Heart scar tissue may take active role in promoting deadly arrhythmias

Susan Thompson, PhD student in biomedical engineering, and Craig Copeland, PhD student in physics and astronomy, observe a single non-beating heart cell called a myofibroblast growing on a micropost device. (Photo Jay VanRensselaer)

Johns Hopkins University biomedical engineers and physicists affiliated with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology have completed a study that suggests that mechanical forces exerted by cells that build scar tissue following a heart attack may later disrupt rhythms of beating heart cells and trigger deadly arrhythmias. Their findings, published in a recent issue of the journal Circulation, could result in a new target for heart disease therapies.

Principal investigator Leslie Tung, a School of Medicine professor in the department of biomedical engineering, led a team that looked at how heart cells that beat (called “cardiomyocytes”) were affected by the non-beating cells (called “myofibroblasts”). Myofibroblasts are called to arms at the site of injury following a heart attack.

“The role of the myofibroblast (non-beating cells) is to make the injured area as small as possible. Through contraction, the myofibroblasts close the wound and lay down a protein matrix to reduce the scar area,” said lead investigator Susan Thompson, a pre-doctoral fellow in Tung’s Cardiac Bioelectric Systems Laboratory. “In doing so, the myofibroblasts pull on the membranes of adjacent cardiomyocytes. We found that these forces were strong enough to decrease the electrical activity of the working heart cells through mechanical coupling.”

Thompson electrically stimulated cultures containing both the beating and non-beating cells growing together, and found that when the electrical impulses occurred, the non-beating myofibroblasts pulled on the membranes of beating cardiomyocytes and disturbed their electrical rhythm. Before this study, scientists were aware that myofibroblasts influenced the function of cardiomyocytes by depositing scar tissue, which produces regions of poor or no conductivity in healing cardiac tissue. But the “pulling” scenario described by Tung’s group indicates that myofibroblasts play a more active role than previously realized, Thompson said.

Biomedical engineering professor Leslie Tung collaborated with physics professor Daniel Reich to understand how heart scar tissue actively contributes to deadly arrhythmias. (Photo by Jay VanRensselaer)

In fact, images created using a voltage-sensitive dye showed that the spread of electrical waves was greatly impaired in the cultures with the most non-beating cells. Electrical conduction improved significantly, however, when drugs were added that inhibited contraction or that blocked so called “mechano-sensitive” channels.

“This is a truly exciting discovery because it radically affects our way of thinking about how cardiac arrhythmias might arise,” Tung said.

Tung and Thompson wanted to find out how strong the forces exerted by the myofibroblasts were and whether they changed when certain drugs were added. So they turned for answers to Daniel Reich, professor and chair of the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and his pre-doctoral student Craig Copeland.

To measure the strength of the contractile forces of the myofibroblasts, the team used a device made up of a platform comprising an array of flexible “microposts.” The array resembled a carpet with widely spaced fibers upon which single cells can grow. As the cells responded to their environment, they pulled on the posts. How much the posts bent provided data about the direction and strength of forces exerted. Single layers of myofibroblasts were grown on the micropost device and tested in the presence of the same compounds Thompson used in her conductivity experiments.

“Imagine gripping a basketball with one hand, palm facing downward,” Copeland said. “The forces you apply to the ball with your fingertips to keep it suspended are similar to the forces cells exert on their environment. If you were to place your hand on a bed of rubber nails and apply the same gripping force with your fingertips as you did with the basketball, the nails would bend and their tips be deflected. This is exactly what happens with cells cultured on the post arrays.”

Thompson also explained that scientists previously thought that non-beating cells affected the beating cells simply through openings called “gap junctions,” where the two cells came into physical contact. The greater electrical charge of the myofibroblasts would flow passively downhill through the gap junctions toward the cardiomyocytes and disrupt their rhythms.

Photo by Jay VanRensselaer

The group’s new hypothesis suggests another type of membrane channel opened by physical force—the mechano-sensitive channels—may be more important in regulating electrical activity of the cardiomyocytes than mere junctions connecting membranes.

The results of both the conductivity and the micropost experiments fully support this new hypothesis, the team said. Although they acknowledge that both the passive gap channels and the active pulling forces can explain how myofibroblasts affect the electrical activity of cardiomyocytes, the researchers believe the pulling forces could be more relevant to the development of deadly arrhythmias.

“We are not ruling out the current theory,” Thompson said. “But we are saying there is something else we should be looking at, and we think the pulling forces are a major component. This could provide another lane of therapeutic investigation, especially if drugs could be targeted specifically to the contraction of the myofibroblasts.”

The next step in the project will be to combine the micropost device with electrical experiments on cultures containing cardiomyocyte and myofibroblast cell pairs.

“Although technically quite challenging, it will allow us to unravel how pulling forces applied by the myofibroblast to the cardiomyocyte affects the cardiomyocyte’s electrical activity,” said Tung.

Both Tung and Reich are affiliated faculty members of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. Thompson and Copeland are INBT fellows in the institute’s Integrative Graduated Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association and the NSF IGERT funded their work. Findings were published in the May 17, 2011 issue of the journal Circulation.

Story by Mary Spiro

Photos by Jay VanRenesselaer/Homewood Photography

NanoBio professional development seminars begin June 15

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) kicks off this summer’s free professional development seminars for scientists and engineers on Wednesday, June 15 with a talk about how to launch your career after graduation. All seminars are held in Krieger 205 at 11 a.m. and are open to all members of the Hopkins community, though topics are geared toward undergraduate and graduate students.

Tom Fekete, INBT’s director of corporate partnerships will speak at the first seminar on Wednesday. Fekete works to build partnerships between INBT faculty researchers and industry leaders. He also coordinates student education and training opportunities through corporate partnerships.

Fekete has worked at Johns Hopkins University since 2009 and comes with more than three decades of experience in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, primarily in a senior management role. He last worked for KV Pharmaceuticals of St. Louis, Missouri, as Director of Operations Projects. Prior to that, he directed manufacturing sites for Astaris LLC of St. Louis and held executive level positions in research, engineering and manufacturing for the chemicals operations for FMC Corporation in Baltimore and Philadelphia. The holder of four U.S. patents, Fekete, earned his Master’s in Chemical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and his Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

INBT’s professional development seminars are designed to expand students’ knowledge of issues and ideas relevant to but outside of the laboratory and classroom experience. Additional professional development seminars this season include:

  • June 29: INBT’s Student-made Film Festival; come watch the premiere of the latest group of films produced by INBT-affiliated students on their current research. Films are made as part of INBT’s course, Science Communication for Scientists and Engineers: Video News Releases.
  • July 13: Adam Steel, PhD, Director of Systems Engineering at Becton Dickinson, will discuss medical device development. Dr. Steel joined BD in 2005. Previously he was vice president of research and development at MetriGenix. He earned his PhD in analytical chemistry at the University of Maryland College Park and undergraduate degrees in chemistry and mathematics from Gettysburg College. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in medical device development at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.
  • July 27: Grant submission process and how to obtain funding; a roundtable discussion with INBT affiliated postdoctoral students.

For additional information on INBT’s professional development seminar series, contact Ashanti Edwards, INBT’s Academic Program Administrator at Ashanti@jhu.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

Nanobio interns begin work in Hopkins labs

This week, 14 students from universities across the country began 10 weeks of laboratory work as part of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Nanobiotechnology (INBT) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded REU is supported and administered by INBT.

This is the fourth year INBT has hosted REU students, which pairs undergraduates with faculty, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in laboratories across the Hopkins campuses. At the end of their research experience, students present their findings at a university-wide collaborative research poster session held with other summer interns from across several divisions. They also have a better understanding of what it takes to  be a full-time academic researcher.

Although all students are working in INBT affiliated laboratories, five students involved in the REU this summer will be specifically conducting research as part of Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC). The PS-OC, also known as Johns Hopkins Enginering in Oncology Center, emphasizes the use of the physical sciences in the study of the spread and development of cancer. Three students will work in labs associated with the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE)

Another goal of the NSF-based program is to encourage students from under represented groups, such as women and minorities, to follow career paths that include academic science or engineering research. INBT’s nanobio REU has been particularly popular, attracting several hundred applications to its highly competitive program each year.

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology 2011 REUs include:

Mary Bedard, Elon University (J.D. Tovar Lab, Chemistry)

Lyndsey Brightful, Hampton University (Margarita Herrera-Alonso Lab, Materials Science and Engineering)

Erin Heim, University of Florida (Denis Wirtz Lab/PSOC, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

Benjamin Hendricks, Purdue University (Nitish Thakor Lab, Biomedical Engineering)

Jennifer Hernandez Muniz, University of Puerto Rico (Warren Grayson Lab, Biomedical Engineering)

Alyssa Kosmides, Rutgers University (Jordan Green Lab, Biomedical Engineering)

Allatah Mekile, East Stroudburg University (Jeff Wang Lab/CCNE, Mechanical Engineering)

Evelyn Okeke, City University of New York (Doug Robinson Lab, Cell Biology)

Thea Roper, North Carolina State University (Sharon Gerecht Lab/PSOC, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

Nailah Seale, Howard University (Warren Grayson Lab, Biomedical Engineering)

Justin Samorajski, University of Dallas (Peter Searson Lab/CCNE, Materials Science and Engineering)

Quinton Smith, University of New Mexico (Sharon Gerecht Lab/PSOC, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering)

Diane H. Yoon, Rice University (Hai-Quan Mao Lab, Materials Science and Engineering)

Mary Zuniga, Northern Arizona University (David Gracias Lab, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering).

Story and photos by Mary Spiro

 

 

 

Hopkins alumni learn about engineering in oncology

Denis Wirtz directs INBT’s Engineering in Oncology Center. Photo: Mary Spiro

As  part of Johns Hopkins Alumni Weekend 2011, Denis Wirtz, director of the Johns Hopkins Engineering in Oncology Center, gave a talk April 29 on how researchers are using physics and engineering to better understand cancer. Wirtz is the Theophilus H. Smoot Professor in the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Wirtz spoke in Mason Hall Auditorium with about 100 alumni in attendance. He showed animations explaining the process of metastasis and concluded his remark with a viewing of the short movie “INBT: An Overview.” The audience seemed engaged and asked several questions following Wirtz’s presentation. The talk was presented for the Class of ’61 alumni.

Johns Hopkins Engineering in Oncology Center is a Physical Sciences-Oncology Center funded by the National Cancer Institute. It was established in 2009.

To see the full gallery of photos from this event, visit this link on the PS-OC  Facebook page.

Johns Hopkins Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center (CNTC) launched

(Photo: Mary Spiro/INBT)

The war on cancer is fought on many fronts, even tiny, nanoscale ones. To train new scientists and engineers to combat the spread of cancer, Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) has established a pre-doctoral (PhD) training program in Nanotechnology for Cancer Medicine. Together with the institute’s previously established Nanotechnology for Cancer Medicine postdoctoral fellowship, these two training programs will comprise the Johns Hopkins Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center (CNTC).

Similar to the postdoctoral program, the PhD training in nanotechnology for cancer medicine will educate graduate students to use nanotechnology solutions to diagnose, treat, manage, and hopefully one day, even cure cancer, said the CNTC’s director Denis Wirtz, the Theophilus H. Smoot professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering.

The CNTC was funded by a $1.8 million grant over five years from the National Cancer Institute. Launched in the fall of 2010, the pre-doctoral training program has already attracted highly qualified students with bachelor’s degrees in diverse backgrounds such as biochemistry, genetics, molecular and cellular biology, as well as those who majored in engineering or physics. By attracting students with these sorts of educational backgrounds, Wirtz said, INBT will help develop what he calls “hybrid scientists, engineers, and clinicians.”

“We are seeking to train people who can develop new nanoscale materials and nanoparticles that will address biological functions related to the growth and spread of cancer, or metastasis, at a mechanistic level,” said Wirtz, who also directs INBT’s Engineering in Oncology Center and is INBT’s associate director.

Anirban Maitra, professor of pathology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and co-director of the CNTC, said research will focus on the identification and preclinical validation of the most cancer-specific nanotechnology based therapies, particularly using the wealth of knowledge on the cancer genome emerging from CNTC participant scientists such as Kenneth Kinzler and Bert Vogelstein, both School of Medicine faculty.

“The CNTC is uniquely poised to leverage this information for developing molecularly targeted nanotechnology-based tools for cancer therapy,” Maitra added.

Much like INBT’s other training programs, students seeking a doctorate specialization in nanotechnology for cancer medicine must jump through a few additional hoops than those students enrolled in traditional department-based pre-doctoral programs.

For example, in addition to the PhD requirements set forth by students’ home departments, CNTC fellows also complete two core nanotechnology courses, two intensive laboratory “boot camps”, one laboratory course designed to develop their skills in experimental and theoretical fundamentals in surface and materials science for biology and medicine, and one course in advanced cancer biology. Students must also complete two complementary laboratory rotations within their first year, participate in a professional development seminars, attend clinical conferences on cancer, among many other requirements. These extra steps set INBT trainees apart by giving them a more advanced skill set and making graduates more desirable in the job market, Wirtz said.

Generally, fellows take five to six years to complete the cancer nanotechnology for medicine PhD program. INBT will support CNTC trainees for two years, after which, the students will be funded by their primary departments from which their degrees will be conferred.

As many as six outstanding pre-doctoral fellows may enter the CNTC program per year. Candidates from under-represented groups in the science and engineering disciplines, including women and minorities, are encouraged to apply.

For more information about how to apply for the CNTC programs, please contact INBT’s Academic Program Administrator, Ashanti Edwards, at Ashanti@jhu.edu.

Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center

Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence

Story by Mary Spiro

 

Cancer nanotechnology mini-symposium brings students together

Jeaho Park, predoctoral student affiliated with the CCNE,  presenting at the INBT mini-symposium on cancer nanotechnology. (Photo: Mary Spiro)

About 30 people attended a mini-symposium on cancer nanotechnology hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology March 23. The event showcased current research from nine students affiliated with its Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC) and Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE). Talks began at 9 a.m. in Hackerman Hall Auditorium.

“We become so focused on our own research that we don’t know what other students are working on,” said Stephanie Fraley, a predoctoral candidate chemical and biomolecular engineering in the laboratory of Denis Wirtz. “The beauty of an event like this is that we get to see work from across the campuses and across disciplines, all in one morning.”

Researchers, who each spoke for 15 minutes and fielded questions from the audience,  included the following:

  • 9:00 – 9:15 – Jeaho Park (Peter Searson Lab, CCNE): Quantum dots for targeting cancer biomarkers
  • 9:15 – 9:30 – Stephanie Fraley (Denis Wirtz Lab, PSOC): Role of Dimensionality in Focal Adhesion Protein Localization and Function
  • 9:15 – 9:30 – Kelvin Liu, PhD, (Jeff Wang Lab, CCNE): Decoding Circulating Nucleic Acids in Serum Using Microfluidic Single Molecule Spectroscopy
  • 9:45 – 10:00 – Laura Dickinson (Sharon Gerecht Lab, PSOC): Functional surfaces to investigate cancer cell interactions with hyaluronic acid
  • 10:00 – 10:15 – Craig Schneider (Justin Hanes Lab, CCNE): Mucus-penetrating particles for the treatment of lung cancer
  • Break
  • 11:00 – 11:15 – Eric Balzer, PhD, (K. Konstantopoulos Lab, PSOC): Migrating tumor cells dynamically adapt to changes in environmental geometry
  • 11:15 – 11:30 – Venugopal Chenna (Anirban Maitra Lab, CCNE): Systemic Delivery of Polymeric Nanoparticle Encapsulated Small Molecule Inhibitors of Hedgehog Signaling Pathway for the Cancer therapy
  • 11:30 – 11:45 – Sam Walcott, PhD, (Sean Sun Lab, PSOC): Surface stiffness influences focal adhesion nucleation and decay initiation, but not growth or decay
  • 11:45 – 12:00 – Yi Zhang (Jeff Wang Lab, CCNE): A quantum dot enabled ultrahigh resolution analysis of gene copy number variation

Download the CCNE-PSOC mini symposium agenda here.

John Fini, director of intellectual property for the Homewood campus schools, also gave a presentation on intellectual property and work of Johns Hopkins Technology Transfer.  Plans are in the works for the cancer nanotechnology min-symposiums to occur each spring and fall.

Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC), also known as the Engineering in Oncology Center, is funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute and aims to unravel the physical underpinnings involved in the growth and spread of cancer. Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, also funded by a grant from the NCI, aims to use a multidisciplinary approach to develop nanotechnology-based tools and strategies for comprehensive cancer diagnosis and therapy and to translate those tools to the marketplace.

Environmental applications of nanotechnology discussed March 15

Colloids in porous media (Keller Lab/UCSB)

The Johns Hopkins University Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering hosts the M. Gordon Wolman Seminar Series, Tues., March 15 at 3 p.m. in Ames 234 with Arturo Keller of University of California, Santa Barbara. Keller will present the talk “Environmental Applications of Nanotechnolgy.

Abstract

Currently, nanotechnology is being used to monitor environmental pollutants as well as to remediate various environmental problems. Nanotechnology will help to develop new environmentally safe and green technologies that can minimize the formation of undesirable by-products or effluents. Nanotechnology is already being utilized to improve water quality and to assist in environmental clean-up issues. Environmental sensors to monitor pollutants are also becoming available. The seminar will explore these and other environmental applications of nanotechnology.

Bio
Arturo Keller is Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara, and the Associate Director of the UC Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. He has a background is in Chemical Engineering, followed by a PhD in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University. He worked in industry for 11 years between his undergrad and graduate degree.

M. Gordon Wolman Seminar Series

 

Cancer Nanotechnology theme of INBT’s symposium, May 12-13

The Denis Wirtz lab research centers on investigations of cell micromechanics, cell architecture, nuclear shape and gene expression. Shown are healthy mouse cells with flurorescent staining of the nucleus (blue) and microtubules (green) emanating from the microtubule organizing center (red). (Photo: Wirtz Lab/JHU)

Nanoscale tools developed by engineers have yet to be fully explored and exploited for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer. Nanotechnology for Cancer Medicine forms the focus of the fifth annual symposium for Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT), May 12 and 13, 2011 at the university’s Homewood campus.

Friday, May 13 will feature a symposium with talks from a slate of faculty experts in nanotechnology, oncology, engineering and medicine. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. in Shriver Hall Auditorium.  A poster session begins at 1:30 p.m. upstairs in the Clipper Room showcasing research from INBT affiliated faculty laboratories across several Johns Hopkins University divisions. Past symposiums have attracted as many as 500 attendees and more than 100 research posters.

Keep checking INBT’s 2011 symposium page for updated information on speakers and more details on how to register and submit a poster title. The symposium and poster session are free for Johns Hopkins affiliated faculty, staff and students.

Keynote Speaker

Stephen B. Baylin is currently Deputy Director, Professor of Oncology and Medicine, Chief of the Cancer Biology Division and Director for Research, of The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.For the last 20 years, Stephen Baylin has studied the role of epigenetic gene silencing in the initiation and progression of human cancer. He and his colleagues have fostered the concept that DNA hypermethylation of gene promoters, and associated transcriptional silencing, can serve as an alternative to mutations for producing loss of tumor suppressor gene function. They have described some of the classic genes involved, invented approaches to randomly screen the cancer genome for such genes and to demonstrate their functional role in cancer progression, helped begin unravel the molecular mechanisms responsible for the initiation and maintenance of the gene silencing, and worked to utilize all of their findings for translational purposes.  Baylin has authored or co-authored over 375 full-length publications on the above and other areas of cancer biology.

Stephen Baylin will present the keynote talk at the 2011 Johns Hopkins Nano-Bio Symposium

He has been a member of committees of the American Cancer Society and of National Institutes of Health, and his honors include a Research Career Development Award from NIH, the Edwin Astwood Lectureship of the Endocrine Society, the 2003 Jack Shultz Memorial Lecture in Genetics, Fox Chase  Cancer Center, The 2004 National Investigator of the Year Award from the National Cancer Institute SPORE program, the Jack Gibson Visiting Professorship, University of Hong Kong Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, The 2004 2nd Annual Sydney E. Salmon Lectureship in Translational Research, Arizona Cancer Center, the 2005 Shubitz Cancer Research Prize from the University of Chicago, and he currently holds the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Chair in Cancer Research at Johns Hopkins. Baylin is also recipient of the 2007 Woodward Visiting Professor, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the 2008 Raffaele Tecce Memorial Lecture, Trento, Italy, the 2008 The David Workman Memorial Award (jointly with Peter A. Jones, Ph.D.) from the Samuel Waxman Foundation, and the 2009 Kirk A. Landon-AACR Prize for Basic Cancer Research, also shared with Peter A. Jones, the 14th NCI Alfred G. Knudson Award in Cancer Genetics, and, most recently, the Nakahara Memorial Lecture prize at the 2010 Princess Takematsu  Symposium. Currently, he leads, with Peter Jones, the Epigenetic Therapy Stand up to Cancer Team.

Additional confirmed speakers for the 2011 INBT Symposium include:

  • Martin Pomper is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with a primary appointment in Radiology and secondary appointments in Oncology, Radiation Oncology, and Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences, as well as Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Pomper co-directs Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE).
  • Anirban Maitra is a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with appointments in Pathology and Oncology at Sol Goldman Pancreatic Research Center and secondary appointments in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering and the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine. Maitra co-directs Johns Hopkins Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center and is a project director in the CCNE.
  • Jin Zhang is an associate professor at Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine with primary appointments in Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences and secondary appointments in Neuroscience, Oncology, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.
  • Hy Levitsky is a professor of Oncology, Medicine and Urology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Scientific Director of the George Santos Bone Marrow Transplant Program. Levitsky is a project director at the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE).
  • Gregory Longmore is a professor at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Oncology Division, Molecular Oncology Section and the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology. Longmore is a project co-director at Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center (PS-OC).
  • Denis Wirtz is the Theophilus H. Smoot Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Wirtz is associate director of INBT and director of the Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, also known as the Engineering in Oncology Center. He has a secondary appointment in Oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Workshops

During the afternoon of May 12, INBT will hold four 2-hour hands-on laboratory workshops organized by faculty affiliated with INBT, PS-OC or CCNE. Workshop registration will be limited to 10 persons per session. Sessions will begin at 1 and 3:30 p.m. and will be held in the New Engineering Building. Workshop details, including any costs, are forthcoming.

Become a sponsor

If you or your organization would like to learn how to sponsor INBT’s annual symposium, please contact our director of corporate partnerships, Tom Fekete, at tmfeke@jhu.edu or call him at 410-516-8891. Sponsors enjoy reduced rates on symposium-related events and advertising in our annual Nano-Bio magazine/symposium program, among other benefits.

Media inquiries may be directed to Mary Spiro, science writer and media relations director for INBT, at mspiro@jhu.edu or 410-516-4802.

Gerecht wins NSF CAREER Award for work in blood vessel formation

Sharon Gerecht (Photo:Will Kirk/JHU)

Sharon Gerecht, assistant professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, has been awarded the Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation. The $450,000 prize over five years will help Gerecht in her investigation into how hypoxia, or decreased oxygen, affects the development of blood vessels.

Gerecht’s interdisciplinary research brings together her expertise in stem cell and vascular biology with her background in engineering.  Gerecht said she hopes to discover the mechanisms and pathways involved in the formation of vascular networks, as they relate to embryonic development and diseases such as cancer.

Many medical conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, create areas of decreased oxygen or hypoxia in the spaces between cells. But oxygen is required to maintain normal tissue function by blood vessel networks, which bring nutrients to cells. Likewise, the differentiation of stem cells into more complex organs and structures needs a plentiful supply of oxygen from the vasculature to function.

Gerecht’s study will examine how low oxygen levels impact the growth factors responsible for promoting vascular networks. She also will study the growth of vascular networks in engineered hydrogels that mimic the physical attributes of the extracellular matrix, which is the framework upon which cells divide and grow. Finally, her laboratory will focus on discovering how stem cells differentiate to blood vessel cells and assemble into networks under hypoxic conditions.

She will conduct her research through her role as a project director at the Johns Hopkins Engineering in Oncology Center (EOC), a Physical Science-Oncology Center of the National Cancer Institute. Gerecht is also an associated faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, which administers the EOC.

Gerecht earned her doctoral degree from Technion – Israel Institute of Technology followed by postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She joined the faculty of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins in 2007.

The prestigious CAREER award, given to faculty members at the beginning of their academic careers, is one of NSF’s most competitive awards and emphasizes high-quality research and novel education initiatives. It provides funding so that young investigators have the opportunity to focus more intently on furthering their research careers.

Story by Mary Spiro

INBT’s REU gives students 10 weeks to find out if research is for them

Roberto Rivera worked in Nina Markovic’s physics lab. (Photo: Sarah Gubara)

Johns Hopkins University was founded as a research university. But the fact is, research is not the best career path for everyone. That’s why Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology offers a 10-week summer research internship for undergraduate students. There’s no better way to find out if research is for you than to actually do it.

During the summer of 2010, 16 students from universities across the country were admitted into INBT’s highly competitive Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation. This was the third year of INBT’s REU program, and this group of scholars represented the Institute’s largest since the program began. Students are mentored by faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in INBT affiliated laboratories across Hopkins.

Makeeda Moore conducted research in Sharon Gerecht’s lab. (Photo: Sarah Gubara)

Projects are designed in such a way that students are able to gather relevant data in such a short period of time. At the end of the 10-week research program, they presented their findings at a university-wide collaborative research poster session held with other summer interns from across several divisions at Johns Hopkins. Some students are invited stay on for a few weeks after the conclusion of their program and continue to work in their assigned laboratories. Several REU scholars have been able to subsequently publish peer-reviewed scientific reports with their advisors.

In addition to their academic and research activities, INBT REU participants have the opportunity to live with other summer interns and mingle at organized and impromptu social events. Outings have included cookouts, crab feasts and Orioles baseball games.

Watch a video about the REU poster session here!

Meet the 2010 REU students here.

Applications are no longer accepted for the 2011 REU program.