Fabrication and Read-out of Integrated Photonic High Frequency Acoustic Wave Detectors; Efficacy of Animal Testing Models in Medical Research

Tigges, Andrew, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Beling, Andreas, EN-Elec/Computer Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Baritaud, Catherine, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Medical professionals are required to make difficult decisions every day, and the quality of these decisions is dependent on the accuracy and ease of use of the instruments they employ. The goal of the technical portion of the capstone was to design an ultrasound detector to aid in the study of brain activity in mice. This provides medical researchers with the data needed to conduct data-driven research of novel treatments and medications. The Science and Technology in Society component of the capstone is thus to analyze the efficacy of animal testing models and their impact on the creation of new medications. These topics complement each other because the end product of the technical project will aid the industry that is the topic of the Science and Technology in Society portion of the capstone.
The goal of the technical project was to design a foundry process to develop low cost, efficient, and more precise ultrasound detectors. Medical examiners and researchers alike are reliant on imaging techniques to gain insight into their patients and samples. Possessing the best technology available to approach problems in their field is of paramount importance. Since mice are so small, this is especially true for medical professionals conducting studies on them.
The project produced a proof of concept of an ultrasound detector that requires sixty-five times less footprint than the state-of-the-art detectors used currently. This smaller footprint is matched by an equal gain in resolution for the detector and provides researchers with insight unavailable today. These new insights could set the foundation for a revolution in the field of medical research. The next step for the project is to create a large array of these detectors and augment the readout system to display an image from this array.
The Science and Technology in Society part of the project discusses the current state of medical research, particularly concerning animal studies to synthesize new medications. Thorough investigation provided evidence that insufficient measures are being taken to ensure the highest standards of internal and external validity in experiments on medications in animal studies. Furthermore, this problem is not caused from a shortage of scientific standards, but rather from a lack of adhering to those standards. Evidence of this comes from careful analysis of published animal studies and the lack of medications passing clinical trials.
Evidence of the problems in animal research are found in the way the experiments are conducted, inherent to animal experiments, and arise in the nature of the research community. First, analysis of animal studies published in the top seven medical journals show that fewer than ten percent of them adhered to the standards in place for performing animal research. Then, problems with animal research stem from the inherent differences in the biology of animals and humans. Finally, pressure from pharmaceutical companies, universities, and other researchers creates an environment where oversight and carelessness can occur, intentionally or unintentionally.
The success of the technical project paves the way for a precise and inexpensive ultrasound detector to aid in the development of new medications. Coupling this with improvements in the methodology and environment in which medical research is conducted can substantially increase the productivity and effectiveness of the industry. The effect of this could reach every corner of the globe providing cheaper and high-quality medications to the world.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Ultrasound Detector, Photo-acoustic Microscopy , Actor-Network Theory, CMOS Fabrication, Animal Testing

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science Computer Engineering
Technical Advisor: Andreas Beling
Technical Team Members: Adam Turflinger, Xiangwen Guo

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