REU student profile: Christopher Glover

Christopher Glover is a rising senior in bioengineering at the University of Missouri. He worked this summer as an REU intern in the laboratory of professor Jeff Tza-Huei Wang, who has joint appointments in mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and oncology. The Research Experience for Undergraduates, hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, attracts nearly 800 undergraduate applicants for just 10 research positions.

Christopher Glover

Christopher Glover

Christopher’s project involved a proof-of-concept experiment to test a device used to digitally sort and amplify DNA samples.

The device consists of a silicone chip imprinted with 3,000 tiny wells to contain DNA. A thermoplastic lid covers the top of the chip to keep the DNA in place in the wells. After a segment of DNA is added to the chip, the number of copies of that DNA segment is amplified using a device called a thermal cycler. “The goal is to either get zero or one copy of the DNA segment in each well, which makes the device “digital,” he said.

“We aren’t concerned about the type of DNA we are amplifying but just to see if it will work,” Christopher said. “This could be used for medical screening where a specific allele could be detected within a gene to see if someone is more susceptible to getting a disease,” he said.

Christopher said that working in the Wang lab has helped him learn much more about nanotechnology than he had previously known. His future plans include earning a PhD in biomedical engineering.

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

REU student profile: Claire Korpela

Claire Korpela is a rising senior at the University of Wyoming studying chemistry and molecular biology. She spent the summer at Johns Hopkins University working in the chemical and biomolecular engineering laboratory of Honggang Cui. Claire was part of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s Research Experience for Undergraduates.

Claire Korpela

Claire Korpela

Her research project involved creating a peptide chain that targets to cancer cells and combining it with an anti-cancer drug. Claire’s career goal is to become an oncologist. She decided to write her own blog post on her experience at JHU, which follows:

The naked eye is only so good for seeing small objects. This summer I had the opportunity to work with chemotherapeutic 1D nanostructures, a task that my naked eye was not well equipped for.

peptides-korpela.jpg

Nanotubes (Cui Lab)

When I was first told that the nanotubes I had formed from individual drug-peptide monomers has self-assembled into highly ordered and complex structures, I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around what that meant. Just the idea of nanotechnology astounded me. How could something so small have such a large impact on society and the future of technology and medicine? It was something I needed to see to believe.

After looking at my sample using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), I was taken aback by the image that was before me. It certainly wouldn’t be classified as beautiful or interesting to most people looking at it, but to me it was. Seeing how my molecule aggregated on its own into nanotubes that can weave around itself to form a stable gel gave me an even better understanding of just how important nanotechnology can be in the fight against cancer.

 

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

Summer scholars celebrate with poster session

The Johns Hopkins Summer Academic Research Experience (SARE) program will hold a closing celebration and poster session for participants on August 15 at 3:30 in the pre-function area of the Woods Basic Science Auditorium on the ground floor at the medical campus.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 12.17.09 PMThe SARE is an outreach initiative and internship program that provides a biomedical research experience and academic support for selected high school students from the greater Baltimore community. It is partially funded by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT).

“SARE Scholars typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds and participants are chosen from Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore, the SEED School of Maryland, the Crossroads School and KIPP Academy,” said Doug Robinson, professor of cell biology, INBT affiliate and founder of the program. “SARE Scholars spend the summer working in research labs with doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, while taking a structured academic program and working on professionalism skills. At the celebration, Scholars will present the fruits of their hard work through a professional scientific poster session.”

Robinson noted that since 2009, 16 Scholars have participated in SARE. Of those who have reached college age, 100 percent have enrolled into 4-year universities, and 40 percent of those students chose science, engineering, or health-related degree programs.

“Although we often hear of sad stories of Baltimore youth, this event will show just how exceptional Baltimore students are,” Robinson said. “I promise you will be amazed and inspired by the SARE Celebration.”

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

 

 

REU student Profile: Florencia Velez-Cortes

Florencia Velez-Cortes is a rising senior in physics and chemistry at The Ohio State University. As part of INBT’s REU program, she spent her summer as a research intern the chemical and biomolecular engineering laboratory of professor David Gracias. REU stands for Research Experience for Undergraduates and is a National Science Foundation program hosted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

Florencia Velez-Cortes

Florencia Velez-Cortes

Florencia worked constructing bi-layers out of DNA and acrylamide gel. The combination of the two materials could be used the make biocompatible devices, such as microgrippers that could be used in tether-less surgery, she explained.

“The best part about this project is that we are working on something complete new and biocompatible that could even be responsive to chemical signals,” she explained.

Also because the material is composed of DNA, “it could be responsive to certain DNA sequences.”

Florencia said the most challenging thing for her this summer was working with people who are engineers, when she is not. “It’s been a steep learning curve for me but everyone has been really helpful and receptive to working with someone who is outside of their field.”

She also noted that the pace of research in the Gracias lab is a lot faster than what she is used to in her previous laboratory experiences. She said having a mentor she could talk to was integral to her success.

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

Three-way brain tumor therapy sparks immune system with radiation

Johns Hopkins researchers have found that combining radiation with two therapies that activate the immune system allow mice with brain tumors (glioblastoma) to survive longer than mice who did not receive the combo treatment. INBT affiliated faculty member Michael Lim, M.D., an associate professor of neurosurgery, oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said the radiation may act “as kind of kindling, to try to induce an immune response.”

brainRead the full press release from Johns Hopkins regarding the publication in PLoS One journal below:

A triple therapy for glioblastoma, including two types of immunotherapy and targeted radiation, has significantly prolonged the survival of mice with these brain cancers, according to a new report by scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

Mice with implanted, mouse-derived glioblastoma cells lived an average of 67 days after the triple therapy, compared with mice that lasted 24 days when they received only the two immunotherapies. Half of the mice who received the triple therapy lived 100 days or more and were protected against further tumors when new cancer cells were re-injected under the animals’ skins.

The combination treatment described in the July 11 issue of PLOS One consists of highly focused radiation therapy targeted specifically to the tumor and strategies that lift the brakes and activate the body’s immune system, allowing anti-cancer drugs to attack the tumor. One of the immunotherapies is an antibody that binds to and blocks an immune checkpoint molecule on T cells called CTLA-4, allowing the T-cells to infiltrate and fight tumor cells. The second immunotherapy, known as 4-1BB, supplies a positive “go” signal, stimulating anti-tumor T cells.

None of the treatments are new, but were used by the Johns Hopkins team to demonstrate the value of combining treatments that augment the immune response against glioblastomas, the most common brain tumors in human adults. The prognosis is generally poor, even with early treatment.

“We’re trying to find that optimal balance between pushing and pulling the immune system to kill cancer,” said Charles Drake, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of oncology, immunology and urology, and medical oncologist at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.

The researchers speculate that when radiation destroys tumor cells, the dead tumor cells may release proteins that help train immune cells to recognize and attack the cancer, said Michael Lim, M.D., an associate professor of neurosurgery, oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and member of Johns Hopkins’ Institute of NanoBiotechnology.

“Traditionally, radiation is used as a definitive therapy to directly kill cancer cells,” said Lim, who also serves as director of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program and director of the Metastatic Brain Tumor Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “But in this situation we’re using radiation as kind of kindling, to try to induce an immune response.”

Lim says if further studies affirm the value of the triple therapy in animals and humans, the radiation could be delivered a few days before or after the immunotherapies and still achieve the same results. Lim said this leeway “could make applications of this therapy in patients possible.”

The researchers say they were also encouraged to see that the triple therapy created “immune memory” in mice that were long-term survivors. When brain tumor cells were re-introduced under the skin of the animals, their immune systems appeared to protect them against the development of a new brain tumor.

Drake said since the immune system usually doesn’t generate a memory when foreign (tumor) cells are still present in the body. “But the idea that this combination treatment was successful at generating immunological memory really suggests that we could do this in patients and generate some long-term responses.”

The researchers are developing a variety of clinical trials to test combination therapies against brain tumors.

Other researchers on the study include Zineb Belcaid, Jillian A. Phallen, Alfred P. See, Dimitrios Mathios, Chelsea Gottschalk, Sarah Nicholas, Meghan Kellett, Jacob Ruzevick, Christopher Jackson, Xiaobu Ye, Betty Tyler, and Henry Brem of the Department of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Jing Zeng, Phuoc T. Tran, and John W. Wong of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center;  and Emilia Albesiano, Nicholas M. Durham, and Drew M. Pardoll at the Kimmel Center’s Department of Oncology and Medicine, Division of Immunology.

Funding for the study was provided by the WW Smith Charitable Foundation and individual patient donations.

Michael Lim is a consultant for Accuray and receives research funding from Accuray, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Celldex and Aegenus. Charles Drake has served as a consultant for Amplimmune, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Compugen, Dendreon, ImmunExcite and Roche/Genentech and is on the Scientific Advisory Board of Compugen. He receives research funding from Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Aduro and Janssen and has stock ownership in Compugen. Drew Pardoll is a consultant/advisor for Jounce Therapeutics, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, ImmuneXcite and Aduro and receives research funding from Bristol-Meyers Squibb. Jing Zeng, Michael Lim, Charles Drake and Drew Pardoll hold a patent for the work related to this study.

The authors declare that they have a patent relating to material pertinent to this article; this international patent application (PCT/US2012/043124) is entitled “Use of Adjuvant Focused Radiation Including Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Augmenting Immune Based Therapies Against Neoplasms.” These relationships are being managed by The Johns Hopkins University in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.

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

REU student profile: Alexa Wnorowski

Alexa Wnorowski

Alexa Wnorowski

Alexa Wnorowski is a rising senior in Biological Engineering studying at Cornell University. Her summer REU at Johns Hopkins University involved studying the blood brain barrier in the materials science and engineering laboratory of Peter Searson. Searson directs the Institute for NanoBioTechnology that hosts the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).

“The goal is to figure out how to move drugs across this tight junction of cells that protects the brain,” Alexa explained. Alexa used a four-channel microfluidic device fabricated in the Searson lab.

“Each channel has a slightly different shear stress because it has a slightly different height,” she explained. “We seed a culture of cells at the bottom of the channel and let them grow so that they are confluent. Then we run media through the device and we see how the different shear stresses affects proliferation of the cells.”

Although she conducted research before, Alexa said she had never worked with microfluidic devices before. She said to gain a broader perspective on research, it’s important to work in several different laboratories. “Every lab is run in different ways and have very different atmospheres, “ she said. “This experience has shown me how research in conducted in different labs.”

Alexa’s goal is to earn a PhD in biomedical engineering.

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

 

Nanobio film festival projects posted to YouTube

Each summer, I teach a course through Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology for our training grant students in science communication. The course, Science Communication for Scientists and Engineers: Video News Release (EN.670.609), teaches students methods for communicating their research to a nontechnical audience. Topics covered include conveying your research in 60 seconds, scripting, story boarding and video camera filming and techniques.

inbt-abstractMartin Rietveld, INBT’s web and animation director, and the staff at the Digital Media Center on the Homewood campus, also play an integral part in this short summer workshop. The class meets four times for lecture and discussion, where they are shown many science videos and discuss case studies on what works in communicating technical information to a lay audience. They visit the DMC and INBT’s animation studio. The student groups then have approximately five weeks to work independently on their projects. At the end of the course, students show their completed videos at the INBT film festival.

This year the film festival was held on July 23 with nearly 50 people in attendance. We had 12 filmmakers split into three groups of four students.  The topics and teams and resulting videos follow. Enjoy!

Cancer

Ivie Aifuwa, chemical and biomolecular engineering, Denis Wirtz Lab

Moriah Knight, materials science, Peter Searson Lab

Christopher Saeui, biomedical engineering, Kevin Yarema Lab

Zinnia Xu, biomedical engineering, Peter Searson Lab

Lab-on-a-Chip Technology

Prasenjit Bose, physics, Daniel Reich Lab

Sarah Friedrich, biomedical engineering, Jeff Wang Lab

Erin Gallagher, materials science and engineering, Peter Searson Lab

Yu Shi, physics, Daniel Reich Lab

In Vitro Models for Testing Drug Delivery

Max Bogorad, materials science and engineering, Peter Searson Lab

Alex Komin. materials science and engineering, Peter Searson Lab

Luisa Russell, materials science and engineering, Peter Searson Lab

Bin Sheng Wong, chemical and biomolecular engineering, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos Lab

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

 

 

 

REU student profile: Rebecca Majewski

DNA, the genetic sequence that tells cells what proteins to manufacture, typically resides inside the nucleus of a cell, but not always. Rebecca Majewski is studying the uptake of DNA into cell nuclei using a different polymer chains. Rebecca is a rising senior in BioMolecular Engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and is working as a summer intern in the Johns Hopkins Institute for Nanobiotechnology’s REU program.

“We are interested in how much of the DNA with the polyplex can get into the nucleus,” she said, but explains that DNA associated outside of the nucleus can cause false higher measurements.

Rebecca Majewski. Photo by Mary Spiro

Rebecca Majewski. Photo by Mary Spiro

Rebecca is washing the cells with the nuclei to get rid of DNA outside the nucleus and then comparing the measurement of uptake of the DNA by the cell versus the measurement of the uptake of DNA by the nucleus.

“We are interested in what DNA gets inserted into the nucleus because that is what is ultimately expressed. It is important to find out how much makes it to the final destination and then is expressed. The goal of this work is to test different polymer chains to see which one actually does the better job of getting the DNA into the nucleus,” she said.

Rebecca works alongside PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the biomedical engineering lab of Jordan Green lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She says she highly values the opportunity for a research experience through INBT’s REU because her undergraduate institution does not train graduate students.

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

Three new science and engineering films to premiere at INBT fest

INBT’s Annual SCIENCE and ENGINEERING Film Fest is Wednesday, July 23 at 10:30 a.m. in Schaffer 3 at Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. Students from the summer class Science Communication for Scientists and Engineers: Video News Releases will be presenting their final projects and be availablmovie_clapper_board_clip_art_23354e for question and answer about their video news releases.

Film topics this year include drug delivery, lab-on-a-chip technology and how cells become cancerous. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the students’ work up on the big screen!!!!!!! This event is open to the entire Johns Hopkins community. FREE.

Facebook event page here.

Check out a previous video made in this class:

REU student profile: Ian Reucroft

Sitting at what looks like a pottery wheeled turned on its side, Ian Reucroft is using a method called electrospinning to create a nano-scale polymer fiber embedded with a drug that encourages nerve growth. The strand is barely visible to the eye, but the resulting fibers resemble spider web.

Ian Reucroft, a rising junior in Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University, is working in the medical school campus laboratory of Hai-Quan Mao, professor of materials sciences and engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is part of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s summer REU, or research experience for undergraduates program.

Ian Reucroft in the Mao lab. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Ian Reucroft in the Mao lab. Photo by Mary Spiro.

“We are developing a material to help regrow nerves, either in central or peripheral nervous systems,” said Ian. One method of doing that he explained is to make nanofibers and incorporating a drug into those fibers, drugs that promote neuronic growth or cell survival or various other beneficial qualities. The Mao lab is looking into a relatively new and not well-studied drug called Sunitinib that promotes neuronal survival.

“We make a solution of the component to make the fiber, which is this case is polylactic acid (PLA), and the drug, which I have to dissolve into the solution,” Ian said. Although the drug seems to remain stable in solution, one of the challenges Ian has faced has been improving the distribution of the drug along the fiber.

This is Ian’s first experience with electrospinning but not his first time conducting research. He plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering and remain in academia.

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