Meet Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, Funded Investigator in WIT

Dr. Sasitharan Balasubramaniam has just joined FutureNeuro as a Funded Investigator. We asked him a few questions about his work and what he will be bringing to the centre.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am the Director of Research at the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) in WIT. After completing my PhD from the University of Queensland, Australia, I moved to the TSSG in 2005. In 2012 I moved to Tampere University of Technology (now known as Tampere University) to joint the Department of Electronic and Communication Engineering. While at TUT I received the Academy of Finland Research Fellow to develop the area of molecular communications. In 2017, I returned back to the TSSG to take on the role of Director of Research. I am also currently a Principal Investigator for VistaMilk SFI research centre.

What will you be doing in FutureNeuro?

My objective is to bring in communication and computer engineering theory to analyze the communication process in neuronal networks. As we know, neurons communicate with each other and are part of a very sophisticated communication network. We can view this as a typical wireless communication network as well as wired large scale Internet infrastructure model. Therefore, our aim is to utilize theory that is commonly found in conventional communication systems and to apply them to neuronal networks, and to see if we can also apply concepts from synthetic biology to program these networks in the same way we program communication devices. Our aim is to also see if we can manipulate the communication between neurons, and to interlink them to develop synthetic computing systems that can be implanted into the brain. This will provide new solutions for early disease diagnosis and possible treatments as well.

How did you become interested in this type of research?

A new area of research emerged recently known as “molecular communications”, where the objective is to characterise as well as develop communication systems from biological cells. The aim is to create a new generation of sensor and actuator networks that can be implanted into living tissue, and that these artificial communication systems can be connected to the Internet, as another form of the Internet of Things. When I saw the similarity and the transfer of concepts from typical communication systems to the biological domain to create artificial communication systems, I became very interested as this is a very novel and new paradigm shift for communication engineering. .

What do you hope to achieve/ What will the benefit be for people with a neurological disease?

I hope that our research will lead to a new direction in neuroscience, where communication and computing engineering combined with synthetic biology can result in new solutions to detect diseases and treat neurological diseases. This will hopefully be a new direction where devices can be implanted for diagnosing and treating neurological diseases, but they are created from biological cells, which will make the compatible to the living tissue.

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