Gerecht nets American Heart Association grant

Sharon Gerecht, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and affiliated faculty member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, has received the prestigious American Heart Association Established Investigator Award.

sharongerecht_cropThe AHA awarded only four such grants this year, funding designed to support mid-career of investigators who show unusual promise and accomplishments in the study of “cardiovascular or cerebrovascular science.”

Gerecht’s research focuses on engineering platforms, specifically hydrogels, that are designed to coax stem cells to develop into the building blocks of blood vessels. The hope is that these approaches could be used to help repair circulatory systems that have been damaged by heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.

Additionally, Gerecht leads a research project in the Johns Hopkins Physical Science-Oncology Center where she is studying the effects of low oxygen (hypoxia) on the tumor growth and blood vessel formation. The AHA funding will support her work on regulating hypoxia in hydrogels for vascular regeneration. The award is worth approximately $400,000 over five years.

Learn more about the Gerecht lab here.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact INBT’s science writer Mary Spiro, mspiro@jhu.edu or 410-516-4802.

 

Burn healing gel could soon be commercialized for veterinary use

Hope for severe burns could lie in the healing action encouraged by a colorless, odorless “hydrogel” developed by Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBiotechnology affiliated researchers. The Johns Hopkins Engineering Magazine summer edition featured a story here on this work, occurring in the laboratory of chemical and biomolecular engineering associate professor, Sharon Gerecht.

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 2.20.27 PMNews of the original research was posted here on the INBT blog in December 2011. However, the pain and suffering experienced by third-degree burn sufferers is long-lasting and this work rightly deserves to be re-visited. The original study, done in conjunction with faculty in the Department of Pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Burn Center at Bayview Medical Center, demonstrated for the first time a treatment that could not only aid in healing but practically restore the skin in the tested animals to a healthy state. Use of the hydrogel was tested on mice, and after just a few weeks, skin had regrown to a nearly scar-free state that could even regrow hair. The team is now looking a testing the gel with pigs.

The funny thing is, is that Gerecht and company are not even sure why the hydrogel works the way it does.

The Whiting School of Engineering magazine article highlights the potential commercialization timeline for the hydrogel, that is, when will a product based on this new technology be available for humans? That is a question that folks here at INBT and those affiliated with this work have been receiving nearly once a week since this research was first published. Now, maybe we will have an answer for all those who could potentially benefit from this important and yet mysterious discovery.