Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST)
Founded more than 30 years ago, the Harvard-MIT
Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) is one of the oldest and
largest biomedical engineering and physician-scientist training programs
in the United States, and is the longest-standing collaboration between
Harvard and MIT. From the beginning, HST has focused on breaking down the
barriers that can impede interdisciplinary education and on creating an
environment that brings innovation from the laboratory bench to the bedside
and clinical insight from the bedside to the bench.
Today we live in an era of fundamental change in disease management,
including prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. We are beginning to measure
and understand individual differences in disease susceptibility and therapeutic
responsiveness, and strategies are emerging to "engineer" molecules, cells, and tissues to provide
benefit. HST's research enterprise is poised to make the Division a leader in
this quickly-evolving field.
Its research program encompasses initiatives based
at laboratories at MIT, Harvard University, and Harvard Medical School (HMS),
and collaborations involve faculty and resources at area teaching hospitals
including Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
Center (BIDMC), Children's Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts
Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
And in addition to individual faculty research efforts at these locations,
HST research also comprises several centers, including the HST/ Children's
Hospital Boston Center for Biomedical Informatics, HST Division of the
Brigham and Women's Hospital, MIT Clinical Research Center, The Athinoula
A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, The Boston Heart Foundation,
The Center for Experimental Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and The Harvard-MIT
Biomedical Engineering Center .
While HST students can choose to work in a large number of laboratories
doing a broad spectrum of research, HST has decided to focus its research
identity in three specific areas: Biomedical Imaging; Biomedical Informatics
and Integrative Biology; and Regenerative and Functional Biomedical Technologies.
It intends to use the leverage provided by the Harvard and MIT collaboration
and the marriage of biomedical engineering, clinical science, and medicine
to make major contributions in these areas, in each of which HST's interdisciplinary
orientation emphasizes the quantitative and molecular science of medicine
and biomedical research.
Biomedical Imaging . With the explosive recent advances
in biomedical imaging technologies - many of which were developed by HST
researchers - we have a growing capacity to non-invasively visualize and
manipulate molecules, cells, tissues, and organs in ways that were previously
impossible. Moreover, researchers are able to investigate chronic conditions
such as schizophrenia, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and obesity, as well
as to develop new methodologies for identifying risk factors for disease
and to develop new therapies for treating disease. A principal site of
HST's biomedical imaging research is HST's Athinoula A. Martinos Center
for Biomedical Imaging. Investigators at the Martinos Center have pioneered
techniques like fMRI (functional MRI, which takes advantage of MR-observable
changes in blood oxygenation to infer neural activity) which are now used
world-wide for neuroscience research. Work at the Martinos Center uses
(and develops) advanced imaging technology, including
MRI, MEG (magnetoencepholography), PET, and optical imaging to identify
and characterize normal and abnormal function and to identify novel biomarkers
Biomedical Informatics And Integrative Biology. The
striking advances of recent years in biomedical science and technology,
e.g., genome data, protein structure, high resolution images at molecular
and organ system scale, and population databases, have been attributable
in large part to the ability of scientists to measure, organize, and
analyze large volumes of data. HST research emphasizes combining data
and knowledge resources in a variety of biomedical science domains and
making connections across a range of biological scales - from genes and
molecules (genomics and proteomics), to tissues and organ systems (molecular
and macro-level imaging), to the living individual (healthcare practice),
and to whole populations (epidemiology, health services research, public
health, and population genetics). With two major NIH training grants
and research programs in this emerging field, HST is at the forefront
of biomedical informatics and integrative biology research.
Regenerative And Functional Biomedical Technologies .
HST researchers apply the rigors of the physical sciences to the harnessing
and engineering of tissues, cells, and molecules. HST's objective in its
work in functional biotechnologies is the cost-effective replacement of
cell, tissue, and organ functions. A principal site of this work is the
Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center, located in the heart of the
MIT campus. With recent advances in the realm of nano- and microscale engineering,
it is possible to precisely design and control systems at length scales
comparable to biological cells and molecules. HST investigators are developing
technologies leading to better understanding of biological phenomena and
to the facilitation of diagnosis and treatment of disease. One of HST's
major contributions in this area has been the development of drug eluting
stents, programmable implantable devices that sense changes in local tissue
or blood environments and respond in a "smart" way to deliver the appropriate
amount of agent.
As We Look To The Future
It is widely anticipated that the emerging biomedical technologies, such
as genome sequencing, biomedical imaging, tissue engineering, and nanobiotechnology,
through the advance in technology and know-how, will give rise to an unprecedented
leap in biomedical science and transform our approach to human health.
Realizing and capitalizing on that potential is strongly linked to the
educational paradigms that provide students with detailed knowledge of
biology, engineering, and medicine, and comfort in their respective cultures.
Currently HST enrolls more than 420 students in its eight graduate degree
programs, all of which involve an integration of science, engineering,
and medicine (and in some cases business), many of which are funded by
NIH training grants in the focus areas outlined above. With programs like
these and others at MIT, together with the enormous biomedical and clinical
enterprises in the Boston/Cambridge area, the opportunity for profound
advances has never been better.