Risk Assessment Minor in Development at JHU

Nanotechnology involving materials and devices at extremely small length scales—sometimes just a few atoms wide— is providing novel solutions to health and environmental problems. Nano-sized components are found in hundreds of applications, from targeted cancer therapies to stain-resistant clothing.

So that the scientists and engineers of the future will be better prepared to answer questions regarding nanotechnology, Johns Hopkins University faculty members specializing in disciplines ranging from engineering to public health are collaborating to develop a new undergraduate minor in nanotechnology risk assessment and public policy. Funding for development comes from a two-year, $200,000 National Science Foundation grant and will be administered through the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT). If their work goes as planned, faculty members anticipate that the minor will be ready to accept its first students by the fall of 2009.

Students in the nano-risk minor will explore both the scientific properties of nanomaterials and the public policy ramifications of their use.

“We want them to learn about the potential risks associated with the development of nanotechnological solutions, as well as come to understand the risks presented by not developing some of these nanoscale solutions,“ says Justin Hanes, associate professor in the Whiting School of Engineering (WSE), who co-authored the grant with Edward Bouwer, WSE professor and director of the Center for Contaminant Transport, Fate, and Remediation, and Jonathan Links, professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH). All are INBT affiliated faculty members.

“Nanoparticles are small enough to cross cell membranes. They also possess a large surface area, which enhances their reactivity,“ Links says. “However, little research has been done to examine the toxicity potential of these ultrafine particles. Some concerns have been based only on the extrapolation of studies on other substances such as quartz, asbestos or particulate air pollution.“

Bouwer adds, “The proposal makes clear that the effects of nanoparticles on public health or the environment are not well understood. The program’s goal is to train scientists who are better prepared to lead research, development, and eventual commercialization of safe nanotechnologies.“

The new minor will likely involve a suite of courses on topics such as risk science and public policy; nanotechnology ethics, law and policy; environmental engineering; emerging environmental issues; environmental health; public health; and public health toxicology. Faculty members who will develop or teach the courses are affiliates of INBT, WSE, and BSPH, as well as the Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute, Berman Institute of Bioethics, Center for Law and the Public’s Health, and Center for Educational Outreach (CEO).

“The program complements with the large group of students in the Public Health Studies major who also explore environmental health, health policy and other public health-related topics, but from a broader perspective,“ says James Yager, senior associate dean for academic affairs at BSPH.

A new course to be offered in the spring of 2008—Nanobiotechnology 101—and developed by INBT co-directors Peter Searson, professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Denis Wirtz, professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, will likely be a prerequisite of the nano-risk minor.

“The combination of leading faculty from across disciplines in the University exemplifies the mission of INBT by blending and leveraging expertise,“ Searson says. “It is a marvelous opportunity to bring together pre-existing, but largely separate, activities in nanotechnology within the university to impact our students and beyond.“

Additional INBT Training Opportunities

In addition to this new minor, INBT administers three other educational programs including the graduate Nano-Bio Medicine program funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship in Nanobiotechnology funded by the National Science Foundation, and a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program.

Part of the proposal for the nano-risk minor requires that students from these graduate training programs be involved by training of K-12 classroom instructors through the Center for Educational Outreach (CEO). CEO will translate components of the coursework for use in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculums in underprivileged school settings.

Also available in the JHU Gazette of Oct 8, 2007.

Integrated Imaging Center Brings It All into View

Seeing something as small as a nanometer—just about three to five atoms wide—requires highly advanced imaging techniques.

Top: Mutant Drosophila adult testis showing germ cells (red) and cell surface and fusome (green). Bottom: Early stage (third larval instar) wild-type (normal) Drosophila testis showing germ cells (red) and cell surface and pigment cell nuclei (green). Credit: van Doren Lab/JHU
Confocal image. Top: Mutant Drosophila adult testis showing germ cells (red) and cell surface and fusome (green). Bottom: Early stage (third larval instar) wild-type (normal) Drosophila testis showing germ cells (red) and cell surface and pigment cell nuclei (green). Credit: Van Doren Lab/JHU

Faculty affiliated with Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for NanoBioTechnology and researchers from a wide range of disciplines across divisions at JHU will find advanced, comprehensive, and highly precise methods of imaging at the Integrated Imaging Center (IIC) at JHU’s Homewood Campus.

Everyone is invited to see firsthand what IIC has to offer at the center’s annual open house, co-sponsored by Carl Zeiss and FEICO, on Sept. 21, 2007 from 3 to 6 p.m. IIC’s 2,500 square-foot facility is located on the first floor of Dunning Hall.

IIC’s facilities help scientists and engineers characterize nanomaterials at very small length scale as well as biologists studying complex cellular and subcellular interactions. Microscopy services at IIC also aid developers of medical applications investigate the interface between materials and biological systems and basic biomedical researchers describe nano-sized drug delivery systems.

The center boasts more than $3.5 million worth of state-of-the-art imaging equipment, including one of only two uniquely configured laser scanning microscopes in the United States. The goal of IIC, says center director J. Michael McCaffery, an associate research professor in the Department of Biology, is to provide the Johns Hopkins community, as well as other academic institutions, industry, and government, with resources for both conventional and advanced methods of light and fluorescence microscopy services.

Developing embryo of C. elegans. PIE-1 protein tagged with green fluorescent protein to monitor asymmetric cell division. Credit: Wirtz Lab/JHU.
Confocal image. Developing embryo of C. elegans. PIE-1 protein tagged with green fluorescent protein to monitor asymmetric cell division. Credit: Wirtz Lab/JHU

“As rapid advances have been made in the development of new techniques of fluorescence and electron microscopy, visualization and localization of biomolecules at the light and electron microscope level has become an essential component of any comprehensive study of molecular cell biology,“ McCaffery says. “This is because light and electron microscopy observations provide detailed information on the distribution, movement, and interaction of biomolecules or proteins within the cell that cannot be obtained by other methods.“

To anticipate the changing demands of research in a variety of disciplines, McCaffery says, IIC has added new equipment in recent months. A highlight includes a Zeiss laser scanning microscope (LSM) 510 VIS confocal with a Confocor 3 fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) module.

“There is only one other system of its kind in the U.S. that combines the FCS with confocal imaging and that is capable of cross-correlation,“ McCaffery says. “FCS allows for high-resolution spatial and temporal analysis of single biomolecules with respect to diffusion, binding, and enzymatic reactions in vitro and in vivo.“

Other new additions include a FEI Tecnai 12 TWIN 120kV high resolution (

Transmission electron miscroscope (TEM) image of self-assembled monolayer of spherical cobalt nanoparticles (~12 nm diameter) from a solution of hexane/octadecene. Credit: Searson Lab/JHU
Transmission electron miscroscope (TEM) image of self-assembled monolayer of spherical cobalt nanoparticles (~12 nm diameter) from a solution of hexane/octadecene. Credit: Searson Lab/JHU

The ESEM has proved to be very popular, McCaffery says, because of its ability to “image fully hydrated/wet samples with minimal preparation.“ In traditional scanning electron microscopy, samples must be dehydrated and coated with a metal prior to imaging. In the ESEM mode, McCaffery explains, “you can use a peltier stage to achieve relative humidity at any temperature or pressure in order to image live samples with minimal surface tension induced drying artifacts.“

The center features five suites devoted to specific imaging functions. These include a ultramicrotomy/tissue culture/cell prep room; a wet laboratory; “scanning room,“ which includes the Quanta ESEM and Typhoon phosphorimager; a transmission electron microscopy suite with two TEMs; and a multifunctional light microscopy suite, which includes the Marians 4D LM, Zeiss LSM 510 VIS confocal with Confocor 3 FCS, LSM 510 META UV confocal, and two Zeiss epifluorescence microscopes. Knowledgeable IIC staff members are available to answer questions or assist with the use of all equipment. Grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute help fund the additions to IIC.

Observation of green fluorescent nanoparticles (~90 nm in diameter) traveling through a micropost obstacle course. Credit: Drazer Lab/JHU.
Confocal image. Observation of green fluorescent nanoparticles (~90 nm in diameter) traveling through a micropost obstacle course. Credit: Drazer Lab/JHU

The Homewood campus IIC was established in 1998. Additional advanced imaging services have been available at the Montgomery County Campus IIC since 2004.

To learn more about the Integrated Imaging Center at JHU or to schedule an appointment to use the facilities, please go to the IIC Web site: http://www.jhu.edu/~iic/.

To view images from the IIC, click on the following link: http://www.jhu.edu/iic/gallery.htm

For other JHU research facilities visit our facilities page: http://inbt.jhu.edu/facilities.php

INBT Affiliates to Present at Vascular Medicine Meeting

Several affiliated faculty members of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology will present during the Johns Hopkins Vascular Medicine Research Initiative Inaugural Conference on Monday, Sept. 24. The meeting will be held in the Owens Auditorium of the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center and begins at 8 a.m.

INBT-affiliated presenters are listed below. To learn about individual research programs, please click on a name. To contact these or any INBT-affiliated faculty member, please use the INBT Faculty Finder at http://inbt.jhu.edu/facultyexpertise.php.

Jeff Bulte—Cell trafficking using magnetic resonance imaging
Sharon Gerecht—Engineering biomaterials for vascular differentiation and regeneration
Justin Hanes—Polymeric nanosystems for targeted drug and gene delivery
Aleksander Popel—Systems biology of angiogenesis: From molecules to therapy
Gregg Semenza—Regulation of ischemic-induced vascularization by HIF1

Johns Hopkins Vascular Medicine Research Initiative aims to bring a programmatic approach to vascular research at Johns Hopkins, facilitating interaction and growth within disciplines across all campuses, schools and departments, including research in nanobiotechnology.

For details on this event, click here.

INBT Grant Proposal Service: Formula for Funding Success

To support their research endeavors, scientists must rely on the grant support they receive from institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The application process for these grants is a tedious and time consuming process, which in the multidisciplinary field of nanobiotechnology, often involves scientists from different fields of expertise. These collaborations add an extra level of difficulty to the already lengthy process of submitting a successful proposal.

In an effort to maximize the possibilities for nanobiotechnology research at Johns Hopkins University, the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) not only brings faculty together but offers them help to prepare and submit nanobiotechnology related proposals.

“It’s a great service we offer that fits in with the goal of the Institute,“ says Sue Porterfield, administrative manager at INBT. “Most of these multidisciplinary grants would take the faculty and their department administrators a lot of time to prepare.“

Porterfield is the main force behind the proposal service. She estimates that she spends about 75 percent of her time preparing, submitting, and eventually administering the nanobio grants submitted through INBT.

Apparently, Porterfield has developed an effective system. Since INBT launched in May 2006, 36 percent of the proposals submitted through fiscal year 2007 were successfully awarded.

The numbers also show INBT’s cross divisional dimensions. Thirty-four faculty members acted as primary investigators (PIs) or co-PIs, representing four different divisions within Johns Hopkins University: the School of Medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, and the Whiting School of Engineering.

If you would like to learn more about the grant proposal service or funding opportunities through INBT, contact Sue Porterfield at sporterfield@jhu.edu.

Writer, Media Relations Coordinator Joins INBT Staff

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology welcomes Mary Spiro as its science writer and media relations coordinator. Her duties include creating copy for the Web site, writing articles for the INBT newsletter, working with internal and external media outlets to promote INBT activities, and coordinating media relations for INBT-affiliated faculty members.

Before coming to Johns Hopkins University, Spiro was an editor in the Office of External Affairs for the University of Maryland, Baltimore where she helped edit the university’s research and scholarship publication, Maryland magazine, and the School of Pharmacy’s alumni publication, Capsule.

She has several years experience in corporate communication, including serving as public relations specialist for Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster, Md. and as writer-editor for Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Spiro worked as a newspaper reporter for a daily paper in Manhattan, Kan. and as a radio announcer for a National Public Radio affiliated station at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also has published freelance lifestyle articles in Carroll Magazine, book reviews in ForeWord Magazine, and feature articles in Kansas City’s alternative newspaper Pitch Weekly.

Originally from San Diego, Calif., Spiro grew up in Oxon Hill, Md. She was recently admitted to the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Advanced Academic Programs MS in Biotechnology. She earned a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and an additional B.S. in agronomy, also from UMCP.

Spiro is ready to assist INBT-affiliated faculty with the promotion of their research to internal (JHU) and external media outlets. Please feel free to contact her to discuss possible story ideas. She may be reached at mspiro@jhu.edu or by phone at 410-516-4802.

Multidisciplinary Work Key to Nanobiotech Breakthroughs

What may seem like science fiction, will soon be scientific facts because of discoveries in nanobiotechnology.

That is what Peter Searson, Johns Hopkins University professor and director of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT), told members at a meeting of the Regional Manufacturing Institute (RMI) of Maryland on Aug. 23. [Read more...]

Public Health Effects of Nanobiotechnology Discussed on Video

Jonathan Links, professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and executive committee member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, recently spoke with editor Brian W. Simpson about the public health aspects of this new technology. The entire interview was captured on video. [Read more...]

Magnetocapsules show Promise in Immunoprotecting Islet Transplants

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G. Magnetocapsule containing encapsulated mouse pancreatic islet cells. (Copyright Nature Medicine, 2007.)

The national media recently featured stories about the research of Johns Hopkins University and Institute of NanoBioTechnology affiliated faculty members Jeff Bulte and Dara Kraitchman and other colleagues. The news was based on a technical report in Nature Medicine explaining how magnetocapsules—tiny capsules about 350μm in diameter made from a matrix of seaweed extract and iron—could help prevent the rejection of insulin-cell (islet) transplants in diabetics.

The semi-permeable magnetocapsules have pores large enough to allow the insulin to pass through but small enough to prevent antibodies directed against β-cells from the pancreas from entering and attacking. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to track delivery and engraftment.
[Read more...]

INBT Undergraduate Interns Present Poster Session

INBT undergraduate summer internship poster session. Credit: INBT/JHU.
INBT undergraduate summer internship poster session. Credit: INBT/JHU

Ten weeks of research may not be everyone’s idea of the best way to spend a summer. But the students who participated in the first undergraduate summer internship program sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for NanoBioTechnology will tell you it was a summer well spent.

INBT awarded a total of $35,000 to support the work of 10 students pursuing original projects in the labs of Johns Hopkins University and INBT affiliated faculty. The results of their findings were displayed during an Aug. 10 poster session at the Homewood campus. Posters were judged by INBT affiliated faculty and others who attended the gathering.

“It was a great experience spending time with the postdoctoral students and faculty members because during the school year I would not have had time to work with them so closely,“ says Fan Yang, who will be a senior in materials science this September.

Brady Sieber presenting his winning poster.
Brady Sieber presenting his winning poster. Credit: INBT/JHU

Yang’s poster, “Pancreatic carcinoma imaging using fluorescent dye doped nanoparticles“ -research she completed with INBT faculty affiliates Professor Howard Katz (Materials Science and Engineering) and Professor Ellen Silbergeld (Environmental Health Sciences)—tied for best poster overall with Brady Sieber, this fall a senior in public health studies. Sieber worked with perflurocarbons to enhance the viability of encapsulated mesenchymal stem cells.

“It was exciting working with stem cells,“ Sieber says. “I learned that things like this take a little longer than you would think because there are always things along the way that you don’t expect to happen. You just have to keep trying new approaches, and hopefully you will get results that will be what you wanted.“ Sieber’s work was supervised by INBT affiliated faculty members Associate Professor Dara Kraitchman (Radiology) and Professor Jeff Bulte (Radiology).

Chih-Ping Mao, this fall a junior in biology, worked with INBT affiliated faculty member Assistant Professor Chien-Fu Hung (School of Medicine). Hung says, “The INBT interns were very talented; I was very happy to work with them,“ Hung says. “They learned very quickly, worked hard and participated in all aspects of research. I was quite impressed.“

In order to be considered for an internship, students were required to have experience in the development and use of advanced nano-materials and structures and techniques for nano-fabrication with an ultimate goal to solve important problems in biology, health and the environment and medicine. A review committee, made up of Hopkins faculty affiliated with INBT, received about 50 submissions from students in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Whiting School of Engineering, and the School of Medicine.

“The program was established to give undergraduates the opportunity to experience what it is like to conduct real scientific research,“ says Sue Porterfield, INBT administrative manager. “Next summer, we will be able to expand the program through funding from the National Science Foundation.“

INBT summer interns 2007
Back left to right: Jaeyoon Chung, Jonathan Smits, Fan Yang, Brady Sieber. Front left to right: Anniruddha Ranjan, Joelle Sohn, Jeaho Park. Credit: INBT/JHU

Participants in this summer’s undergraduate nanobio research internship included:

Jaeyoon Chung
Research subject: “Rapid and highly sensitive analysis of c-reactive protein in human serum“
Advised by: Y.C. Lee (Biology), H.Q. Mao (Materials Science and Engineering)

Chih-Ping Mao
Research subject: “Polymeric nanoparticle-based gene delivery systems for the treatment of ovarian cancer“
Advised by: C.F. Hung (Pathology), Justin Hanes (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering)

Jeaho Park
Research subject: “Magnetic quantum dots“
Advised by: Peter Searson (Materials Science and Engineering), Martin Pomper (Radiology)

Aniruddha Rajan
Research subject: “Nanoliter containers for on-demand remote release therapeutics“
Advised by: Robert Liddell (Radiology), David Gracias (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering)

Brady Sieber
Research subject: “Using perfluorocarbons to enhance oxygen tension and improve cell viability of radiopaque encapsulated mesenchymal stem cells“
Advised by: Dara Kraitchman (Radiology), Jeff Bulte (Radiology)

Joelle Sohn
Research subject: “Regulation of cytoskeletal dynamics by Rho GTPases in ovarian cancer“
Advised by: Denis Wirtz (Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering)

Jonathan Smits
Research subject: “Synthesis and characterization of templated hetero-trimer collagen mimic peptide“
Advised by: Michael Yu (Materials Science and Engineering)

Nanobiotech’s Impact on Area Manufacturing Considered

JHU enterprise chief, INBT director to speak at RMI event

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Aris Melissaratos

Two Johns Hopkins University experts will discuss the potential impact of nanobiotechnology on the direction of regional manufacturing at an Aug. 23 gathering hosted by the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland.

Aris Melissaratos, senior advisor to the president for enterprise development at Johns Hopkins and former secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, and Peter Searson, professor in the Whiting School of Engineering and director of the university’s Institute for NanoBioTechnology, will speak at “From Research to Practice: An Evening with Aris Melissaratos.”

The event is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, 1415 Key Highway, Baltimore, Md. 21230.

Melissaratos says entrepreneurial initiatives at Johns Hopkins, particularly those in the interdisciplinary realm of nanobiotechnology, will play a major role in driving the direction of manufacturing in the region.

Nanobiotechnology employs tools from both physical and life sciences to devise extremely small-scale approaches — devices and materials on the order of billionths of a meter in size — to health and environmental problems.

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Peter Searson

“Dr. Searson is an exciting visionary in nanobiotechnology,” Melissaratos says. “The breakthroughs that will come in this area will direct the future of industry.”

RMI, a non-profit association, was created for manufacturers in the Baltimore metropolitan area and involves representatives of business, government, education, labor and the community.

“Our hope is that this evening will be an opportunity to bring together experts like Dr. Searson with those people involved in translating technology into a manufactured product,” says Michael Galiazzo, executive director of RMI. “The work conducted by the faculty affiliated with the INBT represents the future of manufacturing in Maryland.”

For more information on “From Research to Practice: An Evening with Aris Melissaratos” and to register online, visit http://www.marylandmanufacturing.info

Related Web site:
Peter Searson page: http://www.jhu.edu/~matsci/people/faculty/searson/searson.html