when they're rigid and then flex toward the stiffness of the tissue. Voit's proposal called for using these polymers in the microfabrication process known as photolithography to create medical devices that will survive implantation in the body for more than one year.
"A chronically-stable interface with the body's nervous system is necessary to couple partial sensory sensation in prosthetics with motor control," Voit said. "This problem will not be solved entirely by a team of materials scientists. However, we believe that an eventual successful device for chronic microstimulation will be based on combining a range of thin-film and polymeric materials that are compatible with reliable microfabrication techniques.
"In our experience, this platform for device fabrication allows for the flexibility required to meet the demands of the electrophysiologist and surgeon, while surviving the aggressive mechanical and chemical environment of the nervous system," Voit said.
As part of the three-year grant, Voit will receive mentoring and build relationships with industry and
Other applications of the work from Voit's DARPA Young Faculty Award include treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as tinnitus, epilepsy, stroke and Parkinson's.
Voit was part of the inaugural class of Eugene McDermott Scholars and earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master's degree in intelligent systems from UT
"This award is as a much a tribute to the mentoring, facilities and environment at an institution that gives young faculty the opportunity to attempt to tackle interesting problems," Voit said. "The investments UT
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