Rapidly ageing society means higher prevalence of age-related diseases, such as Parkinson's. Although there is no treatment for Parkinson’s, early accurate diagnosis can stop its progression, says Arūnas Lukoševičius, head of Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) Biomedical Engineering Institute. Collaborating with physicians, the University scientists are developing more effective methods for Parkinson's disease diagnosis.
Arūnas Lukoševičius. Photo courtesy of KTU

Parkinson’s disease begins when the brain is no longer able to synthesize chemicals needed to control neural activity and instead of extinct neurons certain black material occurs in the brain.

"To diagnose Parkinson’s is extremely difficult because the onset of the disease is without any symptoms – a person carries out a perfectly normal life. However, in-depth studies indicate that the process has already started," Lukoševičius said.

The KTU professor is fascinated by nature’s protection of the brain – the skull bones are not only very strong, but also not penetrable, and they tend to distort ultrasonic waves.

Biomedical Engineering Institute researchers are among few pioneers using the new method of processing complex ultrasonic signals in order to get sharp images of black material, which helps physicians to early diagnose the beginning of the disease.

New technology, old problems

"Ultrasound is a cheap, painless and non-invasive method. Given the software created at our Institute and available technologies, it can be expected that in the future this method will be widely used in medical institutions for early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease," Lukoševičius said.

The researchers of KTU Biomedical Engineering Institute are creating the new diagnostic methods in cooperation with the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU).

"As we are not physicians and do to have access to clinical testing, it is very important to have the opportunity to work with colleagues from the University of Health Sciences, lead by professor Daiva Rastenytė," Lukoševičius said.

Lukoševičius compares biomedical engineering with a bridge connecting medical and engineering sciences. Although technologies today evolve with speed of light, medical problems are the same as have been for ages.

"Ageing, dementia, Parkinson's disease are not affected by technological progress – the old age induces risk of certain diseases. This permanent tension motivates us to work, to adapt rapidly progressing technologies to solve health issues," the professor said.

Applied research is not superficial

Biomedical Engineering Institute is one of the KTU research institutes located in KTU Science and Technology Centre and Technological Business Incubator, part of Santaka Valley. Lukoševičius is enthusiastic about extended opportunities to work more closely with colleagues and business.

"We appreciate the support of the University, bringing us closer to businesses. Communicating with commercial structures provides us with a different point of view on our work," Lukoševičius said.

Professor maintains the opinion that the balance between the so-called fundamental and applied or technological research must remain – not all scientific knowledge finds application in the modern world. However, applied research can not be considered superficial – researchers often face theoretical problems while solving practical issues and are urged to reformulate concepts and to find new solutions.

From theory to real prototypes

The research undertaken at the KTU Biomedical Engineering Institute with the acquisition of the new equipment and enhanced cooperation with business has already being taken into new level.

"Now we have the equipment which allows to produce, to test and to develop real prototypes, so we implement theoretical solutions in practice," Lukoševičius says.

In near future, the technology developed at KTU Biomedical Engineering Institute will find its way to the market.

14 November 2014 Santaka Valley KTU Science and Technology Centre and Technological Business Incubator will open. KTU Santaka Valley is one of the most important objects strengthening the image of Kaunas as business and investment friendly city. In future KTU Santaka Valley will become one of the important pillars for local and national economy.

The celebratory opening of KTU Santaka Valley 14 November 2014 will start the international conference ‘Lithuanian Research and Industry 2014: Valleys as a Medium for Innovation Economy’. For more information on the event please visit a dedicated section of KTU page.

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