• Yᴀɴɴ Bʟᴀᴋᴇ • Engineering

Biomechanical Engineering •Rᴇsᴇᴀʀᴄʜ Pᴏʀᴛғᴏʟɪᴏ•

Yann Blake
Trinity College Dublin

Biomechanical Engineering

Research Portfolio and
Overview of my background and related experiences

My Previous Research Projects and Publications

Brief Highlights for 12 of them below

Novel 3D-printed
artery system for stents procedures


The foremost cause of death worldwide continues to be Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) which remain increasingly more prevalent. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of CVD, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. A study on 600 patients from 13 different hospitals in Korea (Park et al., 2020), demonstrates for about 30% of patients that - while having undergone a successful procedure - they still: had major complications, needed a second procedure (e.g. due to restenosis) or died (~18%) within the following ten years.

Coronary heart disease procedures and angioplasties have had major successes in treating patients suffering from atherosclerosis. There are, however, still a considerable number for which this is not the case and many gaps in these treatments, in terms of patient characteristics, rate of failure and reoccurrence of stenosis.

Novelty of the Project

An advanced system has been developed for improved stent designs, and assist upstream the percutaneous coronary interventions: stent placement, positioning and deployment. The latest intravascular optical coherence tomography (IVOCT) technology (a medical imaging modality) is incorporated into a global system which 3D-prints the section of the patient's coronary artery subject to atherosclerosis. Here we bring to clinicians the most suited tool to test the chosen stent and to simulate the surgery procedures in order to ensure that the stent dimensions and geometry are optimized. Compared to previous systems, this one integrates modern technologies and reduces the risks of complications and the need for additional procedures.

The system is expected to provide less stent complications based on the current meta-analysis and statistics. It uses the latest innovation in terms of intravascular imaging. No other systems currently developed focuses exclusively on OCT. Most of them use CT or Angiography which present ionising radiation risks. It is therefore a safer solution with lower risks. The system is also the first 3D-printing system combining two materials for improved biomimetics. The cost analysis in the reports highlight how this system is significantly more inexpensive than equivalent alternatives. All the technologies selected are outstandingly innovative, the most recent and have not yet been combined, improved and incorporated in a system aimed towards stent placement and PCI.


Yann Blake¹, Anshul Bakhade, Higgins Mohan and Zeena Wang
¹ Primary Researcher and Author

Comparitive overview: existing solutions vs. novel system (in red).
Simplified overview of the medical device processes
Project Stakeholders

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) for measuring mechanical properties, non-destructively


Since the discovery of the X-ray in 1895, scientists have been exploring the potentials of medical imaging techniques. In recent years, medical imaging applications have increasingly diversify with the emergence of elastography based on ultra-sound imaging (1991, J. Ophir et al.). Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is another fundamental medical imaging modality and one of the latest having been discovered and developed. OCT is a non‐invasive, three‐dimensional image technique with micrometer resolution that is used to evaluate the health of different tissues, for example. Optical Coherence Elastography (OCE) is a relatively new technique that uses OCT to quantify the mechanical properties of tissues and biomaterials. This can be achieved by embedding a material of interest within a softer material and apply a strain across both ends.

Novelty of the Research

This research project included the design, construct and evaluation of an OCE system based upon an existing Spectral-Domaine OCT device OQ LabScope manufactured by Lumedica– one of the most inexpensive and widely available, yet reliable and accurate OCT systems on the market. This project was an extension of the work of Yang et al. in this field. The designed OCE system and its associated models (e.g. derived- Hertz Contact theory) are used to examine the mechanical properties of various hydrogel-based biomaterials. These hydrogel samples have differing stiffness or composition (i.e. type) and are tested within the same conditions and with a comparison, verification and validation protocol. The measured and computed mechanical properties (from the recorded images) are derived into several models to determine more characteristics of the biomaterials e.g. viscoelasticity. Hydrogels are three-dimensionally cross-linked networks of hydrophilic polymers with the capacity of imbibing various large amounts of water or biological fluids. These biomaterials have been of great interest to scientists and engineers given their extended biocompatible potential, their flexibility, versatility, stimuli-responsiveness, soft structure and the fast-growing number of their applications.

Mechanical testing of hydrogels presents several benefits. First, the numerous applications of hydrogels in the field of medicine and bioengineering requires to characterize their properties to better suit the needs of a patient. Secondly, hydrogels exhibit very similar characteristics and behaviours to those of natural tissues. Successful demonstration of the accuracy of this elastography system with hydrogels is a sufficient validating evidence - that the same system is also suitable for many other biological tissues, for cultured cells or for biomaterials to be tested in a non-destructive manner.


Yann Blake
Supervisor: Prof. Ahearne

Overview of the research project stages
The project's Laboratory Facilities
(Parsons Building, Trinity College Dublin)
The Novelty of this project and its contribution to the field’s state-of-the-art include:

►its ability to accurately and efficiently test a biomimetic material in a non-destructive manner ; ►the set-up with use of a novel test rig adapted for loading and imaging - and tailored to this Lumedica system ; ►the validation and demonstration of the accuracy of the Yang et al.’s derived-Hertz-contact theory model for OCT-based elastography ; ►the bridging of several isolated pieces of research in the biomechanics field ; ►the evidence of an inexpensive and accessible (ease-of use and purchase) OCT/OCE system while achieving great precision and reliability, making it ideal for a wider implementation within healthcare or research facilities worldwide ; ►the technologies used are non-invasive and integrate visible light radiations only ; ►use for the effect of prior long-term recellularization ; ►strengthens a very new field which includes cell cultures applications where there is a need for efficient, accurate and non-destructive test and monitoring ; ►defines the boundaries of the system (max. stiffness, min. deformation measured accurately, protocols requirements, artefacts tolerance threshold, etc.).

Potential applications for OCE include breast cancer detection, monitoring tissue engineered constructs in real time and studying cell mechanobiology

Preventing Ocean Pollution from its origin: the Glan Net device


Behind the "eighth continent" - nickname given to the world's biggest ocean waste repository - and any other pollution in oceans, multiple origins have been identified. Water pollution includes everything with a risk for the health of plants, animals and humans whose lives depend directly or indirectly on waterbodies (oceans, rivers, lakes, etc.). The concept of water pollution is closely related to quantities: we consider pollution once the quantities of a polluting substance introduced into the nature, goes beyond its capacity to process it and reduce the toxic impact. Most of this pollution ends up in the ocean at some stage. Its origins are critical problems which our research group focused on, considering the existing gaps in solutions to prevent pollution.

When studying the Pacific Ocean data through systematic reviews and meta-analysis, we found that up to 82% of litter pollution (mainly plastic) in the ocean comes from rivers. Overall, if we include all the oceans, we can say today that at least 44% of the ocean pollution comes from inland and travels through waterways like rivers. These clear evidences led us, to target rivers in our research and work towards the development of new solutions to tackle this principal source of ocean pollution.

Novelty of the Project

We found from data in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that storm pipes, from which rain water or domestic water spills into the rivers, represent a major part of the pollution found in rivers. We could demonstrate that waste in Storm Pipes discharge into Rivers, which then discharge into the Oceans. In-dept stakeholder-centred analysis, needfinding and benchmarking at various scales (Ireland, Europe, World), interviews of experts and on-site studies ensured that the solution we came up with was the most ideal.

Our research group at Trinity College Dublin in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, developped a smart device that filters, collects and stores the pollution coming out of these Storm Pipes. It consists of a rigid net device called Glan Net and its protocol of collection follows a similar fashion to that of public bins: the devices are emptied by assigned agents, in the same way. The smart features, include some cutting-edge sensors that continuously calculate the quantity of pollution collected. Once it reaches a certain level, the agents get a notification on a connected device.

Glan Net provides a solution to efficiently target this pollution. The research group designed a smart rigid net device which combines a great durability, a low cost of purchase and maintenance, an excellent ease of use and more importantly up to 90% of litter filtered and collected. It's adaptability to all kinds of rivers and canals and its ease of use for city councils and authorities (with motorised lifting system powered with green energy, connected via text messages to a phone, secured key switch, etc.) are two advantages of Glan Net - among many others - to answer the needs for cleaner waterways.


Yann Blake¹, Arthur Odlum, Aimee Goodwin and Taron Wright
¹ Primary Researcher and Author

Promotional Banner with the Device Logo
Play Video
Diagram describing the pathway of water through waterways and demonstrating that the major initial source of litter comes from Storm Pipes.

Internal report focused on the device stakeholders.

Selection of various working diagrams, sketches, tables, drawings and graphs from the early stages of our research – to provide an insight in the complexity involved in designing such a device.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation to improve the spatial memory of Alzheimer's Disease Patients


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic irreversible neurodegenerative disease (i.e. loss of neurones) which currently affects an estimated 40 000 individuals in Ireland and 50 million people Worldwide (including related dementia). This number is expected to reach 115.4 million in 2050. AD is manifested by various cognitive and functional decline for the patients and the emergence of specific neuropsychiatric symptoms. The scientific field has unfortunately still quite a limited understanding of the exact mechanisms and origins of this condition.

While researchers around the world have currently not identified any successful Curing Therapy (CT) or even supported any convincing Disease Modifying Treatment (DMT) and Symptomatic Treatment (ST) for AD ; the latter is where some new studies are yet to be carried out especially with the medical treatments and technologies that have already been tested, trialed and approved for other conditions. This is the case of nerve stimulation which has been widely proven to benefit patients with Epilsepsy - a chronic central nervous system disease characterized by unpredictable, sometimes lifelong, seizures due to abnormal brain activitity. More specifically Vagus Nerve Stimulation, and its subtreatment Transcutaneous Auricular Vagus Nerve Stimulation (t-VNS); in addition to help patients with Epilepsy or even Severe Depression with their symptoms may also benefit patients with AD. This research investigates one of the earliest manifestations (symptoms) of AD which involves spatial memory performances as an approach to assess the efficacy of t-VNS in augmenting the activity of the regions of the brain associated with spatial cognition through electrical stimulation.

Novelty of the Project

Transcutaneous Auricular Vagus Nerve Stimulation (t-VNS) is believed to potentially positively influence the performances related to spatial memory of patients with AD or Mild Cognitive Impairments (MCI). At the time of the research, the state-of-art provided us with some insightful and optimistic evidences correlating Vagus Nerve Stimulation and increased cognitive performances, however the specific use of t-VNS for AD was not yet studied nor trialed.

Tim Dukelow PhD. candidate at Trinity College Dublin with the assistance of Dr Ciaran Finucane, Pr. Sean Kennelly, Dr Marian Tsanov and Yann Blake therefore investigated the improving effects of t-VNS for three groups of participants: AD, MCI and Control (CG). The preclinical research and trial involved the assessment of these effects through a Virtual Reality software (Neuro Virtual 3D) in order to detect early egocentric and allocentric impairments deficits. Evidences of successful impacts of t-VNS on this very early manifestation of the disease would support its use as a ST for AD patients, and further evidences of its positive influence over the evolution of the disease could classify it as a DMT. In addition to VR, other physically-based assessment modes were also considered. VNS is also known for mood regulations, and its impact on the immune system, and the gastrointestinal tract (with indirectly, the interactions between central and peripheral neural systems) which were avenues connected to AD to be studied.

My contributions in this project were mostly focused on the development of the integration of Virtual Reality (VR) in the protocols describing the tests/trials with phases involving no t-VNS and phases with various strength levels of t-VNS for the three participating groups. The hardware and software were expected to be adapted to both the capabilities of elderly patients some of whom may have serious cognitive difficulties as well as conforming to the set standards for this project (accuracy, existing scientific basis, etc.). It also included preclinical testing of the EEG and NRI equipments (for brain activity measurements) to ensure these would be adapted to the facilities environment (e.g. Tallaght Hospital) and perfectly operational during the actual trial phases. I had received extensive upstream training focused on EEG from Prof. Marian Tsanov at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI). Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic this project was temporarily suspended ; and later continued with a few changes in the scope and protocols by successful Ph.D. candidate Helena Dolphin alongside some members of the original research.


Tim Dukelow¹, Dr Ciaran Finucane, Pr. Sean Kennelly, Dr Marian Tsanov and Yann Blake
¹ Primary Researcher

General overview of the research project
Insight on some of my contributions and tasks in this research project.
Research Paper from Dolphin et al. published in June 2022 which is a continuation - with some changes in the scope and methods - of the research with Tim Dukelow.

Stresses, Strain and Forensic Engineering analysis of a Soft Artificial Silicone Heart


Artificial organs are devices usually intended to be implanted into the living body as a substitute for damaged or diseased organs and body parts which require the use of biomedical materials to repair, replace or augment. The need for these engineered organs is greatly increasing: it reached well beyond 5,000,000 new implants per year (2005 figure) and represents a global market value of 91,869 million dollars (2020 figure). Ongoing research efforts in the broad field of biomedical engineering (encompassing biomaterials, artificial organs biomechanics or tissue engineering for instance) focus on the construction of fully functionalised artificial tissues/organs incorporating vascular networks.

The number of deaths from cardiovascular diseases remains on growth, reaching approximately 30% of all deaths worldwide. Even in developing countries, the number of Heart Failures is continuously increasing. Investigating the biomechanical behaviour of the latest emerging innovations of artificial heart therefore becomes an essential challenge with great difficulties in analysis due to complex material properties and geometry. As of now, implanted machines which replace the heart referred to as "total artificial heart" (TAH) have only been used as a temporary life-saving technology bridging with a subsequent heart (donor organ) transplantation - and has been successful in about 1,700 patients. None of the published literature achieved to provide an engineered TAH which is suitable for long-term therapy (given high complication rates, bulky devices, poor durability, biocompatibility issues or low patient quality of life, for instance).

Novelty of the Project

Nevertheless, a very promising new device emerged at ETH Zurich, where researchers succeeded in designing and testing the first soft artificial heart made of silicone in 2017. Investigating the biomechanical behaviour of a soft artificial heart is a hard task as such things are very complicated in terms of both material properties and geometry. In the first research project, the design described in both publications attached is being analysed in terms of maximum stresses and strain that the silicone membrane can withstand. Two approaches were followed for two levels of simplification to model the stresses and strain applied to the silicone shell. First, the AH simplification-model which assumes no compartments shows a stress of 1.3 MPa and a strain of 0.219. Secondly, heart compartments being taken into account (the Left Ventricule (LV) and Right Ventricule (RV) cumulated), which is a more precised simplification, exhibits a stress value of 983 kPa. This prototype is very promising. However, it is still quite limited: the computed elastic modulus of the silicone elastomer is greater compared to the one of the ventricular muscle of humans but much less than that of the currently used materials in TAH rigid systems such as IsoPlast. This AH also has a very limited durability approximately 3000 beats (30 to 50 minutes of use), after which the LV-EC membrane ruptures. Fatigue investigation on the silicone elastomer membranes is a further investigation to be carried out, which is the core focus of the second research project which followed standard forensic engineering methodology. It is suspected based on preliminary forensics studies that the complexity of the manufacturing process of this vessel might be responsible for initial cracks prior to the testing. Several models including stresses, safety factor and crack length are presented in the report to provide additional insights on the fatigue failure.


Yann Blake
Based upon the work of ETH Zurich researchers

Presentation of the prototype of soft artificial silicone heart developed by the researchers at ETH Zurich.

[Project 1] Research Poster "Stresses and Strain of a Soft Artificial Silicone Heart"
ResearchGate screenshot
[Project 2] Technical Report "Failure of a Soft Artificial Silicone Heart Prototype"

Original publications (Main Article and Supporting Information) from ETH Zurich researchers.

Social robot to assist healthcare and retirement facilities


Over the coming years, there will be significant growth in the number of senior citizens in many countries. Older people tend to have greater healthcare needs and are generally at greater risk of falling or becoming ill. It is common for older people to live alone, making it problematic for an alarm to be raised in the event of a fall or accident. Living alone is also correlated with depression and chronic loneliness, conditions which have been shown to have similar health consequences as obesity or smoking. For these reasons, there is a growing need for technology based solutions that can assist older adults in retaining their independence and quality of life. Service robots that can perform useful tasks may offset the dependency that some older adults have on formal and informal caregivers ; therefore addressing these many issues. In addition to doing routine custodial tasks, they may also provide utility in alleviating boredom and reducing symptoms of loneliness. When deployed in nursing homes and retirement communities, they may also offer an effective tool for monitoring residents and supervising the work of care staff, especially during off-peak periods when there may be limited management presence. The effectiveness of socially assistive robots depends on their ability to address both utilitarian and hedonic factors. According to van der Heijden, hedonic systems aim to provide self-fulfilling value to the user, in contrast to utilitarian systems, which aim to provide instrumental value to the user. In this context, utilitarian factors are concerned with the function and perceived usefulness of the task a robot performs, while hedonic factors relate to the experiential aspects of interacting with it. Shortcomings in functional performance, as well as factors like cost and reliability, have limited the widespread adoption of robot technology in everyday life. This has led many companies and research groups to adopt a technology-driven focus, often overlooking important experiential elements of using the technology. As the field of robotics advances and robots becomes more affordable, there is growing need to redefine how robots can address the multiple needs for users and fulfill the many requirements associated with its usage.

Socially assistive service robots such as Stevie offer a compelling means of empowering vulnerable members of society. Stevie can perform useful custodial functions for their users, thus significantly reducing reliance on informal and formal caregivers. The aim of the Stevie Project between Akara Robotics and Trinity College Dublin was to develop a prototype of a socially assistive robot through application of user-centered design methods, adopting an approach based on the ‘design thinking’ philosophy. Using a range of design techniques that have seldom been applied in a robotics context, a high resolution prototype was designed, fabricated and evaluated using a mixed-methods approach. Experiments were performed with four distinct user groups (including residents and care staff at a retirement community) to explore the first impressions that the robot created, its perceived usefulness, and the potential for acceptance of the platform. Overall, the robot was positively perceived by each user group, and user feedback from testing generated insights regarding the design, usability and envisioned use-cases of the technology. These findings have value in informing future iterations of robot design, as well as providing motivation for a series of future studies.

Novelty of the Project

This sub-group within the department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Trinity College Dublin focused on the development of a new feature for the robot to gain an increased versatility and adaptability in being implemented throughout various environments. The research project progressed towards the concept of integrating a new set of technologies for the charging of the robot. We have worked under the supervision of Prof. Conor McGinn to provide a wireless charging feature to the service robot which included the development and design of a power transmitter and receiver using resonant induction technology. The project covered various aspects extensively such as Intellectual Property (IP) - Patents, Standards and Benchmarking reviewing as well as a research and development period of 6 months for the wireless charging feature based on the following phases : Design Specifications, Concept Design and Embodiment Design. Although most existing robot charging stations use conventional charging technologies, we have chosen to opt for a “wireless” charging technology, that is, without conventional connections (between two electrically conductive materials). This for three main reasons: safety, durability and ease of use. Safety on the one hand, because (while respecting the standards of human exposure in electromagnetic fields) contact with its technologies does not present any risk of electrocution. Sustainability on the other hand, with secure connections avoiding any risk of corrosion when the electronic components are in contact with water or oxygen (if the robot is used in a hospital environment for example, this is very important). Finally, ease of use, wireless connections allows for much less precision in terms of connection - than a plug with conventional socket. The final concept : "A wireless resonant coupling inductive charging technology including a transmitter (in the base station) and a receiver inside the robot" was presented as a pitch/defense to the main Akara Robotics team once the project was completed.


Yann Blake, Ellen Tighe, Sean Dowd
Supervisor: Prof. Conor McGinn - Assistant Supervisor: Alex Shackleton (from the Robotics and Innovation Lab - RAIL).

Reference from Prof. Conor McGinn (CEO of Akara Robotics and Assistant Professor of Mechanical, Manufacturing & Biomedical Engineering at Trinity College Dublin)- Letter of Recommendation for Yann Blake
Overview of the Robot Stevie and Insight into the project focusing on wireless charging.

Presentation of the advanced prototype 2.0 of “Stevie” service robot designed for the elderly – with Prof. Conor McGinn, CEO of Akara Robotics.

Official website of Akara Robotics Ltd.

Infection Control: A Novel approach for Continuous Core Temperature Monitoring in Intensive Care Units (ICU)


The ICU houses the hospital’s most vulnerable patients, following surgeries and serious accidents. Infection rates can quickly increase, leading to life threatening conditions including sepsis and pneumonia. A rise in temperature is a key indicator of infection. There is currently no GOLD standard of temperature measurement for use in all ICU patient cohorts. Many of the currently implemented routes for temperature monitoring e.g. NG tube, PA catheter, urinary catheter need to be indicated for their primary intended use to allow for temperature monitoring. Many patients don’t suffer from pathologies that indicated these interventions.

Arterial catheters are used frequently in the ICU and other hospital sites that require long-term stays as they allow for continuous blood pressure monitoring and quick access to arterial blood for diagnostic tests/ABGs. There are currently no arterial lines that can also measure temperature used in the ICU. Most existing systems specifically for temperature monitoring purposes do not constantly monitor temperature.

Novelty of the Project

There is a need for a more efficient method of continuous temperature monitoring to identify infections in a timely fashion. A number of concepts were developed, combining a thermocouple with an arterial catheter. The proposed design utilises dual lumen extrusion, optimising the space occupied by the internal lumen.

The proposed device will be made from biocompatible materials and manufactured via injection moulding. A patent search was conducted to validate the novelty of the proposed design. A risk analysis was carried out to identify potential safety risks and propose solutions. The proposed design fits within the US and EU medical device regulations. It is classified as class 2 in the US and 2.A in EU. Testing was carried out to ensure functionality of the thermocouple when housed within the lumen. Ease of use of the proposed design was validated. The cost effectiveness of the final design was evaluated against existing alternatives and validated by the added functionality of the thermocouple. The proposed design combines two medical devices, overall reducing costs to the hospital. The predicted cost of the proposed design is €15.76. A gross profit of 36.9% is predicted for the first year of distribution.


Daniel Byrne, Maeve Fennin, Cole O’Connor, Ellaine Olaya, Rajat Thakur, Yann Blake
Expert Supervisor: Clinician Dr. Ignacio Martin-Loeches from St.James Hospital Dublin (worked with this research group on Antibiotics Monitoring solutions which preceded this project); Coordinator: Prof. Bruce Murphy

ThermoCath 3D CAD overview - the final selected design among four concept solutions which we had developed.
Current methods available for temperature monitoring
Identified Gap based on the needs which were studied in ICU - addressed here with this novel device.
Executive Summary title
Google Scholar referencing
ThermoCath project overview (2024)

Systematic Literature Review of the latest innovations in Biocompatible Materials for Cardiovascular Stents


Biomaterials are increasingly used in numerous medical applications such as the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. These are natural or synthetic materials suitable to be introduced into living tissues and designed to interface with specific biological systems. The desired effects of biomaterials include the treatment, the augmentation or the replacement of biological functions. Artificial heart, ICU medical devices and joints implants are some concrete applications of that. Another important application where biomaterials are essential is intravascular stenting. The Global Vascular Stent Market is indeed expected to grow significantly in the upcoming years with the increasing demand for minimally invasive surgeries, the rise of patients with cardiovascular diseases and overall the aging of the population.

Novelty of the Project

One of the most common interventions performed today is intravascular stenting. A stent is a small tubular device placed into a blood vessel to hold it open. This review covers various aspects of stents from how it is placed into the vessel (e.g. the coronary artery) to the biocompatible materials used (e.g. metal). Mechanical considerations are also being discussed as well as the comparison between self-expanding stents and drug eluting stents versus resorbable stents. Other leading-edge technologies and recently-published research are also covered in the review. One of which is a ‘smart stent monitor’ based on sensors providing real-time feedback.

This project involved the selection of 43 published articles or scientific publications among hundreds which were reviewed from abstracts only. 39 from these 43 were carefully read, summarized if relevant, compared against related papers and critized when insightful comments could be formulated and included. It provided an extra piece of puzzle to the infinite multidimensional scientific literature available with a modest yet very synthetic, up-to-date (as of 2020) and critical overview of less than 10 pages on "where we are at now" in terms of materials for stents.

One of the findings and conclusions from the review is the following: "The motivations of innovation is often to overcome the current limitations of stents, such as restenosis (the recurrence of narrowing of a blood vessel, sometimes from recoil), or inflammation and thrombosis (formation of blood clot) at the stent site. Other characteristics are also often desired such as biodegradability and some mechanical parameters based on the targeted blood vessel. Finding the ideal design and material doesn’t suffice, when biocompatibility remains the most important constraint when designing a stent. Promising stent solutions are currently in development, the numerous stent patents filled in recent years can testify for this. Clinical trials and market approval requests from companies have also been rising."


Yann Blake
Supervisor: Dr. David Hoey

Diagram of a stent procedure and article cover.
Visibility and recognition from peers and experts
Citations in 4 reputable scientific publications
click on images below to zoom
Google Scholar screenshot

PDF files of the articles aforementioned

Information Systems for Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis
Since 2019 - ongoing


Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic irreversible neurodegenerative disease (i.e. involving the loss of neurones) which currently [as of 2019] affects an estimated 40 000 individuals in Ireland and 50 million people Worldwide (including related dementia). This number is expected to reach 115.4 million in 2050. It is essential to distinguish between "Dementia" and "Alzheimer's": Dementia is a condition or syndrome in other words a set of symptoms affecting different aspects of thinking and brain functions that gets worse over time and affects the ways people live their lives. There is a variety of diseases which can cause dementia. The most common one is Alzheimer's Disease which may contribute to 60–70\% of cases of Dementia according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The other diseases responsible for dementia include: vascular dementia (due to a stroke or narrowed blood vessels), dementia with Lewy bodies (abnormal aggregates of protein that develop inside nerve cells), some sort of Parkinson’s disease (progressive neurological disorder causing the death of Substantia Nigra cells which produce dopamine) and various frontotemporal dementia (degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain leading to the loss of function in these brain regions which affects behavior, personality and language functions). In addition to these five identified diseases, it has been discovered that other conditions may cause dementia such as medication side effects, chronic alcoholism, certain tumors, infections of the brain, structural brain disorders (e.g. cerebrovascular diseases), metabolic disorders (e.g. hypothyroidism) and toxins in the brain (e.g. lead). This present research focuses on Alzheimer's Disease specifically.

It is wise to simplify the main problem posed by the disease to: an extreme disruption of an information system that is the human brain. It follows then that if not treating the disease, the best way to compensate for this damaged system would be to associate it with a complementary functional information system. This is ultimately what happens for most of the assistants, carers and the family, their brains act as a complementary information system which explains the enormous fatigue these surrounding people encounter. It is therefore essential to consider other alternative information system solutions, in particular computer-based information systems. It is also important to admit that at present the information systems that are the human brains that accompany patients are - even at their maximum capacity - not sufficient to compensate even for the symptoms of early phase.

Novelty of the Project

The disease is one of the most challenging to research since it is not completely understood how and why it occurs. This paper investigates the current applications and uses of Information Systems (IS) in the Diagnosis and the Care of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) Patients. Clinical Decision Support (CDS) systems are being actively improved in order to increase the accuracy and the early diagnosis of AD Patients. Autonomous Computer-Aided Diagnosis (CADx) systems and future advancements of CADx using Deep Learning are being reviewed. Bayesian systems which is another CDS is also being covered. Beyond these systems which rely on brain imaging, we discuss other IS-based diagnosis methods including Spatial Impairment detection and EEG signaling systems. Additionally, different databases related to AD from a biological to statistical view are other IS-based tools for the diagnosis of the disease. An attempt in France of a globalised system is very promising and requires extensive development. The paper also explores the potential further implementations of IS in the daily life technologies employed by the patients. These systems are currently very limited in comparison with Diagnosis ones, and often target the elderly in general and not only AD Patients. Overall the immense potential of IS for the care of AD is currently underestimated and not used or considered as an option. On the diagnosis side, there are some very promising research currently held. Studies currently focus much more on this aspect of the disease.


Yann Blake
Supervisor: Prof. Diana Wilson - expert in Information Systems

Preview of the cover page and table of contents
Table 1 demonstrates the interconnections between all means of diagnosis with the field of Information Systems. It is the first meta-analysis and intersectional research which connects the entire field of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) diagnosis.
Table 2 is a data-crossing of medical imaging modalities used for AD diagnosis.
...towards perfect accuracy of diagnosis...

Speech addressed at the members of the College Historical Society (The Hist) at Trinity College Dublin, on the matter of understanding the brain better.

Alleviating methods of the irritant effects of Capsaicin: a research project on the molecule's extensive properties


Chilli peppers from the genus Capsicum are cultivated in more than 64 countries with China, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and India producing the vast majority of the world chilli peppers production. In 2013, India accounted for 40% of this production. According to the French Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA) there are more than 1,200 varieties of Chilli peppers. These owe their difference to their origin and their concentration in capsaicin. Capsaicin is the active component of chilli peppers causing the sensation of burning in humans and other mammals when it comes into contact with tissue, more commonly the oral mucosa. When eaten, the compound produces pungency (spiciness or "heat"). This chemical irritant which belongs to alkaloids is believed to have protection purposes in the plants producing it, against predatory/threatening animals and fungi.

Christian Friedrich Bucholz first extracted Capsaicin compound in 1816 and it was then first synthesized in 1930 by Ernst Spath and Stephen F. Darling. Numerous of its effects and benefits have been discovered and investigated since. Capsaicin was tested and used as a defense ingredient causing breathing difficulties (personal defense sprays or riot control in the United States) ; as an equestrian doping substance to reduce pain in horses ; as a poison in some extremely rare reported cases ; as a treatment against psoriasis ; as a weight loss strategy compliment ; as a euphoric substance in very rare reported cases ; as perfume component (Bertrand Duchaufour) ; as a topical analgesic in dermal patches or cream form ; as a pharmaceutical drug to reduce the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy ; and as an insecticide. It was also reported that Capsaicin may reduce the incidence of some severe diseases due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

In this research, the effects on humans when consumed in food is investigated. Alleviating methods through these food aliments of the irritant effects of Capsaicin on humans is assessed and further investigations of the efficiency of its other predominant effects : antioxidant and insecticide, are carried out.

Novelty of the Project

Capsaicin, the active component of chilli peppers causes the sensation of burning in humans and other mammals, when it comes into contact with tissue, more commonly the oral mucosa. 10 food components were tested on 12 individuals (aged 15 to 18 years old, including 7 females and 5 males) for three different levels of concentration of capsaicin (from three different chilli peppers : green : 250-2,500 Scoville, yellow : 5,000-10,000 Scoville and habanero : 100,000 – 335,000 Scoville) that we closely observed and interrogated on their irritation and sensation of burning of their oral mucosa. Among the 10 components we found that dairy products such as milk and butter which contains casein work up to 70% better than any other food in alleviating the effects of capsaicin. This is caused by the casein molecules (of which milk is 80% contained) taking the place of capsaicin on the TrpV1 receptors. In addition, components with a sweet taste (sugar, banana) deliver a nervous message to the brain that is seem to have a stronger response than the capsaicin one, which as a consequence made some individuals feel less the effects. Starch-based foods, such as bread or rice, absorb capsaicin better than dairy products, but they do not displace capsaicin as well as milk does. Therefore bread added to a dairy product would give alleviating effect up to 90% greater than other components tested. Other reactions have been discovered which were marginal. Time remained the best way to reduce the capsaicin concentration and therefore the effect on humans. We also have demonstrated the effect of antioxidant against food oxidation (fruits : apple and banana). Capsaicin delayed and alleviated the oxidation of the outside surface in contact with oxygen reacting with polyphenoloxidase. However it did not show a significant increase in the antixodiant effect compared to other elements with similar properties like citric acid. The insecticide effect (general term which includes any lethal effect on Arthropod animals) was tested on spiders. In order to demonstrate the actual efficacy of capsaicin against these living organisms, its concentration needs to reach high Scoville concentration. We extended our research beyond our laboratory experiments to show its practical uses in Thua Thiên-Huê farms.


Yann Blake, Gwendal Daubresse-Chasle, Emmanuel Loïc
Supervisors: Prof. Laborde and Prof. Peuziat - French Ministry for Education, Universities and Academic Research

Executive summary in English (the research was carried out through French)
Overview of the main finding from the research project: the efficacy of casein in alleviating the irritant effects of Capsaicin.


Huawei SmartSail

Preparation for a pitch presentation to ESB (energy company est. 1927 in Ireland) for their funding competition within a multi-disciplinary team, focusing on low-cost environment-friendly solutions for laboratory facilities.
Huawei.eu website screenshot of biography page

Biomechanics of Corticol Bone: review of viscoelastic models


Bone is a composite of the biopolymer collagen type I and the bioceramic hydroxyapatite with smaller amounts of other compounds: water, calcium, phosphate and proteoglycans. Two main types of regions are found in bones: cortical and trabecular. The cortical bone is the most compact part which consists of a dense outer surface layer protecting the internal cavity of the bone. Eighty percent of the skeletal mass is of the cortical type. Research on bones as parts of the skeleton framework, as a rigid tissue and as a material is essential in order to understand the general functions of the organism and predict some age-related changes for example. Osteoporosis is one of these undesired changes which leads to the thinning of the cortical region and a reduction of the bone density. Therefore, extensive modelling and examination of the microstructural mechanical properties of the cortical bone is key.

Novelty of the Research

This research project included the design, construct and evaluation of an OCE system based upon an existing Spectral-Domaine OCT device OQ LabScope manufactured by Lumedica– one of the most inexpensive and widely available, yet reliable and accurate OCT systems on the market. This project was an extension of the work of work of Yang et al. in this field. The designed OCE system and its associated models (e.g. derived- Hertz Contact theory) are used to examine the mechanical properties of various hydrogel-based biomaterials. These hydrogel samples have differing stiffness or composition (i.e. type) and are tested within the same conditions and with a comparison, verification and validation protocol. The measured and computed mechanical properties (from the recorded images) are derived into several models to determine more characteristics of the biomaterials e.g. viscoelasticity. Hydrogels are three-dimensionally cross-linked networks of hydrophilic polymers with the capacity of imbibing various large amounts of water or biological fluids. These biomaterials have been of great interest to scientists and engineers given their extended biocompatible potential, their flexibility, versatility, stimuli-responsiveness, soft structure and the fast-growing number of their applications.

Mechanical testing of hydrogels present several benefits. First, the numerous applications of hydrogels in the field of medicine and bioengineering requires to characterize their properties to better suit the needs of a patient. Secondly, hydrogels exhibit very similar characteristics and behaviours to those of natural tissues. The demonstration of an accurate elastography system for hydrogels make it also suitable for many other biological tissues, for cultured cells or biomaterials to be tested in a non-destructive manner.


Yann Blake

Schematic of the viscoelastic models selected for analysis and cross-section of a human femur showing the corticol bone area (for the bone image: Willems et al. 2013)
Referencement of the article in the Google Scholar database.
Training within the department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Trinity College Dublin which included the following:

► Fundamental knowledge of the theory of elasticity, including equilibrium equations, compatibility equations, boundary conditions and stress functions.

► Extensive analysis of stresses and strain distributions using stress functions in a number of engineering structures under load. Development of complex equations tailored to the conditions of a specific stress-strain behaviour.

► Assess the suitability of specific viscoelastic models for different materials and different mechanical characterization techniques.

► Computations and examinations on the mechanical behaviour of laminates in different orientations.

► Applications of the finite element method in various settings.

► In-dept problem-solving involving simple situations (thick-walled pressure vessels or holes in plates) and more complex ones.

► Rheological models (shear stress-shear rate behavior of drilling fluids) are developed and used to describe the behaviour of viscoelastic materials.