Microscopic grippers used successfully in animal biopsies

Tiny, untethered microscale grippers have been successfully used to perform tissue biopsies in live animals, a study in the journal Gastroenterology reports. Researchers affiliated with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Whiting School of Engineering and Institute for NanoBiotechnology developed the self-assembling microgrippers, called mu-grippers. The star-shaped devices use the animal’s own body heat to trigger them to clamp down around tissue to grab a sample like a tiny hand. Because the grippers are magnetic, they can later be retrieved for a minimally invasive procedure.

Dozens of dust-sized surgical mu- grippers in a vial. (Photo by  Evin Gultepe, Gracias Lab, Johns Hopkins University)

Dozens of dust-sized surgical mu- grippers in a vial. (Photo by Evin Gultepe, Gracias Lab, Johns Hopkins University)

David Gracias, the principal investigator for the study and associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, was quoted in a Johns Hopkins press release about the work: “This is the first time that anyone has used a sub-millimeter-sized device — the size of a dust particle — to conduct a biopsy in a live animal … That’s a significant accomplishment. And because we can send the grippers in through natural orifices, it is an important advance in minimally invasive treatment and a step toward the ultimate goal of making surgical procedures noninvasive.”

Read more here.

 

Regenerative medicine theme of science-writer bootcamp

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 3.19.05 PMJohns Hopkins invites you to the fifth annual science-writer boot camp. This year’s topic will be Regenerative Medicine. Join Johns Hopkins experts in regenerative medicine to learn the latest in stem cell research, tissue regeneration and organ transplantation.

Three of the 11 presenters are affiliated faculty members of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. This event is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences.  There is no cost but reservations are required. Working press as well as freelance writers are invited to attend.

WHAT: Body Building: Recent Advances in Regenerative Medicine

WHEN: Monday, April 29, 2011, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (lunch will be provided)

WHERE: Bernstein-Offit Building, room LL7, Johns Hopkins SAIS Campus, 1717 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

RSVP: Vanessa McMains at vmcmain1@jhmi.edu or 410-502-9410 by April 19

Confirmed speakers:

  • Gerald Brandacher, M.D. Scientific Director, Composite Tissue Allotransplantation (Reconstructive Transplant) Program
  • Robert Brodsky, M.D. Director, Division of Hematology
  • Jeff Bulte, Ph.D. Director, Cellular Imaging Section, Institute for Cell Engineering (INBT affiliated faculty)
  • Mark Donowitz, M.D. Director, Center for Epithelial Disorders; Director, Conte GI Core Research Center
  • Gary Gerstenblith, M.D. Professor, Medicine
  • Warren Grayson, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering (INBT affiliated faculty)
  • Jun Liu, Ph.D. Professor, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
  • Erika Matunis, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Cell Biology
  • Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D. Professor, Neurology and member of the Institute for Cell Engineering (INBT affiliated faculty)
  • Ronald Schnaar, Ph.D. Professor, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences; Director, Lung Inflammatory Disease Program of Excellence in Glycoscience

We look forward to seeing you on April 29!

Download the color flyer here.

 

Wenk lecture on tech and public policy slated for May 2

The annual Carolyn and Edward Wenk Jr. Lecture in Technology and Public Policy will be held Thursday, May 2, 3:30 in the Mason Hall Auditorium on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus.

Christopher Welch

Christopher Welch

This year’s theme is “How Technological Innovation Enables the Development of Sustainable Solutions to 21st Century Healthcare Problems.” The guest speaker is Christopher J. Welch Merck Research Laboratories, Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ. Welch is Science Lead for Analytical Chemistry within the Process and Analytical Chemistry area at Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, NJ. He also co-chairs the New Technologies Review and Licensing Committee, the organization that oversees identification, acquisition and evaluation of new technologies of potential value to Merck Research Laboratories.

Welch will address the daunting challenge facing scientists and engineers today of providing sustainable healthcare solutions to the world’s population in the 21st century. Several examples of the application of new technologies to the development of today’s medicines will be highlighted, with an explanation of how multiple layers of complex technologies are often involved in the discovery, development and manufacturing of a seemingly simple pill or tablet. In keeping with the spirit of the Wenk lecture, the important role of conscientious scientific citizenship in engaging the scientific community, steering the direction of scientific innovation, and contributing to the creation, maintenance and repair of a global scientific infrastructure will also be discussed.

This year’s Wenk lecture is co-sponsored by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology and the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

 

Spring nano-bio mini-symposium set for April 3

Catch up on the latest research happening in Johns Hopkins University labs working in nanobiotechnology, the physics of cancer and cancer nanotech at INBT’s spring mini-symposium Wednesday, April 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Leverings’s Great Hall on the Homewood campus.

AT AT GLANCE- INBT new signSMALL

Mini-symposiums are organized in the spring and fall by student leaders in the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, the Engineering in Oncology Center and the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. They are a means of showcasing current work, learning from guest speakers and facilitating communication and collaboration among affiliated laboratories. This event is open to the entire Johns Hopkins Community. Save the date!

The agenda is as follows:

  • 9:00 am ~ 9:10 am Welcome speech Denis Wirtz, PhD, Director of Johns Hopkins Physical Science Oncology Center (PS-OC)
  • 9:10 am ~ 9:40 am “Role of ion channels and aquaporins in cancer cell migration in confined microenvironments” Kimberly M. Stroka, PhD, Postdoc fellow (PS-OC) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • 9:40 am ~ 10:10 am “TBD” Helena Zec, Graduate student (CCNE) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • 10:10 am ~ 10:40 am “Single-cell protein profiling to study cancer cell heterogeneity” Jonathan Chen, Graduate student (PS-OC) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Yale University
  • 10:40 am ~ 11:30 am “Synthetic cell biology: total synthesis of cellular functions” Takanari Inoue, PhD, Assistant professor Department of Cell Biology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • 11:30 am ~ 11:40 am Coffee Break
  • 11:40 am ~ 12:10 pm “TBD” Yu-Ja Huang, Graduate student (PS-OC) Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • 12:10 pm ~ 1:00 pm “Infections, Chronic Inflammation, and Prostate Cancer” Karen Sandell Sfanos, PhD, Assistant professor Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • 1:00 pm ~ 1:30 pm “Development of CEST liposomes for monitoring nanoparticle-based cancer therapies using MRI” Tao Yu, Graduate student (CCNE) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

INBT Spring mini-symposium flyer

INBT-Shirt Design Contest

You are cordially invited to submit a design for the INBT-Shirt Design Contest!

Here are the rules:

1) You need to use the Gildan Ultra Cotton T-Shirt on Custom Ink to design your shirt. You can chose any color scheme you like. Here’s a link to the page.

2) You need to use the inbt logo somewhere on the tshirt. I’ve attached two inbt logos that can be uploaded while you design.

Besides that the sky is the limit in terms of your design. The submission deadline is Friday, March 1st. Please submit all designs to me. My email is scmjhu@gmail.com.

A panel consisting of various members from the INBT will judge all the tshirt designs and chose the best one. The undergrad who submits the best design will receive a $25 gift card!!

At the end of the contest, if there is an outstanding submission, all INBT undergraduate researchers will receive free tshirts!! So start designing, and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Good luck,

Shaun McGovern

Links to the logos are below.

inbt-logo

inbt-undergrad-research-shirt-3

jhu

 

Self-assembling drug molecules could fight cancer

A popular method of targeted drug delivery for anti-cancer drugs involves doping another material with the desired pharmaceutical to obtain better targeting efficiency to tumor sites. The problem with this method, researchers have discovered, is that the quantity of drug payload per delivery unit can vary widely and that the materials used for delivery can have toxic side effects.

But what if you could turn the drug molecule itself into a nanoscale delivery system, cutting out the middleman completely?

TEM image of nanotubes formed by self-assembly of an anticancer drug amphiphile. These nanotubes possess a fixed drug loading of 38% (w/w). Image from Cui Lab.

TEM image of nanotubes formed by self-assembly of an anticancer drug amphiphile. These nanotubes possess a fixed drug loading of 38% (w/w). Image from Cui Lab.

Using the process of molecular self-assembly, that is what Honggang Cui, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, is attempting to do. His efforts have netted him the prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation. Cui, an affiliated faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, will receive the $500,000 award over five years.

Cui explained that a current method of delivering anti-cancer drugs is to enclose them in a nanoscale carrier made of natural or synthetic materials, but this method presents several challenges. “The amount of drug loaded per carrier is very much limited and varies from batch to batch. Even in the same batch, there is a drug loading variation from carrier to carrier. Additionally, the carrier material itself may have toxic side effects,” he said.

Cui’s research seeks to eliminate the need for the carrier by coaxing the drug molecules themselves to form their own carrier through the process of self-assembly. His team is developing new molecular engineering strategies to assemble anti-cancer drugs into supramolecular nanostructures.

“Such supramolecules could carry as much as 100 percent of the drug, would possess a fixed amount of drug per nanostructure and would minimize the potential toxicity of the carrier,” Cui said.

To learn more about research in the Cui lab go to http://www.jhu.edu/cui/

 

Nanotech checks on transplanted cell survival

Researchers at Johns Hopkins are using nanotechnology to track the survival and location of transplanted cells. The device, based on nanoscale ph sensors and imaging via magnetic resonance, could help improve outcomes from cell replacement therapies used for conditions such as liver disease or type 1 diabetes.

Cartoon showing nanoscale probe used to detect pH change caused by death of transplanted cell. (McMahon/Nature Materials)

Cartoon showing nanoscale probe used to detect pH change caused by death of transplanted cell. (McMahon/Nature Materials)

“This technology has the potential to turn the human body into less of a black box and tell us if transplanted cells are still alive,” says Mike McMahon, Ph.D., an associate professor of radiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine principal investigator on the study. “That information will be invaluable in fine-tuning therapies.”

Transplanted cells often fall victim to assault from the body’s immune system, which sees the news cells as foreign invaders. Says McMahon,  “once you put the cells in, you really have no idea how long they survive.”

When cells die there is a change in the acidity nearby. Using this fact, the researchers developed a nanoparticle sensor that could both sense the change in pH and be detected via MRI. The team tested the sensors on mice and found they they were able to track the location of surviving transplanted cells and determine the proportion that had survived.

“It was exciting to see that this works so well in a living body,” says research fellow Kannie Chan, Ph.D., the lead author on the study, which was published in Nature Materials. This should take a lot of the guesswork out of cell transplantation by letting doctors see whether the cells survive, and if not, when they die,” Chan says. “That way they may be able to figure out what’s killing the cells, and how to prevent it.”

Chan works in the laboratory of Jeff Bulte, Ph.D., the director of cellular imaging at Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Cell Engineering. Bulte and McMahon collaborated on the study. Additional authors include Guanshu Liu, Xiaolei Song, Heechul Kim, Tao Yu, Dian R. Arifin, Assaf A. Gilad, Justin Hanes, Piotr Walczak and Peter C. M. van Zijl, all of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. McMahan, Bulte, Gilad, Hanes and van Zijl are all affiliated faculty members of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (grant numbers R01 EB012590, EB015031, EB015032 and EB007825).

Follow this link to read the paper, MRI-detectable pH nanosensors incorporated into hydrogels for in vivo sensing of transplanted-cell viability, in Nature Materials online http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nmat3525.html

FLC event focuses on Maryland technology

Screen Shot 2013-02-04 at 10.59.42 AMMaryland Technology Past, Present and Future is the topic of a day-long symposium, February 28 at the National Electronics Museum hosted by the Federal Laboratory Consortium Mid-Atlantic Region.

The FLC is a national organization chartered by Congress to foster technology transfer from federal research laboratories and field centers, to other federal agencies; state and local government; academia and the private sector. One of the regional consortium’s efforts has been to conduct a series of one-day forums that highlight specific areas of technology and encourage collaboration and partnership development with federal labs.

Registration is $25 and includes refreshments and lunch. Registration deadline is February 15 and can be made online at this link.

The National Electronics Museum is located at 1745 West Nursery Road in Linthicum, Md. The symposium begins with registration at 8:15 a.m. and adjourns at 3:45 p.m.

In addition to the presentations, the day will offer the opportunity to meet scientists from the regions National Labs such as NASA, NIST, NIH and Goddard as well as representatives of local industry. In addition to the FLC Mid-Atlantic Region, participating organizations for this symposium include Johns Hopkins University and TEDCO.

For further information or if you have difficulty accessing the registration site, please contact John Emond at 301-384-2809 or johnlamaremond@aol.com. You may also contact INBT’s director of corporate partnerships, Tom Fekete at 410-516-8891 or tmfeke@jhu.edu.

A flyer and agenda for the event are below:

Maryland Technology Day Agenda

Maryland Technology Day Flyer

INBT engineers coax stem cells to diversify

Growing new blood vessels in the lab is a tough challenge, but a Johns Hopkins engineering team has solved a major stumbling block: how to prod stem cells to become two different types of tissue that are needed to build tiny networks of veins and arteries.

The team’s solution is detailed in an article appearing in the January 2013 print edition of the journal Cardiovascular Research. The article also was published recently in the journal’s online edition. The work is important because networks of new blood vessels, assembled in the lab for transplanting into patients, could be a boon to people whose circulatory systems have been damaged by heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

blood-vessel-3-72

Illustration by Maureen Wanjare

“That’s our long-term goal—to give doctors a new tool to treat patients who have problems in the pipelines that carry blood through their bodies,” said Sharon Gerecht, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering who led the research team. “Finding out how to steer these stem cells into becoming critical building blocks to make these blood vessel networks is an important step.”

In the new research paper, the Gerecht team focused on vascular smooth muscle cells, which are found within the walls of blood vessels. Two types have been identified: synthetic smooth muscle cells, which migrate through the surrounding tissue, continue to divide and help support the newly formed blood vessels; and contractile smooth muscles cells, which remain in place, stabilize the growth of new blood vessels and help them maintain proper blood pressure.

To produce these smooth muscle cells, Gerecht’s lab has been experimenting with both National Institutes of Health-approved human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. The induced pluripotent stem cells are adult cells that have been genetically reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem cells. Stem cells are used in this research because they possess the potential to transform into specific types of cells needed by particular organs within the body.

In an earlier study supervised by Gerecht, her team was able to coax stem cells to become a type of tissue that resembled smooth muscle cells but didn’t quite behave properly. In the new experiments, the researchers tried adding various concentrations of growth factor and serum to the previous cells. Growth factor is the “food’ that the cells consume; serum is a liquid component that contains blood cells.

“When we added more of the growth factor and serum, the stem cells turned into synthetic smooth muscle cells,” Gerecht said. “When we provided a much smaller amount of these materials, they became contractile smooth muscles cells.”

This ability to control the type of smooth muscle cells formed in the lab could be critical in developing new blood vessel networks, she said. “When we’re building a pipeline to carry blood, you need the contractile cells to provide structure and stability,” she added. “But in working with very small blood vessels, the migrating synthetic cells can be more useful.”

In cancer, small blood vessels are formed to nourish the growing tumor. The current work could also help researchers understand how blood vessels are stabilized in tumors, which could be useful in the treatment of cancer.

“We still have a lot more research to do before we can build complete new blood vessel networks in the lab,” Gerecht said, “but our progress in controlling the fate of these stem cells appears to be a big step in the right direction.”

In addition to her faculty appointment with Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering, Gerecht is affiliated with the university’s Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) and the Johns Hopkins Engineering in Oncology Center.

The lead author of the new Cardiovascular Research paper is Maureen Wanjare, a doctoral student in Gerecht’s lab who is supported both by the INBT, through a National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, and by the NIH. Coauthors of the study are Gerecht and Frederick Kuo, who participated in the research as an undergraduate majoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering. The human induced pluripotent stem cells used in the study were provided by Linzhao Cheng, a hematology professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

This research was supported by an American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant and NIH grant R01HL107938.

Original press release can be found here.

 

Young, global entrepreneur to speak Dec. 12

The Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) hosts a guest speaker on  Wednesday, December 12, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Clark Hall 110 at the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus.

Jodie Wu, founder/CEO, Global Cycle Solutions

Jodie Wu, founder and CEO of Global Cycle Solutions, will present: “Engineer to Entrepreneur: Starting a business in Africa at Age 22,: in which she will discuss the journey of Global Cycle Solutions, its history, its vision, its operations, and how it became what it is today.

In 2009, Wu at age 22, officially became a full-fledged entrepreneur, packing her bags and moving to Tanzania. Wu will talk about her journey from engineer to entrepreneur and give the insider story of taking her company Global Cycle Solutions, from the classroom to the field.

In addition, Wu will share her fantastic “failures”, the challenges of selling products to the world’s bottom billion, and her vision for the future now that her company has sold over 13,000 products across East Africa and is now operationally break even.

This talk is free and open to the Johns Hopkins community.