We are delighted to announce that Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have joined FutureNeuro as an academic partner. FutureNeuro is the SFI Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases, hosted by RCSI. It is one of three SFI Research Centres which TSSG is partnering with, along with the Vistamilk and CONNECT Centres.
The FutureNuero centre is a national centre dedicated to brain research. It connects national and multinational industry with key academics and clinicians based in our leading hospitals to provide diagnostic, therapeutic and eHealth solutions. Our projects with industry partners will bring diagnostic supports to market, a pipeline of new drugs, and connected health solutions that enable patients to monitor and report their health better than ever before.
Dr. Sasitharan (Sasi) Balasubramaniam, Director of Research at Telecommunication Software and Systems Group in WIT has joined the Centre as a Funded Investigator bringing expertise in a new paradigm in communication engineering, known as molecular communications to the team.
He will enable the development of a multidisciplinary research collaboration between FutureNeuro and his team at the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group in WIT that will utilize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to characterize epilepsy signal spreading at a molecular level.
He will bring concepts from Communication and Computer Engineering to create artificial communication and computing systems that can be used to diagnose and treat neurological diseases. These artificial devices can be developed from synthetic engineering of cells that can sense as well as compute signals. He will then develop computational platforms that can model and simulate these artificial systems.
The outcome of this research will be a new software platform that can provide a new alternative solution for animal testing. This brings the number of Higher Education Institutes involved in FutureNeuro to seven, located in four different cities around Ireland.
The FutureNuero team asked Sasi a few questions about his work and what he will be bringing to the centre.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am the Director of Research at the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) in WIT. After completing my PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia, I moved to the TSSG in 2005. In 2012 I moved to Tampere University of Technology (now known as Tampere University) to joint the Department of Electronic and Communication Engineering. While at TUT I received the Academy of Finland Research Fellow to develop the area of molecular communications. In 2017, I returned back to the TSSG to take on the role of Director of Research. I am also currently a Principal Investigator for VistaMilk SFI research centre.
What will you be doing in FutureNeuro?
My objective is to bring in communication and computer engineering theory to analyze the communication process in neuronal networks. As we know, neurons communicate with each other and are part of a very sophisticated communication network. We can view this as a typical wireless communication network as well as wired large scale Internet infrastructure model. Therefore, our aim is to utilize theory that is commonly found in conventional communication systems and to apply them to neuronal networks, and to see if we can also apply concepts from synthetic biology to program these networks in the same way we program communication devices. Our aim is to also see if we can manipulate the communication between neurons, and to interlink them to develop synthetic computing systems that can be implanted into the brain. This will provide new solutions for early disease diagnosis and possible treatments as well.
How did you become interested in this type of research?
A new area of research emerged recently known as “molecular communications”, where the objective is to characterise as well as develop communication systems from biological cells. The aim is to create a new generation of sensor and actuator networks that can be implanted into living tissue, and that these artificial communication systems can be connected to the Internet, as another form of the Internet of Things. When I saw the similarity and the transfer of concepts from typical communication systems to the biological domain to create artificial communication systems, I became very interested as this is a very novel and new paradigm shift for communication engineering.
What do you hope to achieve/ What will the benefit be for people with a neurological disease?
I hope that our research will lead to a new direction in neuroscience, where communication and computing engineering combined with synthetic biology can result in new solutions to detect diseases and treat neurological diseases. This will hopefully be a new direction where devices can be implanted for diagnosing and treating neurological diseases, but they are created from biological cells, which will make the compatible to the living tissue.