The Crump Institute for Medical Engineering was
established at UCLA in October of 1980 as a research center based
on sophisticated technology and medical applications. Projects
were conducted through close collaboration among faculty and other
researchers in the engineering, medical, biological, physical
and behavioral sciences. The Institute’s two-fold goal was to
bring the disciplines of medicine and engineering together, and
to bridge the gap between the University and industry, with emphasis
on the discovery of useful techniques and instruments to advance
the quality of the nation’s health care.
The original impetus and support for the Institute
stemmed from Ralph and Marjorie Crump of Shelton, Connecticut.
A 1950 UCLA engineering alumnus and former San Fernando Valley
engineer, Crump developed his cryogenic inventions into the successful
Frigitronics, Inc. The Institute’s director, F. Eugene Yates,
says “the real challenge is to discover something useful
for health care, and then get it into use…that’s why we’re an
Where engineering meets medicine, innovation often
arises. Perhaps the first such recorded example involved the efforts
of a young French physician who in 1816 was attempting to diagnose
the heart problem for an obese female patient. He first considered
placing his ear against her chest, but her weight and sensitivity
dissuaded him, until he remembered a simple acoustic principle.
Several sheets of paper were quickly rolled into a cylinder, and
he placed one end on the woman’s chest and the other next to his
ear. The woman’s heart sounds came through clearly – Rene Theophile
Hyacinthe Laennec had just invented the stethoscope.
A number of innovative projects were carried out
at the Crump Institute in the early 1980s, including:
- Development of a sensitive monitoring system
for an infant’s crib and a “breathing teddy bear”
to help infants stabilize respiration and sleeping rhythms early
in life. Many developmental disorders appear to be related to
irregularities in these rhythms.
- Development of a method for remote monitoring
(by telephone hookup) of a sleep disorder patient’s sleep cycles.
Sensitive monitors beneath bedding register patterns that are
transmitted to a computer for later analysis.
- A study to determine how the body’s many organs
set their internal time clock.
- Understanding the body’s multiple “time
clocks” may change the treatment of diseases and lead to
major advances in preventive medicine.
- Depending on timely dosing of drugs can often
be ineffective, so researchers examine a rate-controlled delivery
system that involves binding a drug to an agent that gradually
erodes in the body, releasing the drug at a pre-programmed rate.
- Research into the diagnosis and treatment of
neuromuscular disorders and the replacement of lost or damaged
body parts leads to work on the development of robotics technology
to aid the movement of weakened limbs.
In addition, a wide range of theoretical studies
are conducted by the Complex Systems Group, an interdisciplinary
team of researchers, many from the computer science department,
who are focusing on the study of complex systems, especially living