Thursday, 29 November 2001 19:00

Prototyping a pump for brain treatment

Summer Scholar Alejandro Aponte troubleshoots the design for a pump that can deliver drugs to the brain.


University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez mechanical engineering major Alejandro Aponte is interning in the lab of Michael J. Cima, David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, at MIT, where he is working on the design of a pump to deliver drugs to the brain.

While Aponte has worked before developing different types of instrumentation, this is his first time working with biological-related research, he says. This pump prototype is attached to a needle through which medicine can flow for drug delivery.

MIT Postdoctoral Associate Ritu Raman is guiding Aponte through the seven-week MPC-CMSE Summer Scholar program. Aponte has been focusing on keeping different aspects of the pump as static as possible. “That will be really important for when we want to make these smaller and implantable, because not only do we not want movement of the needle, but we also don't want moving of this central actuation portion,” Raman explains during a visit to the lab.

Aponte was working to move from a modular set up of different parts, such as the electrical dock and the tubing dock, to an integrated design. Doing so would allow easier measurement of initial pressure, and also prevent bubbles from forming, he suggests.

“That's actually very important for when we're building prototypes,” Raman says. “We want to take apart every little piece and think about how can we make this part better and that better, and then at the end, we can put it all together.”

Summer Scholar Alejandro Aponte 8992 DP Web

2017 MPC-CMSE Summer Scholar Alejandro Aponte works on a prototype for a pump that can deliver drugs to the brain. Aponte, a University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez mechanical engineering major, is interning in the lab of Michael J. Cima, David H. Koch Professor of Engineering, at MIT. Photo, Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center.

“What we're trying to achieve here is get the set up to be as small as possible and this is very important because the type of work that we are doing requires the pump to be implantable, so that's our main target here,” Aponte says.

Raman notes that the Cima lab is working on a range of different types of implants and platforms for diagnosing and treating brain [neural] disorders, specifically mood disorders like anxiety and depression that affect many people both in the United States and around the world. “The critical part of this platform is we have these probes that go into very specific neural circuits inside the brain and we want to infuse drugs to those circuits,” Raman says.

Aponte brings his prior experience with instrumentation development to the project. “This one is also instrumentation development which was really good. So I was able to see the overview of the project quick and be comfortable with it. And the cherry on top is that it is related to neural science, which has been a topic that I've been really dying to learn. I'm very excited to know that my work might help others' lifestyles be better in the future.”

Aponte’s internship is supported in part by NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers program [grant DMR-14-19807]. Participants in the Research Experience for Undergraduates, co-sponsored by the Materials Processing Center and the Center for Materials Science and Engineering, will present their results at a poster session during the last week of the program. The program runs from June 15, 2017, to August 5, 2017, on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass.


– Denis Paiste, Materials Processing Center
July 31, 2017