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

Peter Searson

Peter Searson

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

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

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

Click here to listen:  Great Ideas Podcast: Peter Searson

Related links:

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

Peter Searson’s INBT profile page.

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

Hopkins summer scholar research poster session set for Aug. 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Links:

Meet INBT’s summer 2009 REU students

INBT REU program page

Devreotes receives Hay Professorship in Embryology

Peter Devreotes

Peter Devreotes

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

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

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

Schafer named civil engineering chair

Benjamin Shafer

Benjamin Shafer

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

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

[Read more…]

Bringing a nanotechnology to market: a faculty perspective

Tim Weihs

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

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

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

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

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

Reactive NanoTechnologies

Tim Weihs’ Faculty Page

Nanobiotech researcher receives state funds to support commercialization of diabetes treatment

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

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

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

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

INBT speakers highlight nanobio trends in neuroscience, stem cell growth, drug delivery, imaging

Below is the first part of a two-part series summarizing the talks presented at the 3rd Annual NanoBio Symposium hosted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, on May 18, 2009. Four talks from the eight speakers who presented that day are described below. [Read more…]

Twelve students join Hopkins for summer nanobiotech research

Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) welcomed 12 undergraduate students to the Johns Hopkins University for its summer Research Experience (REU) program, funded by the National Science Foundation. The group includes students from across the country who attend other universities, as well as one Hopkins student. Each participant will work with an INBT affiliated faculty adviser. Their projects consist of 10-week research experiments and culminate in a university-wide poster session held with other internship and summer program students.

Along with their research, INBT’s REU students attend socials, professional development seminars, laboratory tours and other scheduled outings. Student are supported with a stipend and given housing for the summer. The selection process for INBT’s REU is highly competitive and more than 300 applicants vied for the 12 slots. [Read more…]

NanoBioTech Institute Sends Hopkins Senior To Belgium For Summer Research

Michael Keung

Michael Keung

This summer, Michael Keung, a rising senior in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, will participate in the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program. INBT’s IRES program, funded by the National Science Foundation, allows students to collaborate with researchers from Hopkins and 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 chip-based platforms and integrated microelectronic systems for biomedical applications. The goal of the program is to help students gain a broader, global perspective of science and technology.

Michael is working on a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering (ChemBE) with a concentration in interfaces and nanotechnology with a minor in entrepreneurship and management. Before he left for Belgium on May 30, he answered a few questions about how he became involved in INBT’s IRES program. While abroad, Michael will keep a blog so that everyone back home can read about his experiences at IMEC and in Europe. To read Michael’s blog, “Summer 2009 at IMEC,“ go to http://www.keungatimec.blogspot.com.

1. Why did you want to participate in INBT’s IRES program?

I think it is safe to say that a large majority of students consider Hopkins to be extremely, if not overly, rigorous. Any opportunity to take a break from school work or getting off campus is welcomed with wide, open arms. After my sophomore year at JHU, I was strongly considering some type of travel abroad, whether it was taking classes or doing an internship, to get a break from Hopkins and Baltimore.

I first heard about INBT’s IRES program from an email distributed from my principal investigator, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering David Gracias (an affiliated faculty member of INBT). I wanted to be a part of this program because it provides an amazing opportunity to further one’s education, both academically and personally. IMEC has world class facilities and has been a leader in nanoelectronics and nanobiotechnology. I can’t imagine any better way to spend a summer than traveling around Europe and working in such a renowned facility as IMEC.

2. What do you hope to learn about nanobiotechnology, business, research etc.?

I hope to learn new fabrication techniques and ways of perfecting the current ones I am already familiar with. By bringing these back to the Gracias lab, perhaps we will be able to improve our own fabrication methods. Additionally, I hope to become exposed to the biological side of nanotechnology. As a ChemBE concentrating in interfaces and nanotechnology, my exposure to the biological aspect is very limited. With this research opportunity, I hope to broaden my academic scope.

3. How did you prepare yourself academically and personally for your trip?

Coming from the Gracias lab, I already have a lot of experience with microfabrication. The processes that we use to fabricate our structures are similar to the techniques used over at IMEC. IMEC, however, has very large facilities and equipment with greater resolution than what we have at our disposal at Hopkins. My research background with the Gracias lab has prepared me academically for this trip.

Personally, one thing I am definitely taking with me are Dutch and French dictionaries. I have a feeling that I will need it, considering I have zero background in either language. The whole language barrier problem should be fun trying to get around, albeit frustrating.

4. What skills do you hope to gain from this research trip?

I hope to gain skills in perfecting the fabrication techniques employed in the Gracias lab. By integrating the experience I obtain at IMEC with our lab here at Hopkins, perhaps we may be able to fabricate new types of micro and nanostructures.

5. What research project will you be working on?

The project will be a collaborative effort between the Gracias lab and IMEC. The Gracias lab has experience in fabricating 3D self-assembled structures ranging from 100 nanometers to several millimeters. The group I’ll be working with over at IMEC has experience in fabricating plasmonic nanostructures that are sensitive towards the attachment of biomolecules. Together, we will be working on fabricating nanocubes with plasmonic nanostructure cavities on each face of a cube. This will allow us to demonstrate directional sensitivity in three dimensions on the nanoscale and have importance in surface enhanced raman spectroscopy (SERS) experiments in fluids or even in vivo.

6. What qualities do you think you bring to this research trip?

Personally, I will be bringing the cube fabrication experience from our lab and combining it with the resources over at IMEC to fabricate new types of plasmonic nanostructures.

7. What do you think will be the most challenging part about your trip?

One aspect of this research experience that will be challenging to acclimate to is the different equipment on the IMEC campus. When working with the instruments in the Gracias lab, you get familiar with the workings and intricacies of the equipment. I do not know about IMEC specifically, but at some companies, technicians operate each specific piece of equipment, such that one individual never fabricates a wafer from beginning to end. Although getting acquainted with new procedures will be challenging, they will have to be overcome.

Additionally, I think being submerged in a new country and culture will be very intimidating. I have no experience with the Dutch or French languages, so a language barrier will definitely be present between me and some individuals. Also, I have never traveled to Europe, so I am aware that I will probably experience a culture shock in terms of traditions and lifestyle.

8. What do expect will be the most fun about your trip?

I think I will have a lot of fun being exposed to the different fabrication techniques and equipment over at IMEC. Plenty of researchers over there are leaders in their field. It will be a very pleasurable experience to be working and learning side-by-side with them.

Not to forget the fact that it is Europe, I will definitely be traveling around to different countries on the weekends. I have already planned the cities I am going to visit along with the train routes I will need to take to get there. Although I will be working at IMEC on the weekends, I will be pseudo-backpacking around Europe during my free time.

9. What do your family and friends think about you going on this trip?

I am very excited and grateful to INBT for being given this great opportunity to travel to Europe and perform research at IMEC. My friends and family are very excited for me, most wishing that they could join me. Everyone has been very supportive of this opportunity and I am incredibly excited to begin my journey.

10. Anything else?

This is the first year of the IMEC program, and I know that it took a lot of work to get it off the ground. I would like to thank Thomas Fekete, Ashanti Edwards, and everyone associated with the program, I now cannot wait for it to begin.


Michael Keung is keeping a blog on his adventures at IMEC in Belgium.  Click here to read it.

INBT symposium poster session prize winners

Over 80 posters were presented at the 3rd Annual NanoBio Symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology on May 18. Posters came from four divisions of the university, the Applied Physics Lab and also from industry. The first authors on six outstanding student research posters were awarded prizes. Winners include:

First Prize, iPod Nano, valued at $150

“MS-qFRET: A Quantum Dot-Based Method for Analysis of DNA Methylation,“ Vasudev Bailey, Alic Chen, Jeff Wang, collaboration between the School of Medicine’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Second Prize, Springer textbook, valued at $125

“Human Neural Stem Cell-Biomatrix Preparations as Tools in Reconstructing Neural Pathways,“ V. Machairaki, C. Yu, S. H. Lim, I. Nasonkin, H.-Q. Mao, and V. E. Koliatsos, a collaboration between the Whiting School of Engineering departments of Materials Science and Engineering and the School of Medicine Department of Neuropathology.

Third Prize Runners Up, $25 iTunes gift cards

“Chemiluminescent Solid Lipid Nanoparticles and Interactions with Intact Skin,“ Julia B. Patrone, Huong Le, Jennifer Breidenich, Lisa Kelly, Jason J. Benkoski, Amit Banerjee, and Jennifer L. Sample from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

“Neural Open Culture System Reveals Cellular Mechanisms of Axon Degeneration and Microglial Response,“ Suneil Hosmane, In Hong Yang, April Ruffin, Shilpa Sakhalkar, Parastoo Jangouk, Prech Uapinyoying, Nitish Thakor, and Arun Venkatesan, a collaboration between the School of Medicine’s departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroimmunology.

Fourth Prize Runners Up, $15 Barnes and Nobel gift cards

“One-Dimensional Optoelectronic Nanostructures Derived from the Aqueous Self-Assembly of Ï€-Conjugated Oligopeptides,“ J.D. Tovar, Stephen Diegelmann and Brian Wall from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Department of Chemistry

“Dynamic Response of Low-Density Monolayers,“ Gloria K. Olivier, Donghoon Shin and Joelle Frechette from the Whiting School of Engineering Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering