Life sciences and healthcare

Our research aims to increase the quality and reduce costs of healthcare, while addressing the challenges posed by an aging population and by the inherent complexity of biological systems.

Neural interfaces

We achieve this through the development of better imaging solutions, assistive technologies, decision support systems and by applying systems engineering methodologies and tools to further our understanding of biological processes, as well as to the design and manufacture of cell therapies, biologically based parts, devices and systems. Our department was the first to apply successful feedback control systems to anaesthesia in the operating theatre more than 30 years ago.

Case studies

Helping babies with rare birth defects

Dr Dana Damian and Dr Shuhei Miyashita have been developing robotic devices to help babies born with is a rare birth defect, where their oesophagus is not connected to their stomach known as oesophageal atresia

The device is connected to the oesophageal stub using two rings and applies a gentle massage by tensioning the tissue segment, encouraging natural growth of the tissue . 

The device is made of motors and sensors, incased in a soft water-proof skin. The motor displaces the two rings apart in order to extend the tissue segment in between and the sensors monitor the tissue displacement and tension. The device uses an external control device that keeps track of how far the device is stretching the tissue, helping in the decision making of the tensioning adjustment, and sends the data to a surgeon remotely.  

During testing of the robotic implant, on average 77% of new oesophageal tissue in nine days was achieved.

The researchers are still testing the robotic device in the lab, making advancements on design and control of the robotic implant in order to accelerate the growth of tissue in the hope it will improve the lives of babies without the need for complicated surgery. 

Dana leads the Sheffield Biomedical Robotics Lab which is working to develop the next generation of medical and surgical technologies combining robotics and bioengineering, for less invasive therapies.

Using a brain-computer interface

Over the last three decades, Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) has attracted a lot of attention from robotic groups, neuroscientists, computer scientists and neurologists, triggered by new scientific progress in understanding brain functions and by impressive applications.

ACSE researchers have been working with a BCI system that connects the brain and computer or electronic device together, recording brain signals while the users perform different types of mental tasks. A number of signal processing algorithms are applied to improve signal-to-noise ratio and relevant patterns of the brain can then be extracted.

Such a system can greatly help people with generalised paralysis to gain some level of independence. The BCI input is the brain signals carrying informative neural features. The BCI outputs are used to control a device, such as an assistive robot, a wheelchair or a prosthetic hand.

The impact of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model on alcohol policy

The Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM) aims to reduce alcohol misuse in society and it has been a major contribution to national and international debate on public policy and service.

SAPM is a mathematical model that appraises the effectiveness of alcohol policy options. It was developed by ACSE’s Dr Robin Purshouse and the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group (SARG).

The group were commissioned by the UK Department of Health (DH) to conduct the research and create a software tool that can be easily used by analysts at DH.

The model provides the core evidence underpinning Scottish Government plans to implement a minimum unit price for alcohol. The model’s findings have also influenced health policy debate in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and the European Commission.

Flagship institutes

The University’s four flagship institutes bring together our key strengths to tackle global issues, turning interdisciplinary and translational research into real-world solutions.