INBT researchers use LEGO to study what happens inside lab-on-a-chip devices

Johns Hopkins engineers are using a popular children’s toy to help them visualize the behavior of particles, cells and molecules in environments too small to see with the naked eye. These researchers are arranging little LEGO pieces shaped like pegs to recreate microscopic activity taking place inside lab-on-a-chip devices at a scale they can more easily observe. These lab-on-a-chip devices, also known as microfluidic arrays, are commonly used to sort tiny samples by size, shape or composition, but the minuscule forces at work at such a small magnitude are difficult to measure. To solve this small problem, the Johns Hopkins engineers decided to think big.

Led by Joelle Frechette and German Drazer, both assistant professors of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering, the team used beads just a few millimeters in diameter, an aquarium filled with goopy glycerol and the LEGO pieces arranged on a LEGO board to unlock mysteries occurring at the micro- or nanoscale level. Their observations could offer clues on how to improve the design and fabrication of lab-on-a-chip technology. Their study concerning this technique was published in the August 14 issue of Physical Review Letters. Both Drazer and Frechette are affiliated faculty members of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

The idea for this project comes from the concept of “dimensional analysis,” in which a process is studied at a different size and time scale while keeping the governing principles the same. [Read more…]

Quantum dots spot epigenetic markers for early cancer detection

Jeff Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and biomedical engineering doctoral student Vasudev Bailey examine samples of modified DNA during a new test designed to detect early genetic clues linked to cancer. Photo by Will Kirk

Jeff Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, and biomedical engineering doctoral student Vasudev Bailey examine samples of modified DNA during a new test designed to detect early genetic clues linked to cancer. Photo by Will Kirk

A researcher affiliated with Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology has developed a highly sensitive test using quantum dots to detect external chemical modifications to DNA called methylations. Alterations to DNA that do not involve a change in the genetic code, yet can influence gene expression, fall into the emerging science of epigenetics.

The nanotechnology based test for epigenetic markers could be used as an early detection method for cancer or to determine whether a particular cancer treatments is working or not. The research was performed by INBT affiliated faculty member Jeff Tza-Huei Wang,  an associate professor of mechanical engineering from the Whiting School of Engineering, and Stephen Baylin, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Their findings were published in the August 2009 issue of Genome Research.  Read the full story from Johns Hopkins University News and Information here.

Additional resources

Visit Jeff Wang’s INBT profile page here.

How DNA methylation affects health.

Podcast: Nanotech method to study cell detachment could lead to improved cancer therapies

Peter Searson

Peter Searson

Cancer spreads from organ to organ when cells break free from one site and travel to another. Understanding this process, known as metastasis, is critical for developing ways to prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells. Peter Searson, Reynolds Professor of Materials Science and Engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering and director of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology, led a team of engineers who have developed a method to specifically measure detachment in individual cells.

The method, which uses lab-on-a-chip technology, allows researchers to observe and record the exact point when a cell responds to electrochemical cues in its environment and releases from the surface upon which it is growing. Better knowledge of the biochemistry of cell detachment could point the way to better cancer therapies. In this “Great Ideas” podcast, Elizabeth Tracey, communications associate for the School of Medicine, interviews Searson about this current research.

“…We know that processes like cell detachment are important in cancer metastasis, where cells become detached from tumors…” Peter Searson

Click here to listen:  Great Ideas Podcast: Peter Searson

Related links:

You can watch a video and read more about Searson’s method of studying cell detachment here.

Peter Searson’s INBT profile page.

This podcast was originally posted to the Johns Hopkins University “Great Ideas” web page. To view the original posting, click here.

Hopkins summer scholar research poster session set for Aug. 4

Dozens of students in summer programs across campus, including 12 students from Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) REU program, will display the results of their research efforts during a poster session Tues., Aug. 4 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Turner Concourse at the School of Medicine. REU stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates and is a program funded by the National Science Foundation.

INBT’s highly competitive nanobiotechnology REU program chooses students with excellent academic records who express interest in continuing research in graduate school. The students work with INBT affiliated faculty advisers and graduate student mentors to complete a 10-week research project. The application process for the 2010 REU program will begin in December 2009 and closes in mid February 2010.

Ashanti Edwards, INBT’s senior education program coordinator, says, “We believe that it is beneficial for the students to present their research in the form of a poster. This allows the students to practice communicating their research to a broader audience and prepares them for research poster sessions that they will have in graduate school.”

In 2008,  more than 80 students working in laboratories from across the Johns Hopkins University participated in this poster session. The event is free and open to all students, faculty and staff.

Students from INBT’s summer REU program will present the following posters. REU students’ names are in parentheses following the poster title and authors:

  • A Functional Investigation of Potential Molecular Components in Active DNA Demethylation. Olusoji (Yemi) Afuwape, Junjie Guo, Guo-li Ming.  (Olusoji (Yemi) Afuwape, University of Illinois at Chicago)
  • A Synthetic FGF1 Mimetic Peptide: Studies of FGFR3 Binding and Activation. Alexander Federation. Alexander Federation, Jesse Placone, Fenghao Chen, Kalina Hristova. (Alexander Federation, University of Rochester)
  • Relating ECM Stiffness to Cancer Cell Motility. Ranjini Krishnamurthy, Stephanie Fraley, Denis Wirtz. (Ranjini Krishnamurthy, Johns Hopkins University)
  • Nerve Guide Treatment for PNS Damage in Rats. Amber J. Ortega, Shawn H. Lim, Hai-Quan Mao. (Amber Ortega, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology)
  • A silica superparamagnetic method for automated methylation analysis. Chao Yin, Vasudev Bailey, Brian Keeley, Yi Zhang, Stephen Baylin, James Herman, Tza-Huei Wang. (Chao Yin, Duke University)
  • Characterization and Colloidal Stability of Surface Oxidized Single-and Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes. Hannah Wilson, Kevin Wepasnick, Howard Fairbrother. (Hannah Wilson, University of Maryland Baltimore County)
  • Characterization of the cell cycle dependency of the actin cap. John A. Jones Molina, Shyam Khatau, Denis Wirtz. (John A. Jones Molina, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus)
  • Functionalizing complex, microfabricated curved structures to selectively pattern fibroblasts in 3D. Stefanie M. Gonzalez, Mustapha Jamal, Elizabeth Cha, David Gracias. (Stefanie Gonzalez, Milwaukee School of Engineering)
  • The Development of Organic Nanobioelectronics for Neural Applications.  Stephanie Naufel, Stephen Diegelmann, John D. Tovar. (Stephanie Naufel, Arizona State University)
  • VEGF and substrate compliance upregulate MMP expression in EPCs in in vitro capillary-like structure formation.  Steven Bolger, Donny Hanjaya-Putra, Sharon Gerecht. (Steven Bolger, Duke University)
  • Effects of Substrate Adhesion on Mechanistic Properties of Cytokinesis. Lawrence Lin, Alexandra Surcel, Doug Robinson. (Lawrence Lin, Rice University)

Related Links:

Meet INBT’s summer 2009 REU students

INBT REU program page

Devreotes receives Hay Professorship in Embryology

Peter Devreotes

Peter Devreotes

Peter N. Devreotes, professor and director of the Department of Cell Biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, received the Isaac Morris Hay and Lucille Elizabeth Hay Professorship in Embryology in a June 12 dedication at the Welch Medical Library. Devreotes also serves on the Executive Committee of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

Using the amoeba Dictyostelium as a model system, Devreotes’ research focuses on identifying the genes responsible for a cell’s “sense of direction.” During embryogenesis and in the adult, cells use chemical gradients to direct their movements to find and maintain their proper positions. The process, referred to as chemotaxis, is not only found in normal physiology but in inflammatory diseases and cancer metastasis.

Devreotes graduated Phi Kappa Phi with a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc. He graduated summa cum laude with a doctorate in biophysics from The Johns Hopkins University. He was elected to The National Academy of Sciences in 2005 and also won a National Institutes of Health Merit Award that same year.

Date change for final professional development seminar talk: Matthew J. Lesho

The talk “Life after graduate school: Or lessons learned after 15 years in industry” by Matthew J. Lesho has been rescheduled to Tuesday July 28 at 11 a.m. in Room B17 CSEB.

For more details visit http://inbt.jhu.edu/life-after-graduate-school-or-lessons-learned-after-15-years-in-industry/2009/07/09

Life after graduate school: Or lessons learned after 15 years in industry

Matthew Lesho

Matthew Lesho

Update – this talk has been rescheduled to Tuesday July 28 at 11 a.m. in 110 Maryland Hall.

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology presents Matthew J. Lesho, PhD, Biomedical Engineer with Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems for the final Professional Development Seminar for this summer. His talk, “Life after graduate school: Or lessons learned after 15 years in industry,” will be held July 22 Tuesday July 28 at 11 a.m. in 110 Maryland Hall Room B17 CSEB. This seminar is free and open to students, faculty, and staff.

Ever wonder what it might be like to work in industry for a small medical device start-up company or a large defense contractor? Learn from an expert with nearly 15 years in industry. Lesho will lead an interactive discussion that will highlight the similarities and differences of working in industry as compared to a career in academia. Lesho also will ask the audience to share their perceptions about what they think life will be like after graduation. This seminar provides some real world examples of product and technology development in the industrial environment to help students studying science and engineering gain some perspective on how their academic degrees could be applied to current medical, the military, or homeland defense challenges.

[Read more…]

Schafer named civil engineering chair

Benjamin Shafer

Benjamin Shafer

Benjamin Schafer, associate professor of civil engineering and affiliated faculty member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, became chair of the Department of Civil Engineering, as of July 1.

Schafer’s area of research involves thin-walled structures. Thin-walled structures aim to maximize strength and efficiency while minimizing the cost, and as a result, stability plays a crucial role in their behavior. Much of Schafer’s research involves common construction materials, such as metals, wood and plastic. But with regard to nanobiotechnology, Schafer also is looking to a naturally occurring thin-walled structure-the cell. In particular, he has studied the cell’s mechanical response via the crosslinking and bundling of actin fibers with INBT’s associate director and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Denis Wirtz.

[Read more…]

Bringing a nanotechnology to market: a faculty perspective

Tim Weihs

Tim Weihs of the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering will be the next guest speaker for the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) Professional Development Seminars on July 8, at 11 a.m. in 110 Maryland Hall. Weihs, a professor of materials science and engineering, is co-founder of Reactive NanoTechnologies (RNT), which produces NanoFoil®.

RNT makes the patented NanoFoil® at its Hunt Valley, Md. facility. This new class of nano-engineered material is fabricated by vapor-depositing thousands of alternating layers of aluminum and nickel. The foil can be activated electrically, optically or via a heat source to deliver localized temperatures up to 1500C in just fractions of a second. The foil can be used for applications requiring rapid and precise bonding, such as attaching an LED to a circuit board.

Tim Weihs received a B.S. from Dartmouth College in 1983, an M.E. from Thayer School of Engineering in 1985, and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University in 1990. He worked as a NATO postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Materials at Oxford University, and completed a second postdoctoral study in the Chemistry and Materials Science Department at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In 1995, he joined the faculty in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Weihs is also an INBT affiliated faculty member.

In 2002, Weihs took a leave of absence from Hopkins to co-found Reactive NanoTechnologies with Omar Knio, a Hopkins professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering. After growing the company to the point of first commercial sales, Weihs returned to full-time teaching and research duties but maintains a small role with RNT as its Chief Technical Officer. His awards include a National Science Foundation Career Award, a 3M Young Faculty Fellowship, an R & D 100 Award, and an Innovator of the Year Award.

To attend this talk, please RSVP to Ashanti Edwards at aedwards@jhu.edu by July 7.

Reactive NanoTechnologies
http://www.rntfoil.com/site/

Tim Weihs’ Faculty Page
http://materials.jhu.edu/index.php/people/faculty/weihs

Nanobiotech researcher receives state funds to support commercialization of diabetes treatment

Microcapsules with embedded gadolium-gold nanoparticles can be easily visualized with A (T1-weighted positive contrast MR imaging), B (T2-weighted negative contrast MR imaging). C (X-ray/CT imaging) or D (ultrasound imaging). (Credit: Dian Arifin/Bulte Lab)

Microcapsules with embedded gadolium-gold nanoparticles can be easily visualized with A (T1-weighted positive contrast MR imaging), B (T2-weighted negative contrast MR imaging). C (X-ray/CT imaging) or D (ultrasound imaging). (Credit: Dian Arifin/Bulte Lab)

On June 4, the state announced 12 winning research projects that will receive part of $3 million in nanobiotechnology research funding from the 2009 Maryland Nanobiotechnology Research and Industry Competition Grants. Jeff Bulte, an affiliated faculty member of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology and professor of Radiology in the School of Medicine, received a one-time $230,000 to commercialize a promising therapy for type 1 diabetes.

Bulte and his postdoctoral fellow Dian Arifin are collaborating with the Baltimore-based company Surgivison Inc. on a project entitled Image-Guided Encapsulated Cell Therapy using Multimodal Nanoparticles. Bulte explains that the project aims to develop microcapsules that contain human islets, the insulin producing cluster of cells in the pancreas, which will be part of a cell therapy for type 1 diabetes. The microcapsules are engineered to protect the islets from attack by the immune system, which would normally treat them as foreign invaders. In addition, the transplanted islets microcapsules also have gadolinium-gold nanoparticles embedded in them so that they can be easily seen with non-invasive imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance, X-ray, computerized tomography, or ultrasound. [Read more…]