The group’s primary objective is scientific output and technological innovation in the field of applying high frequency currents in the generation of heat in biological tissues, geared towards a minimally invasive local cell destruction in pathological tissues, most especially (but not exclusively) of human neoplasia. In recent years we have conducted applied research activities, technological development and clinical research in the field of bioengineering.
This has been possible thanks to a powerful scientific cooperation scheme based on coordinating highly qualified researchers from several institutions; more concretely, medical and surgery researchers providing healthcare at the Barcelona MAR Health Park (PSMAR), veterinary researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) developing surgical studies based on animal models, and researchers with an engineering profile who contribute mathematical models (analytical and numerical) and bank experimentation (in vitro and ex vivo) to study ablative techniques based on radiofrequency and microwaves (Polytechnic University of Valencia) and high voltage pulses for electroporation (Pompeu Fabra University). All group members have previous experience in planning and executing translational medical research projects, i.e. projects that are geared towards the challenge of improving human health using a clear multidisciplinary approach involving medical, veterinary and engineering staff.
More concretely, in recent years we have completed ambitious, relevant and highly complex studies, including the following:
- Development from the concept test to the marketing of a device based on radiofrequency (RF) currents for the surgical resection of soft organs that allows reducing blood loss during transection. After conducting computer model studies, benchmarking, pre-clinical studies with animal models, and clinical trials, the technology is currently exploited by the spin-off Apeiron Medical under the commercial name Coolinside® (http://www.metablate.com/our_results.html). The EC label was awarded to this development in 2010, after completing the clinical test on 36 patients affected by liver metastases for which this device was used as the only haemostasis system during the hepatectomy. This device is currently on the market (more than 120 patients from several hospitals have benefited from this technology). This clinical translation project from concept to clinical practice was awarded the Spanish National Surgery award in 2011 and the Lino Torre award for surgical research excellence that same year.
- Development of a RF energy applicator for the focal ablation of hepatic tumours. It is a cool-wet electrode with remote hyper-saline serum infusion that allows creating larger spherical thermal lesions than using conventional Cool-tip applicators. It therefore allows treating larger tumours. Our group conceptualized this new device and, after conducting pre-clinical trials with animal models, we recently completed Stage I of the clinical trial (22 patients) with promising results. We are currently developing Stage II. This clinical application experience conducting hepatic ablation clinical trials on real patients has also enabled us to study the radiofrequency ablation technique on organs for which there is very limited clinical experience. In this case, a clinical trial is being conducted at the Bellvitge Hospital to assess the effectiveness of this technique in malignant breast tumours (see the corresponding project). Based on the experience with cool-wet electrodes, we are preparing a proposal for a European project carrying the title "High performance computing for patient specific numerical modelling of radiofrequency ablation with cool-wet electrodes" within the programme EU-Brazil Research and Development Cooperation in Advanced Cyber Infrastructure (Topic: High performance Computing -HPC-, EUB-2-2015), led by the group conducted by Dr. Ni Yicheng (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium).
- Development of mathematical models to study RF heating techniques in different fields such as the ablation of cardiac arrhythmia, focal ablation of tumours, ablation of nerve endings to treat pain, or refractive surgery to correct visual defects. Some of these models have been developed in collaboration with industries from the medical technology sectors, contributing know-how on the underlying physical principles for these techniques. Particularly, we have recently worked with the company CIRCA (Colorado, USA) to develop mathematical models to study the impact of thermometric oesophageal probes during RF ablation of atrial fibrillation. Also, in collaboration with the company Neurotherm Spain (Barcelona, Spain), we have developed mathematical models to study the electric and thermal fields in neuron tissue during the application of pulsed RF to treat pain.
- Development of techniques based on electrical impedance for the monitoring and 3D visualization of electroporation-based therapies.
- Development of techniques based on conductive gels to optimize the distribution of the electrical filed in electroporation-based therapies.
- Even if, strictly speaking, this is not a scientific achievement, the creation in 2010 of Apeiron Medical S.L., a spin-off of the Polytechnic University of Valencia by most of the researchers, was a step forward in getting some of the results to turn into competitive products. Apeiron Medical currently exploits two of the patents stemming from previous research (www.apeironmedical.com).