Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering (MSBME)

Degree Level



Biomedical Engineering


Jeffery C. Wolchok

Committee Member

Adam Huang

Second Committee Member

Kartik Balachandran


Applied sciences, Bioreactor, Deceleration, In vitro, Strain, Tramautic brain injury


Approximately 1.7 million Americans experience a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. Concussive injuries are a subset of TBI in which blows to the head cause the brain to collide against the interior of the skull. Damage to the neurons, supporting cells, and surrounding extra cellular matrix resulting from these collisions can lead to permanent physical, cognitive, and psychological impairment. We believe the prevalence and clinical significance of concussive injures warrants research investment. To study brain injury following TBI, in vivo models have been the gold standard for TBI experiments. Although a valuable research alternative, animals are expensive, raise ethical concerns, and introduce experimental complexity than is necessary. In vitro systems provide greater insight and control into the fundamental cellular responses to injury despite sacrificing the complex and more realistic reactions. Following in the same desire to answer fundamental responses, our group has developed a bench-top device capable of delivering TBI mimetic impacts to cells in culture. Overall, the as built bioreactor can deliver impact decelerations of up to 300G in combination with strains up to 25% to as many as six cell inserts. The small footprint (1' x 1') and inexpensive design ($1000) make it an ideal lab based system. While the initial testing was conducted on cells with a neuron phenotype we are primarily interested in using this system to explore the role of astrocytes in TBI. Specifically we plan to explore if changes to the typically neuro-supportive astrocytes following concussive impact may be in part responsible for the neuronal death observed following TBI, and in doing so potentially identify soluble markers of cell injury that could become part of a concussion diagnostic test.