Congratulations to INBT symposium poster prize winners

Five winners took home prizes during the poster session held at the annual symposium hosted by Johns Hopkins Institute for Nanobiotechnology May 2 at the School of Medicine. The theme of the symposium was Stem Cell Science and Engineeering: State of the Art. Fifty-six posters were presented from disciplines across the university and were judged by faculty and industry experts. First, second and third place winners won Nikon cameras and honorable mentions won digital frame key chains.


From left, Rebecca Schulman, Thomas Joseph, Kirsten Crapnell, Lauren Woodard, Jane Chisholm, Tao Yu, and Robert Ivkov. (Photo by Yi-An Lin)

The winners and poster titles included:

First Place:

Lauren Woodard: Synthesis and characterization of multifunctional core-shell magnetic nanoparticles for cancer theranostics. Lauren E. Woodard, Cindi L. Dennis, Anilchandra Attaluri, Julie A. Borchers, Mohammad Hedayati, Charlene Dawidczyk, Esteban Velarde, Haoming Zhou, Theodore L. DeWeese, John W. Wong, Peter C. Searson, Martin G. Pomper* and Robert Ivkov.

Second Place:

Tao Yu:  Intravaginal Delivery Of Paclitaxel Via Mucus-Penetrating Particles For Local Chemotherapy Against Cervical Cancer. Yu T, Yang M, Wang Y-Y, Lai SK, Zeng Q, Miao B, Tang BC, Simons BW, Ensign L, Liu G, Chan KWY, Juang C-Y, Mert O, Wood J, Fu J, McMahon MT, Wu T-C, Hung C-F, Hanes J.

Third Place:

Jane Chisholm: Mucus-penetrating cisplatin nanoparticles for the local treatment of lung cancer. Jane Chisholm, Jung Soo Suk, Craig Peacock, Justin Hanes.

Honorable mentions went to:

Anilchandra Attalur: Magnetic Nanoparticle Hyperthermia As Radiosensitizer For Locally Advanced Pancreas Cancer. Anilchandra Attaluri, Haoming Zhou, Yi Zhong, Toni-rose Guiriba, Mohammad Hedayati, Theodore L. DeWeese, Eleni Liapi, Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue, Joseph Herman, and Robert Ivkov

Maureen Wanjare:  The Differentiation and Maturation of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells Derived from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells using Biomolecular and Biomechanical Approaches. Maureen Wanjare, Frederick Kuo, Gyul Jung, Nayan Agarwal, Sharon Gerecht

Poster Judges included Robert Ivkov, PhD, assistant professor in radiaton oncology/ radiobiology and Seulki Lee, PhD, assistant professor in neuroradialogy, both from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Rebecca Schulman, PhD, assistant professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering; and Kirsten Crapnell, PhD, and Thomas Joseph, PhD, both of BD Diagnostics.

Check out a gallery of some photos from the poster session shot by PhD candidate Yi-An Lin who works in the laboratory of Honggang Cui in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.





Stem Cell Science, Engineering theme of May 2 symposium

Johns Hopkins Institute for Nanobiotechnology is now accepting posters for its annual symposium to be held May 2 at Owens Auditorium (located between CRB I and CRB II) at the School of Medicine. Deadline for poster registration is April 30. Top presenters are eligible to win one of three NIKON cameras.

All disciplines and topics are encouraged to register, even if not related to theme.

Go to this link for full agenda and to register.

nano-bio-symposium-14-flyer (2)The theme this year is Stem Cell Science and Engineering: State-of-the-Art. Speakers start at 9 a.m. through noon. Then at 1:30 there will be a poster session where students across Johns Hopkins will present some of their current research findings. Judges have been selected from industry and the university. Don’t miss this exciting exploration of how scientists, engineers and clinicians can work together with stem cells to solve some of humanities pressing problems in health and medicine.

This year’s speakers and talk titles include:

• 8:30-9 am Registration Lobby of Owens Auditorium

• 9:00-9:05 Welcome and Introduction of speakers Peter Searson

• 9:05-9:35 Human cell engineering: recent progress in reprogramming cell fates and editing the nuclear genome, Linzhao Cheng

• 9:35-10:05 Regenerating Musculoskeletal Tissues from Fat, Warren Grayson

• 10:05-10:35 Hitting the Bull’s Eye: Targeting HMGA1 in Cancer Stem Cells using Nanotechnology, Linda M. S. Resar

• 10:35-10:45 Coffee Break

• 10:45-11:15 Engineering biomaterials to enhance stem cell potential, Hai-Quan Mao

• 11:15 -11:45 Engineered Human Pluripotent Stem Cells for Disease Modeling Applications, Mark Powers

• 11:45-12:15 Understanding the function of risk genes for mental disorders using iPSC models, Guo-li Ming

Lunch break

• 1:30-3:30 pm Poster Sessions Owens Corridor

• 3:30 Announcement of Poster Session Winners/Adjourn




“Cells Performing Secret Handshake” wins grand prize

Sebastian F. Barreto, a doctoral student of chemical and biomolecular engineering in the laboratory of Sharon Gerecht, won the grand prize for his image “Cells Performing Secret Handshake” from the Regenerative Medicine Foundation. Another image that Barreto submitted received 3rd place (shown below), and a third image received honorable mention.

Late last year, RMF issued an international call for macro-photography of regenerative medicine images taken through a microscope. This inaugural contest resulted in nearly 100 images representing scientists from the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.


This image by Sebastian Barreto of Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells “performing a secret handshake” won the grand prize in the first photo contest of the Regenerative Medicine Foundation.

Barreto’s image was included in the “Art of Science: Under the Surface” exhibition that featured an opening lecture and public reception with global expert in regenerative medicine Anthony Atala, M.D. and award winning photographer, painter and sculpture, Kelly Milukas, whose talk focused on the impact of art on healing. The winning images will also be featured in a special public patron gallery exhibition component during the Regenerative Medicine Foundation annual meeting held in San Francisco, May 5-7, 2014.

In a congratulatory letter, Joan F. Schanck, the Academic Research Program Officer, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Director of Education for the Regenerative Medicine Foundation, said, “This competition will assist in developing a digital library that can be used to excite, inform and educate a broad audience.”

Barreto is affiliated with both the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology and with the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center.

Captions for both photos can be found below:

Technical description for the grand prize photo: Epifluorescence image was taken at 1280 x 1024 using an Olympus BX60 microscope. Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECs) were cultured for five days and stained for F-actin (green), Vascular Endothelial cadherin (VEcad; red), and nuclei was counter-stained with DAPI (blue).



Barreto’s image of endothelial cells won 3rd place in the RMF photo contest.


Technical description for 3rd place photo: Epifluorescence image was taken at 1280 x 1024 using an Olympus BX60 microscope. Human Endothelial Colony Forming Cells (ECFCs) were cultured for eight days before being co-cultured with human Smooth Muscle Cells (SMCs) for four more days. ECFCs were stained with CD31 (red), SMCs with SM22 (green), and nuclei was counterstained with DAPI (blue).




Changing advisors, even disciplines, in graduate school

You’ve heard the old saying, “Don’t change horses in midstream.” But in graduate school, is that necessarily a bad thing?

Changing horses mid-game? Not so bad.

Changing horses mid-game? Not so bad.

Changing advisors part way through your graduate career can happen for several different reasons, but regardless of the cause, treat the change as an opportunity. Although you may initially think it is, it is not even remotely the end of the world. It is tempting to be influenced by external messages and think that there is a single right way to go about the journey of doctoral education, that there is no room for mistakes, and that you have to know exactly what you want to do from the beginning of your education. All three of these tropes are wrong.

I have changed research directions twice in my time as a graduate student, first changing from a Physics lab to a Biology lab to pursue more biological interests combined with physics, and then changing to a Biophysics lab when my advisor in biology left for a tenured position at a different institution. When I changed from a Biology to a Biophysics lab, skills in protein purification and NMR spectroscopy were transferable, but even in the extreme case that you change fields so drastically that nothing overlaps, just having previously gone through the process of learning techniques can make you better at it the next time. I think that these moves across disciplines and labs have improved my capacity to synthesize knowledge and skills, and to be adaptable.

Different unplanned circumstances, such as not getting into a certain lab, an advisor leaving the institution, or your interests and skills changing, may open an unexpected path that you can take with much happiness and productivity. I think it is unlikely that there is exactly and only one field or activity is right for a given person, and changing circumstances can be embraced as a way to pursue new or different interests. I applied to Hopkins excited to study astrophysics; I’m thrilled to now be making a career in protein science.

Dan Richman is a PhD candidate in Physics working in Bertrand Garcia-Moreno’s lab in the Department of Biophysics.

To flourish, stem cells need help from their friends

“Helper cells” improve survival rate of transplanted stem cells, mouse study finds

Like volunteers handing out cups of energy drinks to marathon runners, specially engineered “helper cells” transplanted along with stem cells can dole out growth factors to increase the stem cells’ endurance, at least briefly, Johns Hopkins researchers report. Their study, published in a recent issue of Experimental Neurology, is believed to be the first to test the helper-cell tactic, which they hope will someday help to overcome a major barrier to successful stem cell transplants.
Luminescent stem cells transplanted into mice alone (left) and with helper cells (right), shown one day after transplantation. Credit: Yajie Liang

Luminescent stem cells transplanted into mice alone (left) and with helper cells (right), shown one day after transplantation.
Credit: Yajie Liang

“One of the bottlenecks with stem cell therapy is the survival of cells once they’re put in the body — about 80 to 90 percent of them often appear to die,” says Jeff Bulte, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering. “We discovered it helps to put the stem cells in with some buddies that give off growth factors.”

Stem cells can morph to take on any role in the body, making them theoretically useful to treat conditions ranging from type 1 diabetes (replacing insulin-producing cells in the pancreas) to heart disease (taking over for damaged heart cells). The biggest problem for transplanted stem cells, Bulte says, is that they’re initially grown in a dish with ready access to oxygen, then put in the body, where levels are relatively low. “They get a shock,” he says. Other research groups have had some success with acclimating cells to lower oxygen levels before transplantation; another promising strategy has been to provide the stem cells with scaffolds that give them structure and help integrate them with the host.

The research team, spearheaded by postdoctoral fellow Yajie Liang, Ph.D., wondered whether the cells’ survival could also be enhanced with steady doses of a compound called basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), an “energy drink” that spurs cells to grow. They engineered cultured human and mouse cells to make greater-than-normal amounts of bFGF under the control of a drug called doxycycline (dox). Making the bFGF gene responsive to dox meant the researchers could control how much bFGF was made, Liang explains.

The team then transplanted the engineered helper cells and stem cells into mice. The stem cells had themselves been engineered to make a luminescent protein, and using a special optical instrument, the researchers could monitor the intensity of the luminescence through the animals’ skin to see how many of the cells were still alive. The team gave the mice steady doses of dox to keep the bFGF flowing.

For the first three days after injection, the stem cells with helpers gave off a noticeably stronger signal than stem cells transplanted alone, Liang says, but a few days later, there was no difference between the two.

Despite the short duration of the helper cells’ effect, Bulte says, the experiment shows the potential of using helper cells in this way. Perhaps the ultimate solution to keeping transplanted stem cells alive will be to use helpers that give off a cocktail of growth factors, he suggests, as well as pre-conditioning for low oxygen conditions and scaffolds. “Once the rubber hits the road, it’s very important that the stem cells survive for a long time,” he says.

Other authors on the paper were Yajie Liang, Louise Ågren, Agatha Lyczek and Piotr Walczak, all of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (grant number 2RO1 NS045062) and the Anders Wall Foundation.

Konstantopoulos to present distinguished lecture on tumor cell migration

Biomedical Engineering 8 5 x 11 4-7Biomedical Engineering 8 5 x 11 4-7Biomedical Engineering 8 5 x 11 4-7Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos will present a distinguished lecture for the Department of Biomedical Engineering on Monday, April 7 at 4 p.m. in the Mason Hall Auditorium on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University.  His talk. “Joining Forces with Biology: A Bioengineering Perspective on Tumor Cell Migration,” will reveal some of his laboratory’s current findings on metastasis. The talk is free and open the Johns Hopkins University community. Refreshments follow the lecture.

Here’s the abstract of his talk:

“Understanding the mechanisms of cell migration is a fundamental question in cell, developmental and cancer biology. Unraveling key, physiologically relevant motility mechanisms is also crucial for developing technologies that can control, manipulate, promote or stop cell migration in vivo. Much of what we know about the mechanisms of cell migration stems from in vitro studies using two-dimensional (2D) surfaces. Cell locomotion in 2D is driven by cycles of actin protrusion, integrin-mediated adhesion and myosin-dependent contraction. A major pitfall of 2D assays is that they fail to account for the physical confinement that cells  encounter within the physiological tissue environment. The seminar will challenge the conventional wisdom regarding cell motility mechanisms, and show that migration through physically constricted spaces does not require beta1 integrin dependent adhesion or myosin contractility. Importantly, confined migration persists even when filamentous actin is disrupted. This seminar will also discuss a novel mechanism of confined cell migration based on an osmotic en

Johns Hopkins STEM students: can you speak Portuguese?

Amazonas_Brazilian_state-Amazon_rainforest-Americas-Brazil-Geography_of_South_America-Intact_forest_landscape-List_of_countries_by_forest_area-List_of_rivers_of_Amazonas_Brazilian_state-List_of_the_largest_country_subdivisions_by_area-NeotrThe Brazil Global Engineering Innovations Team is currently seeking a team member to participate in their project in Amazonas, Brazil. There is a particular need for a team member with Portuguese speaking and writing experience to help the team coordinate efforts with the local host group and assist the team in purchasing supplies and travelling while in Brazil. In addition to Portuguese speaking abilities, the team member should be self-motivated, a good team player and be interested in contributing to projects to benefit individuals in the developing economy of northern Brazil. Read more about INBT’s Global Engineering Innovation Program here. Interested students should contact Nathan Nicholes at by April 11.

Read more about the Global Engineering Innovations program here.


From bacterial intelligence to a cyber-war on cancer

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.40.42 AMINBT will host a special seminar, “From bacterial intelligence to a cyber-war on cancer,” on April 17 at 2 p.m. in Room 160 of the Mattin Center. The guest speaker is Eshel Ben-Jacob, PhD, professor and Maguy-Glass Chair in Physics of Complex Systems from Tel Aviv University. This event is free and open to the university community.

ABSTRACT: Cancer continues to elude us. Metastasis, relapse and drug resistance are all still poorly understood and clinically insuperable. Evidently, the prevailing paradigms need to be re-examined and out-of-the-box ideas ought to be explored. Drawing upon recent discoveries demonstrating the parallels between collective behaviors of bacteria and cancer, Dr. Ben-Jacob shall present a new picture of cancer as a society of smart communicating cells motivated by the realization of bacterial social intelligence. There is growing evidence that cancer cells, much like bacteria, rely on advanced communication, social networking and cooperation to grow, spread within the body, colonize new organs, relapse and develop drug resistance. Dr. Ben-Jacob shall address the role of communication, cooperation and decision-making in bacterial collective navigation, swarming logistics and colony development. This will lead to a new picture of cancer as a networked society of smart cells and to new understanding of the interplay between cancer and the immune system. Dr. Ben-Jacob shall reason that the new understanding calls for “a cyber-war” on cancer – the developments of drugs to target cancer communication and control.

Related Links:

Bacterial linguistic communication and social intelligence

Bacterial survival strategies suggest rethinking cancer cooperativity



CANCELLED: Spring mini-symposium features engineering, medicine

inbt-abstractCANCELLED: MINI-SYMPOSIUM TO BE RESCHEDULED. The Institute for NanoBioTechnology spring mini-symposium will be held March 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:15 pm. in the The Great Hall at Levering on the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. INBT sponsor’s these student run symposium’s twice a year to showcase the work of students from the institute, the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and other affiliated laboratories. This event is free and open to the Hopkins Community. Refreshments provided.


  • 8:30 -9:00  - Networking and breakfast
  • 9:00- 9:10 – Introduction
  • 9:10- 9:30 – “Probing cell traction forces in confined microenvironments” - Colin Paul, Konstantopoulos Lab
  • 9:30 – 9:50 – ” 3D tumor growth dynamics inside extracellular matrix (ECM) components” - Angela Jimenez, Wirtz Lab
  • 9:50 – 10:10 – “Acrylated hyaluronic acid hydrogels to study cancer angiogenesis” - Tom Shen, Gerecht Lab
  • 10:10 – 10:20 – Coffee Break
  • 10:20 – 10:40 – Amanda Levy,  “Development of a 3D system for the study of astrocyte-endothelial interactions” Searson Lab
  • 10:40 – 11:00 – Kristen Kozielski, “Bioreducible nanoparticles for efficient and environmentally triggered siRNA delivery to primary human glioblastoma cells”, Green Lab
  • 11:00- 11:20 – “X-Ray-Visible Stem Cell Delivery for Cardiac Regenerative Therapy via Microfluidics-based Microencapsulation” – Charles Hu, Mao Lab
  • 11:20 – 12:10 - “Advancing Innovation and Convergence in Cancer Research” Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Center for Strategic Scientific Initiatives (CSSI).- Dr. Jerry S.H. Lee
  • 12:10 – 12:15 – Final remarks

2014 BioNano summer institute to be held at University of Illinois

It’s like summer camp for nanobiotechnology.

nanobioinstituteuofiThe 2014 BioNano summer institute will be held at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, July 28 to August 8. Click on this link for a pdf flyer.

Come for two weeks of lectures and hands-on training in engineering, biological, and physical science laboratory techniques covering topics such as cancer nanotechnology, cell mechanics, cell biology, molecular biology, lab-on-a-chip, and NanoBio devices. The institute is accepting applications from advanced undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, and faculty from engineering, physical sciences, and biological sciences who are interested in state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research at the intersection of engineering and biology.

Applications must be received by midnight on Friday, March 28, 2014. Find details and apply online at this link:

Lectures come from California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, University of California Merced, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Kentucky, and industry. The cost is $1,500/selected participant and breakfast and lunch each weekday and dormitory housing is included from July 27-August 8. NOTE: Limited financial assistance may be available toward the registration fee. If you wish to attend and require financial help, please indicate your request on the application form.