REU Profile: Hydrogels and stem cells

FranklynHall

Franklyn Hall

Franklyn Hall is a rising junior at Mississippi State University where he is studying Chemical Engineering with a Biomolecular Concentration. He is spending the summer in the chemical and biomolecular engineering laboratory of Sharon Gerecht as part of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Research Experience for Undergraduates program (INBT REU).

Franklyn wanted to write about his experience thus far at Johns Hopkins in the INBT REU program in a blog post as follows:

This summer at the INBT REU has been an amazing experience that has allowed me to investigate interesting research topics such as hydrogels and stem cell growth. This experience has also given me the opportunity to learn more about the JHU community and the life of a graduate student.

My research is mainly focused on the characterization of the optimal conditions for vascular regeneration and growth within hydrogels. Hydrogels are unique 3-D environments that mimic in-vivo cell growth and allow researchers to study and adjust growth conditions, patterns, and cell interactions. These 3-D growth environments not only improve our understanding of stem cells, but they have applications in wound healing and tissue regeneration. I am specifically investigating hypoxia in hydrogels or the state of having low oxygen availability within the hydrogel. One of my research goals is to find the optimal hypoxic conditions and the effect of oxygen gradients within the hydrogel on cell growth and development. I have enjoyed learning how to make the hydrogel polymers, culture and stain cells, and look forward to producing results soon.

Outside of the laboratory I have had the opportunity to play on the departmental softball team with my graduate student mentor. It is common for graduate students to play different sports in the evening to socialize and have fun outside of the laboratory. During our semiweekly games, I have been able to talk to Masters, MD, and MD/PhD. students to learn about their graduate study experiences and future goals.  We have also had the opportunity to go out to eat and go to different events around Baltimore.

Graduate studies and research may be challenging. However, with people like the ones I have met, the support is there for you to persevere and make your mark on the scientific community.

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at mspiroATjhu.edu.

 

High school students join ranks of summer researchers at INBT

Twelve high school students have joined the ranks of researchers working in labs affiliated with Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology this summer.

Nine of the students come to Hopkins via the Summer Academic Research Experience program (SARE), which pairs selected academically inclined students who attend Baltimore area schools, such as the SEED School of Maryland, with laboratory mentors at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. INBT has administered this program since 2009. Its funding comes from a variety of sources including, INBT, the Family League of Baltimore and private grants and donations.

SARE-2015-kids-web

SARE 2015 Cohort: Back row: Natalie Suarez-Perez, Adam Elsaidy, Princess Massaquoi, Ayende Watson, Stacey Alston. Front row: Assefa Akinwole, Siri Keyaka, Tashanna Sands, Grace Ayole,

Three of the students have joined INBT labs through a supplement to the National Science Foundation’s REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) program and these students have been placed in INBT affiliated laboratories on the Homewood campus of the University.  This program is new to the Institute and students selected had applied directly to NSF via school recommendations. Students in this program come from outside the Baltimore area and live on campus in student housing.

INBT is dedicated to providing educational outreach opportunities to a variety of populations, especially students living in and around the Johns Hopkins University campuses. To find out about all of our educational program, visit the website http://inbt.jhu.edu/education/. Questions about our academic programs may be directed to INBT’s Academic Program Administrator Camille Bryant at cbryantATJHU.edu

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at mspiroATjhu.edu.

NSF High School Cohort 2015: Nico Deshler, Nahom Yimam and Prathak Naidu

NSF High School Cohort 2015: Nico Deshler, Nahom Yimam and Prathak Naidu

Four undergrad researchers working in Belgium

Each summer, Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) has funding to support research internships abroad. The International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program, funded by the National Science Foundation, provides support for students to work with researchers at The Inter-University MircroElectronics Centre (IMEC) in Leuven, Belgium. Students work at IMEC’s world-class microfabrication facility and learn to design, fabricate and test a wide range of biomedical devices.

Over the next several weeks, each student will blog about their experiences both as researchers in an international laboratory, but also as a visitor to Europe. Expect to see some lab photos and some tourist trip photos.

For 2015, four students have arrived in Belgium. They include Rachel Bang, Sophomore in Mechanical Engineering; Rebecca Black, Junior in Molecular and Cell Biology; Gwendolyn Hoffmann, Senior in Materials Science and Engineering; and Victoria Laney, Senior on Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. For more information about the IRES program through INBT, visit http://inbt.jhu.edu/

All press inquiries about this program or about INBT in general should be directed to Mary Spiro, INBT’s science writer and media relations director at mspiroATjhu.edu. For information about INBT’s collaboration with IMEC, contact INBT’s director of corporate partnerships, Tom Fekete at tfekete1ATjhu.edu

A new wealth of applications for gold nanoparticles

Gold has been the currency of many civilizations because of its advantageous and attractive bulk properties. Many modern civilizations have left the gold standard, but the attractiveness of gold has not decreased. One reason is because of the development of gold nanoparticles.

goldcups

Figure 1: Picture of gold nanoparticles embedded within Roman cup. When light is shown through the cup the gold nanoparticles reflect the red making it appear to change color. Source: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/this-1600-year-old-goblet-shows-that-the-romans-were-nanotechnology-pioneers-787224/?no-ist

Although gold nanoparticles have been formed as early as the 4th century AD because of incorporation into cups such as shown in Figure 1, it has not been until the past 50 years that researchers have developed gold nanoparticle formation techniques and exceptionally characterized these particles enabling their usefulness.

Gold nanoparticles have found numerous applications both within and outside of biology. For example, the gold nanoparticles could be used as therapeutic delivery vehicles. Furthermore, specially shaped and sized nanorods can be exothermically excited by 700-800 nm light. This could be used to produce a hyperthermia treatment of tumors where the nanoparticles could be coated with a ligand for the tumor and then light shown only in the location of the tumor for site-specific therapy.

In addition, gold nanoparticles are commonly used in biological assays as detection agents for certain pathological conditions. Outside of biology, gold nanoparticles can serve as catalysts for chemical reactions and also be used in printable electronics. These and other currently investigated applications for gold nanoparticles provide a rich future for gold in our modern society.

About the author: John Hickey is a second year Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate in the Jon Schneck lab researching the use of different biomaterials for immunotherapies and microfluidics in identifying rare immune cells.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, mspiro@jhu.edu or 410-516-4802.

 

Summer professional development seminar series begins

The 2015 Summer Professional Development Seminars hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology will be held on select Wednesdays from 10:45 a.m. to noon in the Mason Hall Boardroom on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood Campus. Space is limited, so please RSVP to mspiro@jhu.edu.

PrintJune 10 – Career paths for STEM degrees: What’s next?

A panel discussion with:

  • Elad Firnberg, President and Co-Founder at Revolve Biotechnologies
  • Jacob Koskimaki, Clinical Data Analyst at American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Laura Dickinson, Head of Research and Development at Gemstone Biotherapeutics LLC
  • Vanessa McMains, Communications Specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Helena Zec, PhD candidate Biomedical Engineering

June 24 – What will be the direction of research for the next 20 years?

A conversation with:

  • Denis Wirtz, Vice Provost for Research Johns Hopkins University and Associate Director of INBT
  • John Toscano, Vice Dean for Science and Research Infrastructure and Professor of Chemistry

July 8 – Networking 101

A workshop with:

Tom Fekete, Director of Corporate Partnerships for INBT

School teaches you everything except how to get a job. And, with the average length of a job being just 18 months, every job is temporary. Which means, job search is now a skill every professional needs to survive. Even more important is the difference between a job and a career. Fekete is a 40-year veteran of the chemical and pharmaceuticals industries with high level positions in engineering, research, operations and strategic planning management will talk about careers, job searches and networking.

July 22 – Financial Literacy

A workshop with:

Debbie Johnson of Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union

Learn about budgeting, saving and what else you can do once you start earning a paycheck.

Hand-held device will quickly ID bacteria

Tza-Huei (Jeff)Wang, a mechanical engineering professor affiliated with Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, received a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a hand-held device that will quickly indentify bacteria.

Droplet-chip-photo-Wang-Lab-crop-1020x1024

This illustration depicts a microfluidic chip for bacterial detection and drug testing in picoliter-sized droplets. Graphic by Jeff Wang Lab/Johns Hopkins University.

“We need to be faster and more precise in the way we diagnose and treat people with bacterial infections,” said Wang, who is leading the team that will build the new microfluidic testing devices. “Instead of waiting three days to figure out what the infection is and what’s the best drug to treat it, we believe our technology will deliver both answers within just three hours.”

Wang explained that delays in bacterial identification lead physicians to rely on broad spectrum antibiotics, which in turn can lead to drug resistance. Discovering quickly which bug is causing the infection, Wang said “should lead to more effective treatment and a lower risk of promoting antibiotic resistance.”

Wang’s award, which will be distributed over five years toward the development of this life-saving microfluidic device, came from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Read more here.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, mspiro@jhu.edu or 410-516-4802.

The challenge of accurately measuring drug permeability

In our seventh NanoBio Lab, Erin Gallagher, a predoctoral candidate from the lab of professor Peter Searson, demonstrated the use of a cell permeability assay as a means of modeling drug diffusion through the blood brain barrier (BBB) endothelium. Assays such as this one enable us to better understand the cellular processes that govern what drug molecules are able to cross the BBB and the role of efflux pumps and transporters. Development of more accurate in vitro models is a highly valuable avenue of research, as it will allow for rational drug design to more effectively treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and mood disorders with potentially fewer side effects.

The blood brain barrier (BBB) presents a challenge for delivery of drug molecules to the central nervous system, as many of the mechanisms it employs were evolved specifically to prevent introduction of dangerous substances into the central nervous system. Understanding the mechanisms by which various substances are able to cross the BBB will allow for more rational design of future generations of drug molecules and carrier systems.

The blood brain barrier (BBB) presents a challenge for delivery of drug molecules to the central nervous system, as many of the mechanisms it employs were evolved specifically to prevent introduction of dangerous substances into the central nervous system. Understanding the mechanisms by which various substances are able to cross the BBB will allow for more rational design of future generations of drug molecules and carrier systems.

For the assay, canine kidney cells (MDCK II) were seeded on transwells in a 24 well plate, 24 hours prior to the assay to allow the cells to form a confluent endothelial layer with functional tight junctions. When cells have formed a confluent endothelial layer, ion movement must occur through the cells themselves instead of through the much higher resistivity tight junctions. As a result, the overall resistivity measured is higher than for non-confluent cells, for which ions are able to simply diffuse through the transwell. Therefore, assessment of the integrity of the endothelial layer was done to measure the conductivity through the layer of cells.

Following assessment of the endothelial layer integrity, we ran a permeability assay for the fluorescent molecule Lucifer Yellow (LY) to determine its apparent permeability as a model for drugs diffusing across the BBB. Utilizing a standard concentration curve of LY fluorescence, the amount of LY that diffused through the layer was determined at specific time points to imply apparent permeability. For more typical non-fluorescent drug molecules, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) can be used to measure the amount of drug having diffused.

As a tool, assays modeling the blood brain barrier are indispensible to the pharmaceutical industry, but finding a model system that effectively reproduces in vivo conditions for less expensive, high throughput in vitro testing is a challenge. Permeability models, such as the one used in this lab, also allow development of novel strategies for moving drugs across the BBB. These strategies include molecular engineering of drug molecules to take advantage of cellular active transport mechanisms or peptide engineering that facilitates vesicle transport across the endothelium.

David Wilson is a first year PhD student in biomedical engineering working in the drug delivery laboratory of associate professor Jordan Green in biomedical engineering.

Image Citation:  Wong, A. D., Ye, M., Levy, A. F., Rothstein, J. D., Bergles, D. E., & Searson, P. C. (2013). The blood-brain barrier: an engineering perspective. Frontiers in Neuroengineering, 6(August), 1–22. doi:10.3389/fneng.2013.00007

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, mspiro@jhu.edu or 410-516-4802.

Thoughts on stereotyping of Latina women in science

Angela Jimenez

Angela Jimenez

Recently an article in the Washington Post entitled, “Black and Latina women scientists sometimes mistaken for janitors,” was brought to my attention. The Nano-Bio blog editor and INBT science writer, Mary Spiro, asked me if I would be willing to write a response to it. After considering this topic and my experience in the States, I cannot say that I have felt stereotyped due to being a female Hispanic scientist.

Although stereotyping is a more profound issue, it is not completely unreasonable. Let me explained myself: I recently defended my PhD work at Johns Hopkins University and in the five and a half years that I have spent here, most of the janitors are blacks including a few Hispanics. When I would walk to lab, I could hear construction guys talking in Spanish all the time. Unfortunately, this stereotype is sometimes our current reality. This could be partly explained from the fact that some of us come from developing countries, and it is difficult when we come to the States to be up to speed with everyone else who has been born and raised here. This gap could be due to a variety of factors, such as the lack of education, the cultural differences, the language barrier, and even the influence of our family.

One of the reasons that I have not felt particularly stereotyped is probably because when I moved to the States 13 years ago, I came to New York City, which is known as the melting pot of this country. I went to City College of New York and out of a class of 30, there was only one person originally from the States. Everyone else was from somewhere around the world.

After arriving to the US, I was aware that I was coming from a developing country, and that I needed to work hard to succeed, which I would define as getting educated. When I decided to come here, I moved without my family and without knowing any English and I feel that the most important thing that made me succeed was the great desire and determination to learn and get educated. This determination probably made me so focus on achieving my goals that I never really thought about being stereotyped or discriminated even when this could had been the case.

Looking back, I can only say that yes, I worked really hard, but I have been extremely fortunate to be able to earn a PhD from one of the leading Universities. Now, do I think it is fair that women, in particular Blacks and Hispanics, are stereotyped or even discriminated? Of course not, but the issue here is greater than this. Stereotyping and discrimination depend on several variables. For instance, geography, demographics, education, and income all play a role.

I have Hispanic Engineer friends who work in different industries in non-traditional roles, and I have observed that the ones who work in New York City are less likely to be stereotyped or discriminated than the ones elsewhere. Do I think that as women we should support each other and create societies that inspire and help us navigate the system? Of course yes! Motivating and helping women pursue a career in the field of science will help increase the percentage of women in these challenging positions. Over time, this will lead to a greater representation of the number of blacks and Latina women scientists, and this current stereotype and discrimination will eventually vanish.

About the author: Angela Jimenez recently completed her PhD in Chemical and Biomolecular engineering in the laboratory of Denis Wirtz, associate director of INBT and Vice Provost for Research at Johns Hopkins University.

Top poster presenters awarded Nikon cameras at Neuro X symposium.

More than 300 people attended the Neuro X symposium hosted May 1 by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology at the Owens Auditorium on the medical campus. The morning featured six faculty experts from several disciplines (see pdf of agenda here). In the afternoon, nearly 70 posters were on display and three presenters earned top honors for their work.  Posters were judged on research value, quality of content and overall graphic presentation. Prizes included three different Nikon Coolpix cameras, provided by Nikon.

Maria Barbano

1at prize winner Maria Barbano with INBT director Peter Searson

First prize went to Maria Flavia Barbano, a senior research specialist in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, for her poster Differential effects of photoactivating GABAergic lateral hypothalamic neurons projecting to ventral tegmental area in feeding and reward.

Second prize was awarded to Ran Lin (not pictured), a predoctoral candidate in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, for her poster A Dual Peptide Conjugation Strategy for Improved Cellular Uptake and Mitochondria.

Third prize was presented to Jennifer Dailey, predoctoral candidate in the Department of Material Science and Engineering, for her poster Optoelectronic Signaling for detecting Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) and Related Pathogens by Multidentate Antigen-Nanoparticle Agglomeration.

Jennifer Dailey

3rd prize winner Jennifer Dailey

INBT would like to thank our judges who came from the university and from industry. They included Chao Wang, assistant professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering, Peter Searson, INBT director and professor of materials science and engineering, Esther Kieserman of Nikon, and assistant professor Seulki Lee and professor Robert Ivkov both from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, mspiro@jhu.edu or 410-516-4802.

Chien’s magnetism work recognized with prestigious award

Chia-Ling Chien

Chia-Ling Chien

Professor Chia-Ling Chien, a condensed matter physicist at Johns Hopkins University and long-time affiliated faculty member of INBT, will receive the prestigious 2015 IUPAP Magnetism Award and Néel Medal from the Commission on Magnetism within the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. Chien directs the Nanostructured Materials Lab in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

The award, which will be presented this summer,  recognizes Chien’s pioneering discoveries in magnetic materials and nanostructures. The IUPAP Magnetism Award and Néel Medal are awarded every three years to a scientist who has made extraordinary contributions to the field of magnetism. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the IUPAP Commission on Magnetism.

Congratulations to Dr. Chien.

Read more about Dr. Chien’s award and research in this story on the JHU Hub.