<![CDATA[Meet Casey Bethel, Georgia's 2017 Teacher of the Year]]> 32503 College of Sciences basks in the reflected glow of a GIFTed science teacher

Casey M. Bethel, Georgia’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, has spent the past five summers doing research in the College of Sciences through the Georgia Intern Fellowships for Teachers (GIFT). This summer, he will return again to the lab of Raquel L. Lieberman, an associate professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

An extraordinary science teacher and mentor at New Manchester High School, in Douglasville, Bethel personifies the power of university-school partnerships enabled by programs like GIFT to transform  teaching and learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), says Lizanne DeStefano. She is the executive director of the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC), the College of Sciences unit that administers the GIFT program.

“For 25 years, Georgia Tech’s GIFT program has been providing K-12 teachers with opportunities to participate in real-world applications in STEM fields, so that they can then pass along learnings and applications to students,” says Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson. “We are grateful for teachers like Casey Bethel whose commitment to STEM education is helping to prepare and inspire the next generation,” he says. President Peterson himself was a high school mathematics and science teacher early in his career.

The Lieberman group studies, among others, proteins associated with human diseases, such as glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease. Protein crystallography, biochemical/physical characterization, and computer modeling are some of the methods the group uses to elucidate the structure and functions of disease-related proteins.

On the basis of Bethel’s education, professional experience, and interests, Lieberman thought Bethel would be a good match for her lab and actively recruited him to work with her. She adds that three years of Bethel’s participation in GIFT were supported by her National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award.

Bethel says working in the Lieberman lab vastly improved his teaching and knowledge. The experience enabled him to better prepare his students for college-level courses. More than 50 of his former students have gone into STEM majors and careers, he says; some of them are students at Georgia Tech.

GIFT provides K-12 science and math teachers paid summer internships in research laboratories, where they participate in designing and conducting experiments, interpreting data, and communicating findings. Internships may also take place in industry, where teachers gain workplace experience and learn the skills needed for STEM careers. By working daily with researchers or in industry, teachers increase their content knowledge and find ways to enrich their teaching practices.

At New Manchester High School, Bethel teaches Advanced Placement (AP) Physics, AP Biology, Biology, and Physical Science. As a result of his research experience at Georgia Tech, Bethel, with Lieberman, designed a teaching unit comprising lessons centered on protein structures and their relation to function and disease.

Bethel and Lieberman describe the unit in The Journal of Chemical Education. “The lessons are designed … to make learning more relevant to daily life, and to help high school students engage in and understand advanced topics beyond the typical high school chemistry or biology curriculum,” they write.

Separately, Bethel is helping the advance of basic scientific knowledge. According to Lieberman, he is a coauthor of a scientific research paper that is undergoing peer review.

After having worked with Bethel for five consecutive summers, Lieberman is elated, but not too surprised, that he is now Georgia’s 2017 Teacher of the Year. “He is focused, committed, and passionate,” says Lieberman. “He loves to learn and has a no-nonsense attitude. He follows through on commitments and is highly professional.”

While Bethel was gaining knowledge and research experience from his GIFT internship at Georgia Tech, the Lieberman lab also was learning from him.

“Casey is a natural teacher,” says Lieberman. “He is able to explain complex issues to a broad audience,” a skill that many students struggle with, she notes.

“Casey is inspirational,” Lieberman adds. “Students pick up on his infectious enthusiasm and love of learning.”  

As Georgia’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, Bethel will serve as ambassador for all Georgia public school teachers, school systems, and students; speak to various groups throughout the state; conduct staff development activities for other teachers; and represent Georgia in the 2017 National Teacher of the Year competition.

“Couldn’t be more proud of Casey,” Lieberman tweeted when the news broke on May 20.

“We are utterly delighted at Casey’s selection as Georgia’s Teacher of the Year,” says College of Sciences Dean Paul M. Goldbart. “Casey is an extraordinary representative of the K-12 community, inspiring Georgia Tech staff to learn more about high-school teaching and learning strategies as they work with him to support his innovative approaches to teaching.”

Casey Bethel, Georgia’s 2017 Teacher of the Year, Reflects on His Teaching Journey

What got you started in teaching science and the GIFT program?

I grew up in the Bahamas, in a family of teachers. I was told at an early age that because I performed well in science, I had to be a doctor or a scientist. I pursued those careers all the way to graduate school, earning a master's degree in plant genetics from the University of Georgia. However, the work never brought enough fulfillment.

On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences as a teaching assistant, instructing undergrads. In 2005, I tried teaching, in the DeKalb County School System, at first as a one-year experiment. I found my calling and never looked back.

After a few years of teaching, I hit a wall. I was unsatisfied with my students’ progress. A mentor of mine advertised the GIFT program as a means of broadening my background. I tried it, and I saw immediate results.

Dr. Lieberman welcomed me and made me a contributing member of her team. Every year since 2011, my wealth of knowledge has grown and my teaching practices have improved.

What does the Teacher of the Year award mean to you?  

This award is a huge honor. It serves as validation of the hard work and sacrifices I have put into growing in this career. I hope that it further inspires my students to work hard and pursue their dreams.

What will you do with this award?  

I hope to bring attention to some of the ways we can solve education’s greatest challenges.

It is becoming harder to recruit and retain talented teachers, especially in science and math. I am on a recruitment tour to attract some of the brightest science and math students to join the teaching profession. The challenge of educating the next generation of problem solvers and world leaders is just as important as the race to cure cancer. Teaching is the best way to make a difference.

At the same time, I hope to be an example of how collaboration between universities, industries, and K-12 educators can radically improve the way we teach and prepare students. My own teaching practices sky-rocketed since I formed a partnership with Dr. Lieberman and her research team. Working with them in the summers, I get to see how the concepts I teach in my high school classes are applied to authentic research. Such exposure provides the real-world connections that help me make science more relevant for my students. We need more of these collaborations in every content area.

What is the secret to your success as a teacher?  

The secret is passion. When teachers are passionate about what they do, it translates to their students. Effective teachers are excited to share what they know in a way that draws students in, making them see the value of knowledge. My students and I have a saying, “Information is currency.”

 

]]> Scotty Smith 1 1464096217 2016-05-24 13:23:37 1475896906 2016-10-08 03:21:46 0 0 news 2016-05-24T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-24T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-24 00:00:00 A. Maureen Rouhi

Director of Communications

College of Sciences

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539571 539591 539571 image <![CDATA[Casey Bethel, Georgia’s 2017 Teacher of the Year. Photo courtesy of Casey Bethel.]]> image/jpeg 1464703200 2016-05-31 14:00:00 1475895326 2016-10-08 02:55:26 539591 image <![CDATA[GIFT in the lab: (from left) Jose Amador, Dustin Huard, Elaine Nguyen, Casey Bethel, Swe-Htet Naing, Sibel Kalyoncu, Rebecca Donegan, Shannon Hill, Michelle Kwon, Athena Patterson-Orazem, and Raquel Lieberman.]]> image/png 1464703200 2016-05-31 14:00:00 1475895326 2016-10-08 02:55:26
<![CDATA[Search Underway for New Biomedical Engineering Department Chair]]> 27513 Earlier this month (May 2016), a diverse committee of faculty, staff, students, along with an external advisory board member, began the process of seeking and evaluating nominations of candidates to fill the position of chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME). The Coulter Department is a joint department of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Engineering and Emory University’s School of Medicine with buildings, faculty, and staff located on both campuses. The chair reports directly to the dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech and the dean of the School of Medicine at Emory.

 

The Coulter Department's biomedical engineering graduate program is ranked #2, and it's undergraduate program is ranked #3 by U.S. News and World Report.

 

According to Steven McLaughlin, co-chair of the search committee and the Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, “this [chair position] is unlike any other biomedical engineering department in the country because of this program’s highly ranked reputation and the unique Georgia Tech and Emory structure. This person will have more leadership opportunities than you would normally get as a department head, really significant fundraising exposure, and serve an externally-focused role for both national and international leadership in the biomedical field.”

 

Allan Levey, search committee co-chair and executive associate dean for research at the Emory University School of Medicine, said, “Emory University and Georgia Tech each has unique strengths and this is an opportunity to bring together healthcare and technology – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference. There has never been a more important time to marry the great strengths of our universities to collaborate on technology, research, and teaching to transform the future of healthcare.”

 

C. Ross Ethier, professor and Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering,has agreed to serve as interim chair. He joined the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory in 2012 after being recruited from the Imperial College of London. He led the Department of Bioengineering at the College as department head, and was also the director of the Institute for Biomedical Engineering. He will assume the interim chair role on August 1, 2016. Gary May, dean of the College of Engineering, said, ”Ross brings a wide range of administrative experience to the position along with his extensive research knowledge. With his background, I am extremely confident that he will be able to provide sound and steady leadership until a permanent chair is in place.”

 

The full search committee consists of:

Allan Levey, co-chair, Emory University

Steve McLaughlin, co-chair, Georgia Tech

 

Ed Botchwey – Coulter Department faculty

Anita Corbett – Emory University School of Medicine faculty

Mike Davis – Coulter Department faculty

Tracie Dinkins – Coulter Department staff

Courtney Ferencik – Coulter Department staff

Bob Gross – Emory University School of Medicine faculty

Bob Guldberg – Parker H. Petit Institute, Georgia Tech faculty

Hanjoong Jo – Coulter Department faculty

Jessica Joyce – Coulter Department graduate student

Melissa Kemp – Coulter Department faculty

Gabe Kwong – Coulter Department faculty

Christopher Schenck – Coulter Department undergraduate student

Stephen Snowdy – Coulter Department advisory board

Malu Tansey – Emory University School of Medicine faculty

Bob Taylor – Coulter Department faculty

Johnna Temenoff – Coulter Department faculty

Cheng Zhu – Coulter Department faculty

 

View the Coulter Department chair job description and how to apply.

 

 

Media Contacts:

Walter Rich

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

Georgia Institute of Technology

]]> Walter Rich 1 1463580774 2016-05-18 14:12:54 1475896902 2016-10-08 03:21:42 0 0 news 2016-05-18T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-18T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-18 00:00:00 Media Contacts:

Walter Rich

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

Georgia Institute of Technology

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550431 550431 image <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier, Professor, Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt, Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering, and interim chair for BME]]> image/jpeg 1467727200 2016-07-05 14:00:00 1475895345 2016-10-08 02:55:45
<![CDATA[Common Nanoparticle has Subtle Effects on Oxidative Stress Genes]]> 27303 A nanoparticle commonly used in food, cosmetics, sunscreen and other products can have subtle effects on the activity of genes expressing enzymes that address oxidative stress inside two types of cells. While the titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles are considered non-toxic because they don’t kill cells at low concentrations, these cellular effects could add to concerns about long-term exposure to the nanomaterial.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology used high-throughput screening techniques to study the effects of titanium dioxide nanoparticles on the expression of 84 genes related to cellular oxidative stress. Their work found that six genes, four of them from a single gene family, were affected by a 24-hour exposure to the nanoparticles.

The effect was seen in two different kinds of cells exposed to the nanoparticles: human HeLa cancer cells commonly used in research, and a line of monkey kidney cells. Polystyrene nanoparticles similar in size and surface electrical charge to the titanium dioxide nanoparticles did not produce a similar effect on gene expression.

“This is important because every standard measure of cell health shows that cells are not affected by these titanium dioxide nanoparticles,” said Christine Payne, an associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Our results show that there is a more subtle change in oxidative stress that could be damaging to cells or lead to long-term changes. This suggests that other nanoparticles should be screened for similar low-level effects.”

The research was reported online May 6 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the HERCULES Center at Emory University, and by a Vasser Woolley Fellowship.

Titanium dioxide nanoparticles help make powdered donuts white, protect skin from the sun’s rays and reflect light in painted surfaces. In concentrations commonly used, they are considered non-toxic, though several other studies have raised concern about potential effects on gene expression that may not directly impact the short-term health of cells.

To determine whether the nanoparticles could affect genes involved in managing oxidative stress in cells, Payne and colleague Melissa Kemp – an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University – designed a study to broadly evaluate the nanoparticle’s impact on the two cell lines.

Working with graduate students Sabiha Runa and Dipesh Khanal, they separately incubated HeLa cells and monkey kidney cells with titanium oxide at levels 100 times less than the minimum concentration known to initiate effects on cell health. After incubating the cells for 24 hours with the TiO2, the cells were lysed and their contents analyzed using both PCR and Western Blot techniques to study the expression of 84 genes associated with the cells’ ability to address oxidative processes.

Payne and Kemp were surprised to find changes in the expression of six genes, including four from the peroxiredoxin family of enzymes that helps cells degrade hydrogen peroxide, a byproduct of cellular oxidation processes. Too much hydrogen peroxide can create oxidative stress which can damage DNA and other molecules.

The effect measured was significant – changes of about 50 percent in enzyme expression compared to cells that had not been incubated with nanoparticles. The tests were conducted in triplicate and produced similar results each time.

“One thing that was really surprising was that this whole family of proteins was affected, though some were up-regulated and some were down-regulated,” Kemp said. “These were all related proteins, so the question is why they would respond differently to the presence of the nanoparticles.”

The researchers aren’t sure how the nanoparticles bind with the cells, but they suspect it may involve the protein corona that surrounds the particles. The corona is made up of serum proteins that normally serve as food for the cells, but adsorb to the nanoparticles in the culture medium. The corona proteins have a protective effect on the cells, but may also serve as a way for the nanoparticles to bind to cell receptors.

Titanium dioxide is well known for its photo-catalytic effects under ultraviolet light, but the researchers don’t think that’s in play here because their culturing was done in ambient light – or in the dark. The individual nanoparticles had diameters of about 21 nanometers, but in cell culture formed much larger aggregates.

In future work, Payne and Kemp hope to learn more about the interaction, including where the enzyme-producing proteins are located in the cells. For that, they may use HyPer-Tau, a reporter protein they developed to track the location of hydrogen peroxide within cells.

The research suggests a re-evaluation may be necessary for other nanoparticles that could create subtle effects even though they’ve been deemed safe.

“Earlier work had suggested that nanoparticles can lead to oxidative stress, but nobody had really looked at this level and at so many different proteins at the same time,” Payne said. “Our research looked at such low concentrations that it does raise questions about what else might be affected. We looked specifically at oxidative stress, but there may be other genes that are affected, too.”

Those subtle differences may matter when they’re added to other factors.

“Oxidative stress is implicated in all kinds of inflammatory and immune responses,” Kemp noted. “While the titanium dioxide alone may just be modulating the expression levels of this family of proteins, if that is happening at the same time you have other types of oxidative stress for different reasons, then you may have a cumulative effect.”

Seed funding for the research came from the HERCULES: Exposome Research Center (NIEHS: P30 ES019776) at the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, NIH grant DP2OD006483-01 and a Vasser Woolley Faculty Fellowship. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

CITATION: Sabiha Runa, Dipesh Khanal, Melissa L. Kemp, Christine K. Payne, “TiO2 Nanoparticles Alter the Expression of Peroxiredoxin Anti-Oxidant Genes,” (Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b01939.

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contacts: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986) or Ben Brumfield (ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu) (404-385-1933).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1462891139 2016-05-10 14:38:59 1475896899 2016-10-08 03:21:39 0 0 news A nanoparticle commonly used in food, cosmetics, sunscreen and other products can have subtle effects on the activity of genes expressing enzymes that address oxidative stress inside two types of cells. While the titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles are considered non-toxic because they don’t kill cells at low concentrations, these cellular effects could add to concerns about long-term exposure to the nanomaterial.

]]>
2016-05-10T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-10T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-10 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

]]>
535181 535211 535221 535231 535181 image <![CDATA[Culturing HeLa Cells]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535211 image <![CDATA[HeLa cells incubated with nanoparticles]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535221 image <![CDATA[Studying nanoparticle interactions with cells]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535231 image <![CDATA[Studying nanoparticle interactions with cells2]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19
<![CDATA[BME Honors Top Undergrads]]> 28153 The future of our nation is in good hands. That was the message Ravi Bellamkonda wanted to drive home in his opening remarks at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) Leadership Reception last Friday (May 6). 

 

In fact, that is exactly what he told his audience, the BME senior students, and their families and friends, who had gathered in a banquet room of the Wardlaw Building.

 

“In many ways, our undergraduate program is the life of the department. This is what we’re most proud of,” said Bellamkonda, chair of the Coulter Department, who is moving on this summer to become dean of Duke University's engineering school. 

 

“I’ve been teaching more than 20 years," Bellamkonda said, "and what’s special about you guys is, you’re more socially aware than students were, more committed and driven to do things with meaning.”

 

This was the third annual school year-end event, designed to highlight and honor the accomplishments of BME undergraduates. As in previous years, there was another take-home message – basically, that it takes a community to raise a successful undergrad.

 

According to Joe Le Doux, BME associate professor and associate chair for undergraduate learning and student experience, “Behind each award winner and finalist are staff, faculty, parents, and other loved ones who have provided support and guidance to help these students succeed. 

 

Those sentiments were echoed by a collection of speakers that included Barbara Fasse (director of learning sciences innovation and research), and the masters of ceremony, Essy Behravesh (director of undergraduate studies) and James Rains (director of Capstone).

 

“I had a very tough time when I was a freshman here at Georgia Tech,” Rains said. “I called up my parents and told them I was quitting. So my dad said, ‘that’s OK … it’s OK to quit. But let me ask you for one thing – just try your best to finish the semester.’ I did. I finished the semester, and that gave me the time to find out what really made me excited.”

 

So Rains urged the gathered students to do the same going forward: “You’ve persevered. You’ve made it to graduation. Find out what your next goal is. Some of may not know yet, and that’s OK. But find what it is you’re passionate about, and then pursue it. You already know how to succeed.”

 

Their success as undergrads was rewarded with custom glass trophies for the winners, and lots of applause for the finalists.

 

First to be recognized were students who had won or contended for national, institute and College of Engineering (COE) awards: Karisma Gupta and Varun Yarabarla won Fulbright Fellowships (turns out that two of Georgia Tech’s five Fulbright honorees are BME students). 

 

Additionally, Anirudh Joshi was a candidate for the Henry Ford II Scholar Award. The Helen Grenga Outstanding Women Engineer Award had five candidates from BME: Gupta, Kavida Chinov, Emma Mihevc, Priya Mohindra, and Palavi Vaidya. Gupta also was a candidate for the Tau Beta Pi Award (COE’s highest honor for graduating seniors). And Stephen Pfohl was a candidate for the Love Family Foundation Scholarship (Georgia Tech’s highest honor for a graduating senior).

 

Then, Behravesh and Rains took turns calling out the BME Leadership Award winners.

 

The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award went to Pfohl. Finalists were Rehman Ali, Suhaas Anbashakan, Sage Duddleston, Karisma Gupta, Renaid Kim, Gautam Rangavajla.

 

Pfohl, a member of Cassie Mitchell’s Lab for Pathology Dyanmics for nearly four years, had a 4.0 GPA and was the first author of two high-impact reviewed journal articles and two conference proceedings. He also created a life-saving cardiac arrhythmia algorithm, to improve diagnostic detection. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Biomedical Informatics at Stanford starting this fall. 

 

“He has a special kind of creativity that transcends scientific inquiry,” said Mitchell, who added, “Stephen’s advice and leadership has enabled 40-plus undergraduates to move their individual or team projects to a publishable stage.”

 

Sage Duddleston won the Outstanding Academic Service Award. Finalists were Rehman Ali, Suhaas Anbazhakan, Priya Mohindra, Palavi Vaidya, Jennifer Wang, and Gina Yu

 

In addition to achieving a 4.0 GPA, Duddleston served as president of Tau Beta Pi, mentored BME freshmen, interned at Advanced Machine Technologies, did research in the Precision Biosystems Lab, and according to Rains, “spent so much time in the machine shop and had strong knowledge of all the equipment that we decided to hire him. He now assists student teams, researchers, and startups on manufacturing their prototypes.”

 

Before starting medical school next year, Duddleston is going to work in the medical device field.

 

“Sage just blew me away with his understanding of the material,” says BME Professor Ross Ethier. “He is one of the smartest undergrads I have met at Tech. I know that he also spends a good amount of time helping out other BME students. I feel that Sage is probably at the top of the class in sheer intellectual horsepower.” 

 

 

The winner of the Outstanding Community Service Award was Bharat Sanders, the sole finalist for this honor, and for good reasons: He served as vice chair of the BME Learning Commons, vice chair of the BME Student Advisory Board, and was founder and president of SAI (Spirituality, Awareness, Interfaith) Young Adults at Georgia Tech, and a member of Tau Beta Pi, among other things.

 

“Bharat was the driving force in making the mentorship program become a reality,” said Le Doux. “He spent countless hours over the summer helping to design the program, create a handbook for the mentors, and helping match all 400 students to a mentor.”

 

Sanders plans to conduct research in the Buckley Neuroimaging Lab at Emory before applying to medical school in 2017. Long term, he’d like to pursue a specialty in pediatrics.

 

Rachel Ford won the Outstanding Entrepreneurship Award. The other finalist was Palavi Vaidya. 

 

Ford already is a busy entrepreneur, having co-founded a couple of start-ups as an undergrad. She’s co-founder and chief operating officer for FIXD Automotive Inc., and founder and CEO of Sucette Baby Products – projects that grew out of her sophomore design experience.

 

Selected as one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 30-under-30 business leaders and recipient of the Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneurship Award at Georgia Tech, Ford has even become an instructor at Venture Lab (Tech’s business incubator).

 

“Rachel has a willingness to learn that makes her such a flexible leader,” said Atlanta entrepreneur and Venture Lab principle, Paul Freet. “[She] has a strong sense of purpose now that she has found her passion in entrepreneurship, and has proven her competence through the creation of her startups and her excitement in sharing this knowledge with other students.”

 

Ford will be a program manager for the startup accelerator Techstars ATL, but eventually wants to transition into a venture capital fund, or start another company. 

 

The winner of the Outstanding Industrial Work Experience Award was Erin Greenhaw. Katherine Neuberger was a finalist.

 

Greenhaw worked at Ultralight Enterprises to design a phototherapy device for psoriasis treatment, and provided mentorship for younger students for the Georgia Tech-based Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium.

 

She’s an active member of the Biomedical Engineering society and the Student Government Association. Following graduation, Greenhaw plans to work for St. Jude Medical in Fort Lauderdale as a field engineer. She will be training to become an electrophysiologist technical service specialist, which means she’ll be programming heart devices for surgeons who implant them.

 

The Jain family sponsors two of BME’s most prestigious awards: Outstanding Research and Outstanding Senior.

 

The winner of the Mr. S. K. Jain Outstanding Research Award, who will also receive a scholarship, was Renaid Kim. Finalists were Celene Abraham, Suhaas Anbazhakan, Kaci Crawford, Joy Kim, Clay Mangiameli, Ajay Naran, Tatiana Netterfield, and Sraeyes Sridhar.

 

Kim has an impressive list of accomplishments: He has performed research at three different institutions: Penn State, Vanderbilt, and Georgia Tech (where he’s worked in four different labs); his work has resulted in three conference posters and four journal publications.

 

Also, he’s already received numerous other awards in his college career, including the President's Undergraduate Research Award (twice). He plans to attend the University of Michigan Medical School this fall with hopes of becoming a physician-scientist.

 

His advisor, Cassie Mitchell, called Kim, “the most productive and enthusiastic undergraduate research student I have advised to date.”

 

The winner of the G.D. Jain Outstanding Senior Award (which also includes a scholarship) was Karisma Gupta. Finalists were Rehman Ali, William McAllister, Emma Mihevc, Thomas Ng, Gautam Rangavajla and Varun Yarabarla.

 

A former Petit Institute Undergraduate Scholar, Gupta had a 4.0 GPA, chaired the BME Student Advisory Board (transforming the board into an efficient machine to assist the BME academic office), and was one of 30 Georgia Tech students to receive a Provost Scholarship. And of course, there’s the Fulbright Scholarship.

 

As a Petit Scholar, she performed research sponsored by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, to enhance repair of cardiac tissue in pediatric cardiomyopathy patients. She also designed a point-of-care HIV viral load diagnostic device for the CDC (who is in the process of patenting the device).

 

In short, she’s a “super hero,” according to a Petit Institute researcher who received the BME’s Excellence in Teaching Award – given by the Student Advisory Board, and presented by Gupta, who plans to serve as a teaching assistant for Le Doux this summer in Ireland, before starting her nine-month Fulbright term in Mumbai, India, studying and installing a device that prevents the transmission of tuberculosis from patient to patient in high-burden settings. After that, it’s medical school.

 

In summing up Gupta’s accomplishments, Le Doux might as well have been speaking about everyone in the room last Friday at Wardlaw: “Most impressive,” he wrote in his letter of support.

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1462897468 2016-05-10 16:24:28 1475896899 2016-10-08 03:21:39 0 0 news Annual Leadership Reception recognizes "life of the department"

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2016-05-10T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-10T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-10 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
535431 535381 535321 535481 535451 535471 535421 535351 535461 535431 image <![CDATA[Ravi speaks]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535381 image <![CDATA[Fulbright winners BME]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535321 image <![CDATA[Anirudh Joshi]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535481 image <![CDATA[Stephen Pfohl]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895322 2016-10-08 02:55:22 535451 image <![CDATA[Sage Duddleston]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895322 2016-10-08 02:55:22 535471 image <![CDATA[Bharat Sanders]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895322 2016-10-08 02:55:22 535421 image <![CDATA[Rachel Ford]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535351 image <![CDATA[Erin Greenhaw]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 535461 image <![CDATA[Karisma Gupta senior award]]> 1462982400 2016-05-11 16:00:00 1475895322 2016-10-08 02:55:22
<![CDATA[Exosomes on the Lymphatic Fast Track]]> 28153 The survival and wellbeing of multicellular organisms depends on good cell-to-cell communication. Helping to carry out this critical information exchange are nanoparticles called exosomes.

These tiny vesicles (smaller than red blood cells), discovered about 35 years ago, were initially thought of as little dumpsters for unwanted cellular material. But further study of exosomes demonstrated their role as long-distance couriers with specific messages to carry – they can transfer biomolecules (proteins, lipids, genetic material) that impact recipient cells’ functionality in a variety of physiologic and disease processes. 

It also turns out that exosomes are in the ideal size range for lymphatic transport, and this is what really interests Brandon Dixon, faculty researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. 

Dixon, whose research focuses on lymphatic function, attended a presentation by fellow Petit Institute researcher Fred Vannberg several years ago. Vannberg’s lab uses computer algorithms and genomics to investigate infectious diseases, and this includes the role of exosomes during infection. His presentation that day described the characteristics of exosomes, which when released in the periphery are too big to be taken up by blood vessels, but just right for lymphatic transport.

“When Fred told me that, I thought that here was a mechanism that seems to have been made to target lymphatics,” says Dixon, associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, who leads the Laboratory of Lymphatic Biology and Bioengineering (LLBB). “Exosomes are the perfect size when we think of creating contrast agents or drug delivery particles that we want to use to target lymphathics.”

So, utilizing a Petit Institute seed grant, Dixon and Vannberg brought their distinct skills together to produce a groundbreaking research paper, “Lymphatic transport of exosomes as a rapid route of information dissemination to the lymph node,” published last month in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports.

“Lymphatic vessels provide an extremely rapid route for delivery of exosomes from the tissue to the draining lymph node,” Dixon says. “Lymphatic transport has been implied in previous publications, but this is the first demonstration of immediate lymphatic transport, a feat we achieved using our non-invasive near-infrared imaging technology and fluorescently labeled exosomes.”

Their results suggest that exosome transfer via lymphatic flow (from the periphery to the lymph node) could enable a rapid exchange of infection-specific information that precedes the arrival of migrating cells, priming the node for a more effective innate immune response, or “a first warning response during infection,” Dixon explains. 

“What’s exciting about this research is, we’re kind of finding out what is happening as part of the real-time response to infection, with the innate immune system being activated in a particular way by these particles,” adds Vannberg, assistant professor in the School of Biology. “And that helps guide what’s going to happen a few days later with the adaptive immune response.”

In previous research, Vannberg has tried to quantitate the body’s ability to fight infection, focusing on tuberculosis and leprosy. He became especially interested in exosomes’ role in our immune system’s ability to detect and fight disease after reading the research of Notre Dame researcher Jeff Schorey, who identified exosomes as ideal for diagnostic development.

The collaboration between Vannberg and Dixon is like a research laboratory version of a Marvel super hero saga – individuals combining disparate skills (‘super powers’ in the movie version) to achieve a common goal. Or, as Vannberg says, “this paper helps highlight both of our areas of expertise – mine in terms of genomics and infectious diseases, while Brandon is known worldwide for his work in lymphatic biology and his understanding of kinetics.”

Dixon’s lab was able to determine how fast the particles got delivered to the node – “within a few minutes,” Dixon says. “Until now, we really had no appreciation of the time scale.”

Lead author on the paper was biology grad student Swetha Srinivasan, who is co-advised by Dixon and Vannberg. They designed the experiments and she carried out the experimental work, while all three analyzed the data, wrote and reviewed the manuscript. Their published research illustrates a potentially efficient pathway for targeted therapeutics, somewhere down the line. 

“We believe this work has far-reaching implications on how biological systems – like pathogens, immune cells and cancer cells – could utilize lymphatic transport of exosomes to rapidly manipulate the lymph node environment,” Dixon says.

An upcoming paper will help determine what actually happens when exosomes arrive in the lymph node.

“We’re interested in understanding the immune consequences of exosomes in the context of infection and immunity,” Vannberg says. “Further research will help explain how these particles can stimulate a quick response and also inform the adaptive response.”

 

READ THE RESEARCH PAPER HERE


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1462794026 2016-05-09 11:40:26 1475896899 2016-10-08 03:21:39 0 0 news Dixon-Vannberg research supported by Petit Institute Interdisciplinary Seed Grant

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2016-05-09T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-09T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-09 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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534581 237061 302161 534581 image <![CDATA[Lymphatic system]]> image/jpeg 1462892400 2016-05-10 15:00:00 1475895319 2016-10-08 02:55:19 237061 image <![CDATA[Assistant professor Brandon Dixon]]> image/jpeg 1449243659 2015-12-04 15:40:59 1475894911 2016-10-08 02:48:31 302161 image <![CDATA[Fred Vannberg]]> image/jpeg 1449244592 2015-12-04 15:56:32 1493147592 2017-04-25 19:13:12
<![CDATA[Yoganathan Honored for Lifetime Achievement]]> 28153 Ajit Yoganathan, who helped establish both the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was front and center at the 11th International Symposium on Biomechanics in Vascular Biology and Cardiovascular Disease held at Emory University (May 2-3). 

First, Yoganathan (the Coulter Department Regents’ Professor) delivered the keynote speech. Then, after his presentation, he was recognized for a lifetime of contributions and advancements in the field of cardiovascular research by Hanjoong Jo, associate chair for the Coulter Department, and Bob Nerem, founding director of the Petit Institute.

The international symposium attracted more than 100 researchers specializing in vascular biology and cardiovascular disease. Some of the countries represented by academic researchers included Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States.

“It was a great honor to celebrate the success and contributions of Dr. Yoganathan for his remarkable research and insights regarding cardiovascular engineering, heart disease, and heart valves at Emory and Georgia Tech,” said Jo. “His collaborations with clinicians to cure various congenital heart diseases has been a tremendous effort.”

Last year, Yoganathan was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Attaining membership into this elite group is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The Academy honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature, and to the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.

“There is no one who is equally respected by clinicians, industry, academics, and the regulatory agencys, like the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the way Ajit Yoganathan is,” said Nerem. “He is a very unique person in the industry with recognition unlike any others.”   

Yoganathan runs the cardiovascular fluid mechanics research group at Georgia Tech which is one of the pioneering laboratories in the world studying the function and mechanics of heart valves and other complex cardiac defects. One of the main objectives of his lab is to provide answers to life-saving clinical questions using engineering approaches.

Larry McIntire, former chair of the Coulter Biomedical Engineering Department said, ”Ajit is undoubtedly the world’s expert on micro-valves and the mechanics of heart valves. He is also internationally known for his excellent mentoring of both graduate students and many in industry positions. He is someone they know and respect – we feel lucky to have him here at Georgia Tech and Emory.”


CONTACT:

Walter Rich
Communications Manager
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1462353074 2016-05-04 09:11:14 1475896895 2016-10-08 03:21:35 0 0 news Petit Institute researcher recognized for cardiovascular research at international symposium

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2016-05-04T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-04T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-04 00:00:00 532231 532231 image <![CDATA[Ajit Yoganathan, Regents' Professor, Biomedical Engineering]]> image/jpeg 1462377601 2016-05-04 16:00:01 1475895314 2016-10-08 02:55:14
<![CDATA[Beyond Excellence]]> 28153 The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) took time out to honor one of its most vital resources last week with the second annual BME Graduate Student Awards.

Six grad students and a faculty member were recognized in front of their peers and fellow nominees at the event (Friday, April 29) in the atrium of the Molecular Science and Engineering Building, hosted once again by Shannon Barker (BME’s director of graduate training) and Garrett Stanley (BME professor, associate chair for graduate studies, and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience).

The Outstanding Teaching and Mentorship Award went to Eric Snider, a fourth-year student from Chattanooga, Tennessee, who works in the lab of BME Professor Ross Ethier. In addition to his work as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), Snider was a mentor in Project ENGAGES, working with Atlanta-area high school students.

“Eric has a true knack for explaining complex material and for interacting with students in a positive and enthusiastic way,” says Ethier, a Petit Institute researcher. “Eric was one of the most effective TAs I have ever had in my 30 years of teaching at multiple institutions.”

The other nominees for Outstanding Teaching and Mentorship were Cheryl Lau, Travis Meyer, John Nicosia, Yogi Patel, and Marissa Ruehle (Meyer and Patel won awards in other categories).

Eric Alonas, who received his Ph.D. in December, won the Outstanding Fundamental Research Award, which recognizes exceptional fundamental or basic research, leading to high impact publications and presentations at national or international conferences. The other nominees were Robert Mannino and Douglas White.

Alonas, from Scottsdale, Arizona, was selected because of his scientifically rigorous approach to research and a prolific publishing record (10 peer-review research articles to his credit already). During his studies at Georgia Tech, he was awarded the Whitaker International Fellowship (2010) and the Chinese Government Scholarship (2012).  Eric received his PhD in December of 2015.

“I feel that his combination of talent, intelligence, and motivation were instrumental to the success of his graduate studies and the research endeavors of many colleagues at Georgia Tech and Emory,” says Elizabeth Wright, assistant professor in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Emory, where she also directs the Integrated Electron Microscopy Core. “I think that the research Eric pioneered will have a long-lasting impact on the field of RSV biology, RNA biology, and imaging probe design.”

BME Associate Professor and Petit Institute researcher Phil Santangelo, who was Alano’s advisor, noted the student’s contributions beyond his own thesis: “He has always been willing to assist other labs with their imaging experiments and answer their questions to the best of his knowledge.”

Fourth-year grad student Guolan Lu won the Outstanding Translational Research Award, which recognizes success in translational research, leading to publications in translation-focused journals, patents, and clinical testing, among other things. The other nominees were Meredith Fay and Jack Tung.

Lu, from Suizhou, China, has published five peer-review research articles while at Georgia Tech and has also given multiple presentations at conferences, workshops, and other proceedings. She published a comprehensive review paper in the field of medical hyperspectral imaging, which has received national and international attention, being cited more than 100 times in only two years.

“Her noninvasive imaging technology holds great potential to improve the survival and quality of life of cancer patients,” says Lu’s advisor, Baowei Fei, BME associate professor and director of the Quantitative BioImaging Laboratory (QBIL) at Emory.

Lu was new to biomedical engineering, says thesis committee member and BME Associate Professor John Oshinski, but is “now capable of designing and conducting animal and human tissue imaging experiments, as well as developing machine learning algorithms to analyze different types of dataset such as hyperspectral and histological images.” 

Yogi Patel won the award for Outstanding Entrepreneurship, which honors a student who has turned innovative ideas into commercial reality. Patel, who wasn’t present to receive the award, was the only nominee in this category.

Patel, a fifth-year grad student, has had an impressive entrepreneurial record during his time at Tech. He won the 2014 Young Investigator Award at the IEEE BRAIN Grand Challenges Conference, the same year he joined the TI:GER (Technical Innovation: Generating Economic Results) Program and his team, Bioletics, went on to win the 2015 Georgia Tech Venture Lab Startup Competition, as well as the Edison Prize. He’s also published four highly translational journal articles, obtained three patents, and presented at seven conferences.

“Yogi is stubbornly independent in both his thinking and his actions,” notes his advisor, Petit Institute researcher Rob Butera, a BME professor and co-director of the Neural Engineering Center. “I mean this as a compliment – he is quite accepting of critical feedback, but is always trying to chart his own course and keep his thinking independent. To that end, Yogi is the most entrepreneurial student I have ever mentored.”

And according to Patel’s TI:GER teammate, Emory law student Sarika Mathur, Patel is driven by something more than commercial success.

“It is clear to anyone that works with Yogi that his goal is not to create a startup and retire rich,” Mathur says. “Rather, it is to continually develop technologies that will change the world, and in his words ‘get them out the door.’”

Travis Meyer won the Outstanding Departmental Service Award, which honors a grad student who demonstrates leadership or has provided academic support within the BME department. Joan Fernandez, Robert Mannino, Claire Segar and Aline Yonezawa were the other nominees.

Meyer – a fourth-year grad student from Houston, Texas – co-chaired the Graduate Student Advisory Board from 2013-2015, helping revitalize the organization. He chairs the Social and Public Policy committees for BBUGS (Bioengineering and Biosciences United Graduate Students); chaired graduate pre-fair events for the 2014 Biotechnology Career Fair; and was vice chair for Biomaterials Day in 2014. 

“He definitely showed a tremendous ability to lead the group and to lead with purpose,” says Sally Gerrish, who organizes the career fair as BME’s director of student, alumni and industrial relations.

The gregarious Meyer also made an impression on BME’s Graduate Academic Advisor Shannon Sullivan, who says, “Most of the time I hear Travis coming before I see him. He’s friendly, engaging, and usually booming with ideas and energy. Travis is the go-to guy for getting things done. He happily takes on tasks personally and recruits others to pitch in.”

Meyer currently represents BME at the College of Engineering Graduate Student Advisory Council. But all of this service has not taken away from his research. In addition to being a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, he was a young scientist participant at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting last year.

The award for Outstanding Community Service went to Tapomayukh Bhattacharjee. Kyle Blum was the only other nominee for this award, which honors a grad student who provides significant education, outreach, or other service to the larger community.

Bhattacharjee has chaired the Gamma Beta Phi (GBP) Honor Society and Service Organization since 2014. In that time, he’s organized a record number of service hours for GBP both on and off campus. As a result, GBP has received both the Danielle McDonald Legacy Award and the Five-Start Organization Award (the highest honor of excellence awarded to any on-campus student organization). He’s also served as president of Asha for Education, a totally volunteer-run non-profit organization for the education of underprivileged children and women in India.

It’s the kind of service Bhattacharjee has become known for. According to former president of GBP, Hoang Luu, he “has never shied away from any opportunity that he has had to serve the community. I believe his dedication will inspire future student leaders.”

The final award of the day, for Outstanding Faculty Advisor (selected by the Graduate Student Advisory Board) went to Manu Platt, who was not present. Like most of the students who were honored, Platt’s influence is felt in the lab and beyond.

Platt’s lab fuses engineering, cell biology, and physiology to understand how cells sense, respond, and remodel their immediate mechanical and biochemical environments for repair and regeneration in health and disease. Platt and his colleagues then translate that knowledge to clinics domestically and internationally to address global health disparities.

Additionally, Platt is BME’s director of diversity, and co-chair/co-founder of Project ENGAGES, the high school education and lab work program based in the Petit Institute.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1462194857 2016-05-02 13:14:17 1475896892 2016-10-08 03:21:32 0 0 news Coulter Department honors top scholars with BME Graduate Student Awards

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2016-05-02T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-02T00:00:00-04:00 2016-05-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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531501 531511 531501 image <![CDATA[BME Grad Trophy]]> image/jpeg 1462287600 2016-05-03 15:00:00 1475895312 2016-10-08 02:55:12 531511 image <![CDATA[BME grad awards]]> image/jpeg 1462298400 2016-05-03 18:00:00 1475895312 2016-10-08 02:55:12
<![CDATA[Annual Luncheon Honors Outstanding Employees]]> 27469 Georgia Tech boasts some of the finest faculty and staff members in higher education, and each year it honors some of them at the annual Faculty and Staff Honors Luncheon.

This year's event took place on April 22 in the Student Center Ballroom. Read on to see who from Tech's employee community was honored this year.

Georgia Tech Chapter Sigma Xi Awards

Best Faculty Paper Awards

Young Faculty Awards

Sustained Research Award


Institute Research Awards

Outstanding Achievement in Research Enterprise Enhancement Award

Outstanding Achievement in Research Innovation Award

Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Advisor Award

Outstanding Faculty Research Author Award

Outstanding Achievement in Research Program Development Award
Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing Team


ANAK Award


Staff Performance Awards

Entrepreneurship Award

Innovation Award
College of Sciences/College of Engineering Partnership Team

Process Improvement Excellence Award
Coulter Department Pre-Award Office Team, Biomedical Engineering

Service to the Community Award

Staff Leadership Award
Event Coordinators' Network Leadership Team

Outstanding Management in Action Award

Administrative Excellence Award


CETL Awards

CETL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Awards

Undergraduate Educator Award

Curriculum Innovation Award

Innovation and Excellence in Laboratory Instruction Award

Innovation in Co-Curricular Education Award

Faculty Award for Academic Outreach

Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Awards


Academic Advisor Awards

Outstanding Graduate Academic Advising Award

Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advising Award – Primary Role

Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Advising – Faculty Advisor


International Initiatives Award

Steven A. Denning Faculty Award for Global Engagement
Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems Team, Industrial and Systems Engineering


Faculty Honors Committee Awards

Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Awards

Outstanding Professional Education Award

Class of 1934 Outstanding Service Award

Class of 1934 Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award

Class of 1940 W. Roane Beard Outstanding Teacher Award

Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award


Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award

]]> Kristen Bailey 1 1461583708 2016-04-25 11:28:28 1475896888 2016-10-08 03:21:28 0 0 news Georgia Tech boasts some of the finest faculty and staff members in higher education, and each year it honors some of them at the annual Faculty and Staff Honors Luncheon.

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2016-04-25T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-25T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-25 00:00:00 View photos from the event on Flickr.

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Kristen Bailey
Institute Communications

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481071 481071 image <![CDATA[Faculty/Staff Honors Lunch]]> image/jpeg 1451937600 2016-01-04 20:00:00 1475895234 2016-10-08 02:53:54 <![CDATA[Faculty and Staff Honors Luncheon]]>
<![CDATA[Three More for the Petit Institute]]> 28153 The Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience has grown again, adding three new faculty members to its community of world-class researchers.

Joining the team are Frank Hammond III, Annalise Paaby, and Denis Tsygankov.

Hammond, who joined the Georgia Institute of Technology last year, completed his postdoctoral fellowship in Harvard University’s biorobotics and macrobiotics labs. Now an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, his research focuses on the design and control of adaptive robotic manipulation (ARM) systems.

Paaby, assistant professor in the School of Biology, came to Georgia Tech last summer following her postdoctoral work at New York University. Her lab explores major questions in evolution and quantitative genetics. Current projects include exploring how cryptic alleles in embryogenesis depend on genetic background, how development evolves over time, and the role of molecular mechanisms in trait determination and evolution. 

Tsygankov is an assistant professor in the Coulter Department and directs the Integrative Systems Biology Lab, where his current research is focused on integrating experimental and computational methods (involving modeling, simulating, and novel computer vision techniques) to understand complex multi-scale physiological processes including vasculogenesis, morphogenesis, and wound healing.

Now with more than 180 faculty members, the Petit Institute is an internationally recognized hub of multidisciplinary research, where engineers and scientists are working on solving some of the world’s most challenging health issues. With 17 research centers and more than $24 million invested in state-of-the-art core facilities, the Petit Institute is translating scientific discoveries into game-changing solutions to solve real-world problems.

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1461913774 2016-04-29 07:09:34 1475896892 2016-10-08 03:21:32 0 0 news Hammond, Paaby, Tsygankov join world-class community of researchers

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2016-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-29 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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530821 530821 image <![CDATA[New Faculty April 2016]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895310 2016-10-08 02:55:10
<![CDATA[Children’s Investing in the Future]]> 28153 Modern pediatric healthcare faces a set of specific challenges, both clinical and financial. For example, there are increasing numbers of children with chronic physical conditions as well as mental health problems. And access remains an issue as the pediatric healthcare workforce shrinks and fewer dollars are available for research.

But children’s health issues remain front and center for a dedicated group Petit Undergraduate Research Scholars, thanks to the support of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Children’s), which is working to improve the future of care for its young clientele. 

Children’s is supporting six Petit Scholars through its Children’s Scholars Program this year, an initiative that is part of the Children’s Pediatric Technology Center (a collaboration that includes Emory University and Georgia Tech). These students are addressing a range of issues that include cystic fibrosis, neuromuscular disease, cancer, and the economics of depression.

“By exposing these students to pediatrics, our hope is to instill a passion in the topic and foster development of the next generation of pediatric bioengineering and bioscience researchers,” says Leanne West, Georgia Tech’s chief engineer of pediatric technologies, who serves as the technical liaison for the university’s partnership with Children’s. 

“For the students,” she adds, “I think the quality research experience is to their benefit.”

The six Children’s Scholars (and their home schools) are Troy Kleber (Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering), Jacqueline Larouche (Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering), Jennifer Min (Department of Biochemistry, Emory), Sean Monahan (Industrial and Systems Engineering), Alex Moran (Industrial and Systems Engineering), and Megen Wittling (School of Biology).

Monahan and Moran are the first students from the Stewart School of ISyE in the 17-year history of the Petit Scholar program. Both work in the Health Analytics group, led by Coca-Cola Associate Professor Nicoleta Serban, where students and other researchers dive deep into data science to help improve decision making in health care delivery and public health.

Monahan’s research will examine the utilization of pediatric dental care, while Moran will try to determine the lifetime cost of pediatric depression. Using Medicaid claims date, the work is grounded in statistical analysis – projections, forecasting, “exactly what they teach you in industrial engineering,” says Moran, who also is a computer science major. 

Among other things, they hope their research will inform more cost-effective policies, while demonstrating preventive care’s positive return on investment to Medicaid systems in the U.S. For Moran, who is from Saint Simons, it was easy to steer his research toward healthcare. 

“My dad is an oncologist and hematologist, so I heard a lot of doctor-speak at home. This was a natural fit for me,” says Moran, whose research focuses on the short- and long-term financial costs to patients battling pediatric depression.

It’s the kind of research that really interests Sheethal Reddy, psychologist with Children’s Strong4Life Clinic, for a number of reasons.

“This is timely research,” says Reddy, who is assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics in the Emory School of Medicine. “There is a move in a lot of pediatric settings to screen for depression. For example, when kids come looking for help with their weight, we assess for depression, because it impacts their motivation, their confidence. It impacts so much. The costs go beyond the clinic.”

Programs like Strong4Life, and national observances like Every Kid Healthy Week (April 25-29), focus on reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. While Every Kid Healthy Week leans toward wellness in schools, Children’s Strong4Life targets obesity and its associated diseases (like depression) in Georgia.

Meanwhile, Children’s is targeting an array of other devastating diseases and chronic conditions through the work of scholars Kleber, Larouche, Min and Wittling.

Min works in the lab of Emory professor and Petit Institute faculty member Gary Bassell, where she’s working on development of a stem cell model of an incurable pediatric neuromuscular disease, distal spinal muscular atrophy (DSMA1).

Wittling works in the lab of Shuming Nie, professor in the Coulter Department, a joint department of Emory and Georgia Tech. Wittling, who is considering medical school after graduation, is studying metalloproteinases (MMPs) – when and where they are expressed in the embryo, how they function, and how cell migration and signaling are affected when MMP activity is impaired, leading to a better understanding of their role in pathological processes, like the spread of cancer.

The two BME students in the Children’s group, Kleber and Larouche, are both focusing their research, to some degree, on fibrotic disease.

Larouche, who came to Georgia Tech from Carbondale, Colorado, works in Tom Barker’s lab, where her research looks at the interaction between fibroblasts (connective tissue cells) and the extracellular matrix (ECM) in a process called myofibroblastic differentiation, seeking to gain a deeper understanding of fibrotic diseases.

Among the scholars, Kleber is the most local, having grown up in midtown Atlanta, a 10-minute drive from Georgia Tech.

“From my house I could actually hear the famous Georgia Tech whistle that marked the changing of classes,” says Kleber, who works in the lab of Nael McCarty, Petit Institute faculty member and associate professor at the Emory University School of Medicine, where the primary focus of his lab is cystic fibrosis – what causes it, and how to treat it.

Kleber has taken ownership of a specific project within the lab, in which he is researching the extracellular face of CFTR (cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator) as a potential binding site for peptides and antibodies – a project that could identify potential treatments for cystic fibrosis.

Children’s support of Kleber could result in several outcomes. There’s the potential for a cystic fibrosis treatment down the road, of course. And then there’s Kleber himself who, after four semesters in the McCarty lab (with plans for a fifth and possibly sixth), feels well prepared for the next phase of his education: medical school.

Early on, he had no idea what he wanted to do post-graduation, “but I had the inkling of an idea that I could be a good doctor one day,” he says. “I was a smart, hard-working, dedicated student with a feeling that if I applied my work ethic to the field of medicine, I could do some real good in the world.” 


LINKS:

Petit Scholars

Strong4Life


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1461913484 2016-04-29 07:04:44 1475896892 2016-10-08 03:21:32 0 0 news Support of Petit Scholars fosters next generation of bioengineering and bioscience researchers

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2016-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-29 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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530981 530921 530931 530941 530951 530961 530971 530981 image <![CDATA[Children's Scholars]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895312 2016-10-08 02:55:12 530921 image <![CDATA[Troy Kleber]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895310 2016-10-08 02:55:10 530931 image <![CDATA[Jacqueline Larouche]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895310 2016-10-08 02:55:10 530941 image <![CDATA[Jennifer Min]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895310 2016-10-08 02:55:10 530951 image <![CDATA[Sean Monahan]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895310 2016-10-08 02:55:10 530961 image <![CDATA[Alex Moran]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895310 2016-10-08 02:55:10 530971 image <![CDATA[Megen Wittling]]> image/jpeg 1461963600 2016-04-29 21:00:00 1475895312 2016-10-08 02:55:12
<![CDATA[The Contrarian Dance of DNA]]> 31759 Have a close-up look at DNA; you’ll see it wiggles in the oddest way.

Put more scientifically, a piece of DNA’s movements are often counterintuitive to those of objects in our everyday grasp.  Take a rod of rubber, for example. Bend it until its ends meet, and you can count on the elastic tension to snap it back straight when you let go, said biological physicist Harold Kim.

“That doesn’t always work that way with a piece of DNA. When you bend it into a loop, the elastic energy more often than not wants to bend the chain further in instead of pushing it back out,” said Kim, an associate professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

At the School of Physics, Kim is fine-tuning the observation of how biopolymers behave, in particular DNA at short lengths. He published his latest results on “Force distribution in a semiflexible loop” in the journal Physical Review E on April 18, 2016.  The research is funded by National Institutes of Health. Georgia Tech’s James T. Waters coauthored the research paper.

In complex simulations, Kim studied the motions of DNA chains at lengths where they still have springy qualities, in order to understand their mechanochemical properties, or how they work as microscopic objects. In particular, he has illuminated the forces acting upon DNA bound up in short loops.

That’s a common and important shape that keeps DNA from expressing when it shouldn’t and then possibly messing up cell functioning.

Kim’s most significant counterintuitive find could improve understanding of how DNA snaps free from the proteins that bind them into those loops. He has observed that looped DNA, though on average very gentle in its motions, is beset by moments of unusually high force. 

“It would be a little like a chaotic spring drawn up to a loop making pretty even jumbly movements then suddenly whipping out violently,” Kim said.

The range of observed forces on DNA loops breaks the bounds of what thermodynamics predicts. Even though the mean of the force distribution does indeed equal the thermodynamic force, the distribution of forces pushes past the anticipated norm, falling broadly outside a Gaussian distribution on both ends.

That’s a key determination.

It could help scientists in various disciplines predict the lifespans of many DNA loops and understand the frequency and likelihood of their undoing.

The forces contributing to those momentary jerks and snaps work on the whole contrary to one another. While that elastic energy works on DNA pieces in its ways, the forces of entropy push hard in their own ways.

Reflective of the universe overall, in Kim’s observations of springy DNA loops, entropy, here too, wins. Entropic forces slightly outdo the elastic forces.

And they, too, defy intuition.

To understand how, let’s take a look back at that rubber bar. When a short DNA chain is not looped but only bent, it acts more like the rubber bar. The elastic force dominates and mostly wants to push it back straight, while entropy mostly wants to keep it curvy.

Then, as the DNA chain lengthens a bit and loops: That relation starkly turns on its head.

The elastic force then pulls inward with vehemence, and the entropic force then pushes the chain outward with even more vigor.

The length of a DNA loop appears to contribute strongly to how likely these intermittent extreme forces are to destabilize its bond with the protein holding it shut.

That, incidentally, plays right into many scientists’ current discussions on other biopolymers.

“There’s a lot of speculation right now that the kinds of force-peaks we observed actually regulate the length of some biopolymers, so, in an interesting way, our observations and methods may help colleagues explore this idea more closely,” Kim said.

Kim’s group augmented thermodynamic calculations with a novel simulation method, “phase-space sampling.” It not only establishes the positon of molecular components in space but also their momentum at a given time.

This took into account the constant bombardment by water molecules, i.e. the “heat bath.”

This way, Kim was better able to access the fluctuating forces on looped DNA chains – and see more closely how they really wriggle.

The work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, grant number R01GM112882. Any conclusions or opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

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]]> Ben Brumfield 1 1460732218 2016-04-15 14:56:58 1475896881 2016-10-08 03:21:21 0 0 news Harold Kim studies DNA and other biomolecules to fine-tune observations of their mechanochemical properties, that is, how they act as microscopic objects. At a length and formation often seen in gene non-expression, a short loop of DNA moves in a counterintuitive way with moments of extreme stress, as elastic forces and entropy act upon it.

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2016-04-18T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-18T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-18 00:00:00 Ben Brumfield

Research News

ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu

(404) 385-1933

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525291 525291 image <![CDATA[DNA double helix black background istock]]> image/jpeg 1461074400 2016-04-19 14:00:00 1475895296 2016-10-08 02:54:56
<![CDATA[Missing Links Brewed in Primordial Puddles?]]> 31759 The crucibles that bore out early building blocks of life may have been, in many cases, modest puddles.

Now, researchers working with that hypothesis have achieved a significant advancement toward unlocking a longstanding evolutionary mystery -- how components of RNA and DNA formed from chemicals present on early Earth before life existed. It could also have implications on how astrobiologists view the probability of life elsewhere in the universe.

In surprisingly simple laboratory reactions in water, under everyday conditions, they have produced what could be good candidates for missing links on the pathway to the code of life.

And when those components joined up, the result even looked like RNA.

As the researchers’ work progresses, it could reveal that much of the original chemistry that led to life arose not in fiery cataclysms and in scarce quantities, but abundantly and gradually on quiet, rain-swept dirt flats or lakeshore rocks lapped by waves.

The research from the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, headquartered at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is generously funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation and NASA. The recent results were published on April 25, 2016 in Nature Communications. 

Pursuing the origins specifically of RNA, the close chemical relative of DNA, a research team led by Nicholas Hud, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the CCE, worked with a pair of potential chemical ancestors of the nucleobases of RNA.

For roughly half a century, scientists have hypothesized that life, which uses DNA to store genetic information, was preceded by life forms that used RNA very broadly. And RNA may have had a precursor, proto-RNA, with different but similar nucleotides (the “N” in RNA).

“Early Earth was a messy laboratory where probably many molecules like those needed for life were produced. Some survived and prospered, while others eventually vanished,” Hud said. “That goes for the ancestors of RNA, too.”

Using two molecules known as barbituric acid and melamine, the researchers formed proto-nucleotides so strongly resembling two of RNA’s nucleotides that it is tempting to speculate that they are indeed their ancestors.

The two ingredients would have been readily abundant for reactions on a prebiotic Earth, Hud said.  “And they would have been well suited for primitive information coding,” he added.

Because of the resemblances and properties, some scientists already have speculated on an ancestral role for melamine and barbituric acid.

But the CCE scientists are careful not to jump to that conclusion just yet.

“To claim ancestry, we would have to show a mechanism by which these nucleotides we made in the lab could turn into the existing nucleotides in RNA,” said Ram Krishnamurthy, Hud’s collaborator from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.  “It’s a complex path that we’d have to at least design on paper, and we’re not there.”

Nonetheless, he’s exited about the results. “There are umpteen possibilities of how that mechanism could have happened. Barbituric acid and melamine may have been place holders that dropped out and allowed adenine and uracil to come together with ribose.”

Figuring out how adenine and uracil (nucleobases found in RNA today) combined with the sugar ribose (corresponding to the “R” in RNA) could answer one of the great questions of chemical evolution.

The formation of nucleotides from possible proto-nucleobases and ribose marks a significant advancement in research on the origin of life.

Nucleobases have been combined with other sugars in past studies, but the efficiency of the reactions discovered in this study is much greater than those of that past.

“We’re getting close to molecules that look the way life may have looked in early stages,” Krishnamurthy said.

A series of surprises added to the reactions’ scientific significance.

First, they occurred quickly and the resulting nucleotides spontaneously paired with each other in water, forming hydrogen bonds like the Watson-Crick base pairs that create the “ladder-rung” pattern inside RNA and DNA helixes.

Then the monomers formed long, supramolecular assemblages that look like strands of RNA when viewed with a high resolution microscope.

There has been no reported chemical reaction so far that has produced existing components of RNA under commonplace circumstances that spontaneously form Crick-Watson pairs in water.

And up until now, there had also been no report of a similar pair of nucleotides, like those produced with barbituric acid and melamine, behaving in a like manner, making this another first.

“It works even better then we thought,” Hud said. “It’s almost too easy.”

There was one small caveat.

“The reaction does not work as well if barbituric acid and melamine are present in the same solution before reacting with ribose because their strong attraction for each other can cause them to precipitate,” Hud said. So, the scientists completed the reaction involving barbituric acid separately from the one involving melamine.

But that should not have proven prohibitive on prebiotic Earth. Barbituric acid and melamine nucleotides could have been formed in separate locations, even in the same pond. And they could have very well been plentiful.

“These reactions are exceptionally productive, especially if you compare them to analogous reactions with existing RNA components, which do not produce any nucleotides under the same conditions,” Hud said.

If melamine and barbituric acid formed their respective nucleotides (C-BMP for barbituric acid and MMP for melamine) in separate puddles on the early Earth, then rain could have easily washed the components together, where they would have rapidly assembled into what could have been a precursor to proto-RNA.

“The question is: Can these self-assemblies make the transition into what makes up life today,” Krishnamurthy said.

The researchers hope their work will help expand the scientific community’s approach to chemical evolution.

“If you want to look at what brought about these properties of life you have to go back and consider all the other molecules that would have been present and see how they would have facilitated the molecules that are present in life today,” Krishnamurthy said.

Their work also could serve as a basis for important practical applications, such as the creation of DNA or RNA-like polymers that could spawn production of advanced materials and therapeutic agents.

The chemical reactions that produce the barbituric acid and melamine nucleotides don’t require the use of enzymes and extreme parameters like high heat and pressure. Reminiscent of click chemistry, they could contribute to safe, cost-effective and abundant industrial production.

In addition to those already named, the paper’s authors include Brian J. Cafferty, David M. Fialho and Jaheda Khanam, all from Georgia Tech.
This research was supported by the NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation Program and the NASA Astrobiology Program under the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution under grant number CHE-1004570. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF or NASA.

Research News

Georgia Institute of Technology

Media Relations Contacts: Ben Brumfield (ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu) (404-385-1933)

Writer: Ben Brumfield

]]> Ben Brumfield 1 1460719093 2016-04-15 11:18:13 1475896881 2016-10-08 03:21:21 0 0 news Did it take cataclysmic events like asteroid impacts and underwater volcanic eruptions to create the fist molecules of life, or were many formed quietly in puddles? Researchers working on that latter hypothesis alluding to Darwin's primodial puddle have created great candidates for precusors to RNA.

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2016-04-25T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-25T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-25 00:00:00 Ben Brumfield

Research News

(404) 385-1933

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525161 525141 525201 525221 525211 525161 image <![CDATA[NHud bartituric acid uracil models]]> image/jpeg 1460995200 2016-04-18 16:00:00 1475895296 2016-10-08 02:54:56 525141 image <![CDATA[Nicholas Hud proto-nucleotides ba melamine]]> image/jpeg 1460995200 2016-04-18 16:00:00 1548282895 2019-01-23 22:34:55 525201 image <![CDATA[NHud nucleotide assemblage gel]]> image/jpeg 1461074400 2016-04-19 14:00:00 1475895296 2016-10-08 02:54:56 525221 image <![CDATA[Nicholas Hud supramolecular assemblage vile]]> image/jpeg 1461074400 2016-04-19 14:00:00 1475895296 2016-10-08 02:54:56 525211 image <![CDATA[Hud proto-nucleotides assemblage]]> image/jpeg 1461074400 2016-04-19 14:00:00 1548282998 2019-01-23 22:36:38
<![CDATA[Cellular Choice: Liver or Pancreas?]]> 28153 Multipotent progenitor cells play a vital role in the development and regeneration of various types of mature tissues, including diseases like cancer. So it’s important to understand the mechanisms of how they differentiate into some tissues and organs, but not others.

That’s what Chong Shin, researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is working on. Recently published research from her lab explains how the common progenitors of the liver and the pancreas make that developmental choice – to become a liver or pancreas. Their findings will allow researchers to predict the development potential of a progenitor while enhancing stem cell differentiation into specific liver or pancreas lineages.

The liver and pancreas originate from a common multipotent source – hepatopancreatic progenitors. Previously during her postdoctoral training at the University of California at San Francisco, Shin showed that Bone morphogenetic protein 2b (Bmp2b) signaling is essential for determining which direction these progenitors will take – liver or pancreas.

“But we didn’t understand what is beneath the mechanism, how it’s controlled. We didn’t understand the details,” says Shin, assistant professor in the School of Biology and the corresponding author of the paper, entitled, “Four and a Half LIM Domains 1b (Fhl1b) Is Essential for Regulating the Liver versus Pancreas Fate Decision and for β-Cell Regeneration,” published recently in PLOS Genetics.

Through transcriptome profiling of endodermal tissues exposed to increased or decreased Bmp2b signaling, the researchers discovered a zebrafish gene, four and a half LIM domains 1b (fhl1b), as a novel target of Bmp2b signaling. Primarily expressed in the embryonic liver, fhl1b generally suppresses specification of the pancreas and induces the liver. 

The researchers employed a form of fate mapping called single-cell lineage tracing to show that depletion of fhl1b caused a liver-to-pancreas fate switch (i.e., liver development is suppressed and the pancreas is induced), while overexpression of fhl1b redirected pancreatic progenitors to become liver cells. 

“We were able to basically track a single progenitor cell and all of its progeny, so it’s a very cool technique,” says Jin Xu, a graduate student researcher in Shin’s lab and the lead author of the paper. “Using this technique, we discovered that we can precisely tell what happens when we have more or less of this gene being expressed.”

Additionally, they discovered that fhl1b regulates regeneration of insulin-secreting beta cells. Loss of fhl1b increased the regenerative capacity of beta cells by increasing pdx1 gene, which is essential for pancreatic development. 

Taken altogether, the researchers’ data reveals novel and critical functions of fhl1b in the hepatic versus pancreatic fate decision and in beta cell regeneration. It’s information that Shin says could lead to, “another way of enhancing the development of healthy organs through directed differentiation,” since effective Bmp suppression is critical for the induction of PDX1 and the subsequent generation of beta cells in human pluripotent stem cells (hESCs).

In addition to Shin and Xu (based in the School of Biology), other authors of the research paper included two researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Germany – Jiaxi Cui and Aranzazu Del Campo who synthesized the compound for the single-cell lineage tracing.

Shin credits Xu with carrying the biggest load, performing the experiments.

“I’m so proud of him,” Shin says. “It took 11 months from the initial submission to the final acceptance, and that included a lot of late nights, including plenty of all-nighters.” 

 

This research was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (K01DK081351), the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine Research Center (2731336 and 1411318), the National Science Foundation (1354837), and the School of Biology (Georgia Institute of Technology).

Citation: Xu J, Cui J, Del Campo A, Shin CH (2016) Four and a Half LIM Domains 1b (Fhl1b) Is Essential for Regulating the Liver versus Pancreas Fate Decision and for β-Cell Regeneration. PLoS Genet 12(2): e1005831. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1005831 (http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1005831)

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1461237332 2016-04-21 11:15:32 1475896885 2016-10-08 03:21:25 0 0 news Shin lab research focuses on understanding the signals that determine developmental fate

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2016-04-21T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-21T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-21 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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527561 527551 527561 image <![CDATA[insulin molecule]]> image/jpeg 1461337200 2016-04-22 15:00:00 1475895301 2016-10-08 02:55:01 527551 image <![CDATA[Chong Shin and Jin Xu]]> image/jpeg 1461337200 2016-04-22 15:00:00 1475895301 2016-10-08 02:55:01
<![CDATA[Cellphone Principles Help Microfluidic Chip Digitize Information on Living Cells]]> 27303 Phone calls and text messages reach you wherever you are because your phone has a unique identifying number that sets you apart from everybody else on the network. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are using a similar principle to track cells being sorted on microfluidic chips.

The technique uses a simple circuit pattern with just three electrodes to assign a unique seven-bit digital identification number to each cell passing through the channels on the microfluidic chip. The new technique also captures information about the sizes of the cells, and how fast they are moving. That identification and information could allow automated counting and analysis of the cells being sorted.

The research, reported in the journal Lab on a Chip, could provide the electronic intelligence that might one day allow inexpensive labs on a chip to conduct sophisticated medical testing outside the confines of hospitals and clinics. The technology can track cells with better than 90 percent accuracy in a four-channel chip.

“We are digitizing information about the sorting done on a microfluidic chip,” explained Fatih Sarioglu, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “By combining microfluidics, electronics and telecommunications principles, we believe this will help address a significant challenge on the output side of lab-on-a-chip technology.”

Microfluidic chips use the unique biophysical or biochemical properties of cells and viruses to separate them. For instance, antigens can be used to select bacteria or cancer cells and route them into separate channels. But to obtain information about the results of the sorting, those cells must now be counted using optical methods.

The new technique, dubbed microfluidic CODES, adds a grid of micron-scale electrical circuitry beneath the microfluidic chip. Current flowing through the circuitry creates an electrical field in the microfluidic channels above the grid. When a cell passes through one of the microfluidic channels, it creates an impedance change in the circuitry that signals the cell’s passage and provides information about the cell’s location, size and the speed at which it is moving through the channel.

This impedance change has been used for many years to detect the presence of cells in a fluid, and is the basis for the Coulter Counter which allowed blood counts to be done quickly and reliably. But the microfluidic CODES technique goes beyond counting.

The positive and negative charges from the intermingled electrical circuits create a unique identifying digital signal as each cell passes by, and that sequence of ones and zeroes is attached to information about the impedance change. The unique identifying signals from multiple cells can be separated and read by a computer, allowing scientists to track not only the properties of the cells, but also how many cells have passed through each channel.

“By judiciously aligning the grid pattern, we can generate the codes at the locations we choose when the cells pass by,” Sarioglu explained. “By measuring the current conduction in the whole system, we can identify when a cell passes by each location.”

Because the cells sorted into each channel of a microfluidic chip have certain characteristics in common, the technique would allow the automated detection of cancer cells, bacteria or even viruses in a fluid sample. Sarioglu and his students have demonstrated that they can track more than a thousand ovarian cancer cells with an accuracy rate of better than 90 percent.

The underlying principle for the cell identification is called code division multiple access (CDMA), and it’s essential for helping cellular networks separate the signals from each user. The microfluidic channels are fabricated from a plastic material using soft lithographic techniques. The electrical pattern is fabricated separately on a glass substrate, then aligned with the plastic chip

“We have created an electronic sensor without any active components,” Sarioglu said. “It’s just a layer of metal, cleverly patterned. The cells and the metallic layer work together to generate digital signals in the same way that cellular telephone networks keep track of each caller’s identity. We are creating the equivalent of a cellphone network on a microfluidic chip.”

The next step in the research will be to combine the electronic sensor with a microfluidic chip able to actively sort cells. Beyond cancer cells, bacteria and viruses, such a system could also sort and analyze inorganic particles.

The computing requirements of the system would be minimal, requiring no more than the processor power of smartphones that already handle decoding of CDMA signals. The proof-of-principle device contains just four channels, but Sarioglu believes the design could easily be scaled up to include many more channels.

“This is like putting a USB port on a microfluidic chip,” he explained. “Our technique could turn all of the microfluidic manipulations that are happening on the chip into quantitative data related to diagnostic measurements.

Ultimately, the researchers hope to create inexpensive chips that could be used for sophisticated diagnostic testing in physician offices or remote locations. Chips might be contained on cartridges that would automate the testing process.

“It will be very exciting to scale this up, and I think that will open up the possibility for many different assays to become accessible electronically,” Sarioglu said. “Decentralizing health care is an important trend, and our technology might one day allow many kinds of diagnostic tests to be done beyond hospitals and large medical facilities.”

Other co-authors of the paper included Ruxiu Liu, Ningquan Wang, and Farhan Kamili, all Georgia Tech graduate students.

CITATION: Ruxiu Liu, Ningquan Wang, Farhan Kamili and A. Fatih Sarioglu, “Microfluidic CODES: a scalable multiplexed electronic sensor for orthogonal detection of particles in microfluidic channels,” (Lab on a Chip, 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/c6lc00209a

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Media Relations Contacts: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986) or Ben Brumfield (ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu) (404-385-1933).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1461173420 2016-04-20 17:30:20 1475896885 2016-10-08 03:21:25 0 0 news Phone calls and text messages reach you wherever you are because your phone has a unique identifying number that sets you apart from everybody else on the network. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are using a similar principle to track cells being sorted on microfluidic chips. 

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2016-04-20T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-20T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-20 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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527371 527391 527411 527431 527371 image <![CDATA[Hybrid chip uses cellphone principles]]> image/jpeg 1461337200 2016-04-22 15:00:00 1475895301 2016-10-08 02:55:01 527391 image <![CDATA[Closeup of hybrid chip]]> image/jpeg 1461337200 2016-04-22 15:00:00 1475895301 2016-10-08 02:55:01 527411 image <![CDATA[Ovarian cancer cells in microfluidic chip]]> image/jpeg 1461337200 2016-04-22 15:00:00 1475895301 2016-10-08 02:55:01 527431 image <![CDATA[Developing hybrid chips]]> image/jpeg 1461337200 2016-04-22 15:00:00 1475895301 2016-10-08 02:55:01
<![CDATA[Thomas Gets Boost from DoD]]> 28153 The Department of Defense office of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program awarded Petit Institute researcher Susan Thomas with a Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program Career Development Award. 

Thomas, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, is awarded $529,000 over three years as part of a grant program that supports independent, early-career investigators who are conducting impactful research. The award is designed to foster groundbreaking cancer research relevant to active duty Service members, their families, and other military beneficiaries.

Thomas’s project focuses on developing targeted therapeutic approaches to treat melanoma, a disease that disproportionately affects U.S. Military personnel. Her laboratory will utilize nanotechnology to investigate how targeted delivery improves melanoma immunotherapy.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1460707554 2016-04-15 08:05:54 1475896881 2016-10-08 03:21:21 0 0 news Petit Institute researcher receives career development award

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2016-04-15T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-15T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-15 00:00:00 398621 398621 image <![CDATA[Susan Thomas]]> image/jpeg 1449246371 2015-12-04 16:26:11 1475895115 2016-10-08 02:51:55
<![CDATA[Dynamic Model Helps Understand Healthy Lakes to Heal Sick Ones]]> 27303 Development of a dynamic model for microbial populations in healthy lakes could help scientists understand what’s wrong with sick lakes, prescribe cures and predict what may happen as environmental conditions change. Those are among the benefits expected from an ambitious project to model the interactions of some 18,000 species in a well-studied Wisconsin lake.

The research produced what may be the largest dynamic model of microbial species interactions ever created. Analyzing long-term data from Lake Mendota near Madison, Wisconsin, a Georgia Tech research team identified and modeled interactions among 14 sub-communities, that is, collections of different species that become dominant at specific times of the year. Key environmental factors affecting these sub-communities included water temperature and the levels of two nutrient classes: ammonia/phosphorus and nitrates/nitrites. The effects of these factors on the individual species were, in general, more pronounced than those of species-species interactions.

Beyond understanding what’s happening in aquatic microbial environments, the model might also be used to study other microbial populations – perhaps even human microbiomes. The research was reported on March 24 in the journal Systems Biology and Applications, a Nature partner journal. The work was sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Dimensions of Biodiversity program.

“Ultimately, we want to understand why some microbial populations are declining and why some are increasing at certain times of the year,” said Eberhard Voit, the paper’s corresponding author and The David D. Flanagan Chair Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We want to know why these populations are changing – whether it is because of environmental conditions alone, or interactions between the different species. Importantly, we also look at the temporal development: how interactions change over time.”

Because of the large number of different microorganisms involved, creating such a model was a monumental task. To make it more manageable, the researchers segmented the most abundant species into groups that had significant interactions at specific times of the year. Georgia Tech Research Scientist Phuongan Dam created 14 such categories or sub-communities – corresponding to roughly one per month – and mapped the relationships between them during different times of the year. Two of the 14 groups had two population peaks per year.

“The exciting part about this work is that we are now able to model hundreds of species,” said Kostas Konstantinidis, a co-author on the paper and the Carlton S. Wilder associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The ability to dynamically model microbial communities containing hundreds or even thousands of species as those interactions change over time or after environmental perturbations will have numerous implications and applications for other research areas.”

In the past, researchers have created static models of interactions between large numbers of microorganisms, but those provided only snapshots in time and couldn’t be used to model interactions as they change throughout the year. Scientists might want to know, for example, what would happen if a community lost one species, if a flood of nutrients hit the lake or if the temperature rose.

As with many communities, the lake includes organisms from different species and families that are highly interconnected, playing a variety of interrelated roles, such as fixing nitrogen, carrying out photosynthesis, degrading pollutants and providing metabolic services used by other organisms. Information about the microbes came from a long-term data set compiled by other scientists who study the lake on a regular basis.

Voit, a bio-mathematician, said the model, although itself nonlinear, uses algorithms based on linear regression, which can be analyzed using standard computer clusters. Using their 14 sub-communities, the researchers found 196 interactions that could describe the species interactions – a far easier task than analyzing the 300 million potential interactions between the full 18,642 species in the lake. Reducing the number of potential interactions was possible only due to the strategy of defining sub-communities and a clever modeling approach.

The researchers initially tried to organize the microbes into genetically related organisms, but that strategy failed.

“At any time of the year, the lake needs species that can do certain tasks,” said Voit. “Closely-related species tend to play essentially the same roles, so that putting them all together into the same group results in having many organisms doing the same things – but not executing other tasks that are needed at a specific time. By looking at the 14 sub-communities, we were able to get a smorgasbord of every task that needed to be done using different combinations of the microorganisms at each time.”

By looking at sub-communities present at specific times of the year, the research team was able to study interactions that occurred naturally – and avoided having to study interactions that rarely took place. The model examines interactions at two levels: among the 14 sub-communities, and between the sub-communities and individual species.

The research depended heavily on metagenomics, the use of genomic analysis to identify the microorganisms present. Only 1 percent of microbial species can be cultured in the laboratory, but metagenomics allows scientists to obtain the complete inventory of species present by identifying specific sections of their DNA. Because they are not fully characterized species, the components of genomic data are termed “operational taxonomic units” (OTUs), which the team used as a "proxy" for species.

The next step in the research will be to complete a similar study of Lake Lanier, located north of Atlanta. In addition to the information studied for Lake Mendota, that study will gather data about the enzymatic and metabolic activities of the microorganism communities. Lake Lanier feeds the Chattahoochee River and a series of other lakes, and the researchers hope to study the entire river system to assess how different environments and human activities affect the microbial populations.

The work could lead to a better understanding of what interactions are necessary for a healthy lake, which may help scientists determine what might be needed to address problems in sick lakes. The modeling technique might also help scientists with other complex microbial systems.

“Our work right now is with the lake community, but the methods could be applicable to other microbial communities, including the human microbiome,” said Konstantinidis. “As with sick lakes, understanding what is healthy might one day allow scientists to diagnose microbiome-related disease conditions and address them by adjusting the populations of different microorganism sub-communities.”

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DEB-1241046. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

CITATION: Phuongan Dam, Luis L. Fonseca, Konstantinos T. Konstantinidis and Eberhard O. Voit, “Dynamic models of the complex microbial metapopulation of Lake Mendota,” (Nature Partner Journal Systems Biology and Applications, 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npjsba.2016.7

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Media Relations Contacts: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986) or Ben Brumfield (ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu) (404-385-1933).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1460028795 2016-04-07 11:33:15 1475896877 2016-10-08 03:21:17 0 0 news Development of a dynamic model for microbial populations in healthy lakes could help scientists understand what’s wrong with sick lakes, prescribe cures and predict what may happen as environmental conditions change. Those are among the benefits expected from an ambitious project to model the interactions of some 18,000 species in a well-studied Wisconsin lake.

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2016-04-07T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-07T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-07 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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522421 522431 522421 image <![CDATA[Lake Lanier, Georgia]]> image/jpeg 1460134800 2016-04-08 17:00:00 1475895291 2016-10-08 02:54:51 522431 image <![CDATA[Lake Lanier, Georgia2]]> image/jpeg 1460134800 2016-04-08 17:00:00 1475895291 2016-10-08 02:54:51
<![CDATA[Crab Shell Signaling Helps Control the Many Faces of Cholera, Study Shows]]> 27303 In humans, cholera is among the world’s most deadly diseases, killing as many as 140,000 persons a year, according to World Health Organization statistics. But in aquatic environments far away from humans, the same bacterium attacks neighboring microbes with a toxic spear – and often steals DNA from other microorganisms to expand its own capabilities.

A new study of more than 50 samples of Vibrio cholerae isolated from both patients and the environment demonstrates the diversity and resourcefulness of the organism. In the environment, the cholera bacterium is commonly found attached to chitin, a complex sugar used by aquatic creatures such as crabs and zooplankton to form protective shells. In the wild, most strains of cholera can degrade the shells for use as food, and the new study showed how the presence of chitin can signal the bacteria – which have receptors for the material – to produce behaviors very different from those seen in human disease.

Among the cholera strains studied, less than a quarter were able to take up DNA from other sources. Almost all of the samples taken from the environment were able to kill other bacteria – a phenomenon called “bacterial dueling” – but just 14 percent of the bacterial pathogen strains isolated from humans had that capability.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there even for bacteria,” said Brian Hammer, an associate professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Bacteria such as Vibrio cholerae sense and respond to their surroundings, and they use that information to turn on and off the genes that benefit them in the specific environments in which they find themselves.”

The research, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, provides information that could lead to development of better therapeutic agents against the disease, which is found in densely-populated areas with limited sanitation and clean water. The research was done with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was reported online March 4 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

In humans, the cholera bacteria produce a diarrheal disease that can kill untreated patients in just a few hours. The deadly effects of the disease, however, are actually caused by a virus that infects the Vibrio cholerae strains found in humans. The toxin carried by the virus helps spread the disease among humans, but cholera strains quickly lose the virus and adapt other competitive mechanisms in the environment.

To study how cholera regulates these adaptations, Georgia Tech graduate student Eryn Bernardy obtained nearly 100 samples of cholera bacteria from a variety of sources globally, including one originally isolated from a 1910 Saudi Arabian outbreak of the disease. She then studied 53 of the samples for their ability to (1) degrade chitin, (2) take up DNA from the environment, and (3) kill other bacteria by poking them with a poisoned spear.

Colonies of each strain were grown in petri plates containing chitin material. The strains able to digest the material produced a clear ring showing that they had broken down the chitin in the agar growth medium. Only three of the cholera colonies failed to degrade the chitin.

To study their ability to take up DNA, bacterial cells were grown on crab shells, then exposed to raw DNA containing a gene for antibiotic resistance. The cells were scraped off the shells and placed onto agar plates containing an antibiotic that would normally kill the bacteria. Colonies that survived showed they had taken up the genetic material.

To study their ability to compete with other bacteria, each cholera strain was placed into contact with a billion or so E. coli cells on petri plates. After a few hours in contact, the researchers counted the number of E. coli remaining. Some cholera strains were able to kill nearly all of the E. coli cells, reducing their numbers to a few hundred thousand.

“We found a very sharp difference between the clinical isolates and the environmental isolates,” Hammer said. “For example, most of the isolates that came out of patients either couldn’t kill other bacteria, or were carefully controlling that behavior. Patient isolates have a very different way of competing inside the human body. They use the virus-encoded toxin to cause the diarrheal disease and remove their competitors from the intestine.”

With help from CDC scientists, the researchers correlated the behavior of each strain with their unique DNA sequences. They also examined the strains for the presence of the toxin used to cause disease.

To deduce the rules governing the bacterium’s behavior, Hammer and his lab have been studying cholera for the last 15 years, starting with a single strain first isolated in Peru in the early 1990s. When a cholera outbreak began in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, his lab worked with the CDC to isolate these new strains. In further study, Hammer was surprised to find that the 2010 Haitian strains were less capable than the 1991 Peruvian variety.

“We were very surprised to find that most of the Haiti strains did not behave like the one we had been studying for years,” he said. “This was a reminder to us that we needed to embrace the diversity of the organisms we’ve been studying. We thought this would be an opportune time to start looking at how diverse Vibrio cholerae really is.”

Hammer compared the diversity of the cholera strains to the diversity of humans, who increasingly receive personalized health care.

“In humans, one size doesn’t fit all for patient care,” he said. “For cholera, the behavior is personalized for each strain. Understanding this will be useful in the development of future therapeutics, and we’re hopeful that knowing how these bacteria interact with other organisms in complex communities will lead us to things that can truly benefit humans.”

In addition to those already mentioned, the study included Maryann A. Turnsek and Cheryl L. Tarr from the CDC. Georgia Tech undergraduate Sarah K. Wilson from the Hammer lab, another author on the paper, is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This material is based upon work supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and National Science Foundation Grant No. 1149925. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the Moore Foundation.

CITATION: Eryn E. Bernardy, et al., “Diversity of Clinical and Environmental Isolates of Vibrio cholerae in Natural Transformation and Contact-Dependent Bacterial Killing Indicative of Type VI Secretion System Activity,” (Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00351-16.

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contacts: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986) or Ben Brumfield (ben.brumfield@comm.gatech.edu) (404-385-1933).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1459951796 2016-04-06 14:09:56 1475896877 2016-10-08 03:21:17 0 0 news In humans, cholera is among the world’s most deadly diseases, killing as many as 140,000 persons a year, according to World Health Organization statistics. But in aquatic environments far away from humans, the same bacterium attacks neighboring microbes with a toxic spear – and often steals DNA from other microorganisms to expand its own capabilities.

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2016-04-06T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-06T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-06 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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522191 522211 522221 522191 image <![CDATA[Cholera on Agar Plate]]> image/jpeg 1460066401 2016-04-07 22:00:01 1475895291 2016-10-08 02:54:51 522211 image <![CDATA[Growing Cholera Colonies]]> image/jpeg 1460066401 2016-04-07 22:00:01 1475895291 2016-10-08 02:54:51 522221 image <![CDATA[Cholera on Agar Plate2]]> image/jpeg 1460066401 2016-04-07 22:00:01 1475895291 2016-10-08 02:54:51
<![CDATA[BME Duo Awarded Fulbright Scholarships]]> 28153 April 1, 2016 (ATLANTA, GA) – Two Georgia Tech students from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), Karisma Gupta and Varun Yarabarla, were recently named Fulbright Fellows for 2016-2017.

This prestigious scholarship offers opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The Fulbright Program, which is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government, was created by Congress in 1946.

Gupta, a BME senior and former Petit Undergraduate Scholar, was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She plans to study the impact of upper room ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) on India’s tuberculosis healthcare initiatives. UVGI has long been a standard method for water disinfection, and proves to be effective in reducing tuberculosis transmission under high burden, resource-limited hospital conditions.

In collaboration with the Foundation for Medical Research and with the support of her advisor Dr. Edward Nardell at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Gupta’s project will identify the obstacles that have been preventing this critical technology from being implemented effectively in India’s hospitals.

“My experience growing up in a suburban city where equal access to healthcare was a right rather than a privilege made me cognizant of the health disparities that I witnessed in Mumbai and other countries,” said Gupta. “It was these healthcare disparities that inspired me towards a career focused on improving healthcare in underprivileged populations. My first step towards my passion in public health and medicine was my decision to major in biomedical engineering.”

She added, “initially, I assumed the most effective way to heal was through direct human contact. However, my BME internship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center was a window of inspiration into the real-world impact of biomedical device and research design. This Fulbright study will provide me with an opportunity to explore the international applications of medical devices, and will assist me in fulfilling my ambition of engineering for better global health.”

Yarabarla, a BME senior born in India and raised in Johns Creek, Georgia, will be conducting neurodegenerative brain research in Lausanne, Switzerland, at one the world’s leading neurology research institutes - École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). He’ll work under the guidance of Dr. Patrick Aebischer, the current president of EPFL and head of its Neurodegenerative Disease Laboratory. 

“My research will focus on studying the neurodegenerative cause of Alzheimer’s disease by carrying out experiments seeking preventative measures,” said Yarabarla. “Early diagnosis of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s is vital to prevent the condition from worsening. The most prevalent neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s is responsible for 50 to 75 percent of all dementia cases. Switzerland is one of the leading countries in the world known for neurodegenerative research.”

While only an undergraduate, Yarabarla has conducted more than three years of research while at Georgia Tech. “I hope that my current research work on the blood brain barrier along with the Fulbright project at EPFL will make a difference for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other dementia related diseases,” he said. “I have discovered my true passion for the field of neurology and will be using research as a stepping-stone toward my career path of becoming a doctor specializing in neurology.”.

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1459556954 2016-04-02 00:29:14 1475896874 2016-10-08 03:21:14 0 0 news Former Petit Scholar Karisma Gupta and Varun Yarabala to conduct international research projects

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<![CDATA[Evolving at Hilton Head]]> 28153 In February 1997, when an avid community of researchers was invited by Bob Nerem to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for a conference to discuss their work in bioengineering and tissue engineering, they brought with them cutting-edge science and the high hopes that it could change the world. 

In mid March 2016, when a larger group of researchers met on Hilton Head for the 20th annual conference, which has come to be known as the Regenerative Medicine Workshop, the science was still cutting edge, and hopes were still high, bolstered now by a sense of purpose harvested from two decades of experience. 

“The workshop has evolved, like the science,” says Nerem, founding director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who launched the annual gathering of scientists, engineers, clinicians and business people.

Nerem, who with his wife Marilyn had a home on Hilton Head at the time, says he got to thinking, “you know, this is a pretty nice place. I wonder if our research friends from around the country would enjoy coming here for a long weekend to be together and network and share their latest results.” 

As it turned out, they really did enjoy it, and every spring they keep coming back. A few, like Nerem and current Petit Institute Director Bob Guldberg, never seem to miss the workshop, which has become such a part of the anticipated academic-year rhythm, that this landmark anniversary sort of snuck up on them.

“I was honestly shocked when I realized this was the 20th anniversary of the 
first regenerative medicine workshop,” says Guldberg, professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. 

“The longevity of the workshop is a testament to the people who come and present their work each year as well as the accelerating momentum of the regenerative medicine field and industry,” he adds. “Its remarkable when you consider the great science that has been shared and the relationships that have been built through this meeting.”

The science and the relationships (both personal and professional) were enough to draw a number of participants who attended the first workshop back to the 20th (March 16-19 at Sea Pines Resort), researchers like Abhay Pandit, who made the trip from the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he is director of the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials.

Pandit, who was with Kendall Company when he first registered for the conference in 1997, led off this year’s panel discussion entitled, ‘Translational Challenges and Opportunities: Experience from the Front Line.”

“Events like this workshop are a collection point of reflection,” he says. “With every new discovery or new innovation, there are new sets of challenges. How we overcome them is a story by itself. I think gatherings like this empower our community to lobby our various funding agencies, to say, ‘these are our challenges, and there is hope in what we do.’”

Buddy Ratner, a keynote speaker at the first Hilton Head workshop, delivered the opening keynote at the 20th, covering three main topics: a celebration of 20 years, a clear-headed overview of the regenerative medicine field, and a perspective on prospects for the future.

“There has been some brilliant research and some of what we’re doing right now could lead to big things,” says Ratner, professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering at the University of Washington, where he directs the Research Center for Biomaterials. 

He points out, for example, that scientific discoveries useful for re-growing a limb already have been made, and that maybe it’s time to develop the technology to exploit these discoveries.

“Re-growing a limb,” Ratner says. “What could be more regenerative than that?”

Michael Hiles, vice president for research and clinical affairs at Cook Biotech, also brought long-term perspective, having attended the first and now the 20th workshops, and some in between.

“We’re still asking some of the same questions, but significant progress has been made,” he says. “There are a lot of cell-based and acellular products on the market now that weren’t back then.”

An expert on biomaterials and biological scaffolds used in tissue engineering applications, Hiles has 30 patents and was starting his company under Cook’s influential umbrella 20 years ago.

“The right place at the right time to start a biotech company from scratch,” he says. Since then, he says, Cook’s extracellular matrix (ECM) tissue grafts have treated millions of patients.

Another leading researcher in biomaterials, Karen Christman from the University of California-San Diego, offered a keynote presentation on “Injectable Biomaterials for Treating Cardiovascular Disease.” It’s an area of research she’s been immersed in since her first Hilton Head presentation, in 2003, when she was still a graduate student. 

“I showed for the first time that you could use an injectable material to improve cardiac function without the addition of cells,” Christman says. “And I was extremely nervous. But Linda Griffith helped me get over my fear of public speaking.”

Griffith, who received her undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech and is now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the Nerem Lecturer, delivering the workshop’s final presentation, “Move Over, Mice: How Integration of Systems Biology with Organs-on-Chips will Humanize Therapeutic Development.”

Her lecture closed shop on what was actually a two-fold event for Georgia Tech at Hilton Head, beginning with the International Advanced Course on Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing (March 12-16 at Sea Pines).

This was the second advanced course, an event that was first held in Portugal in 2013. An international collaboration between Georgia Tech, the Instituto Superior Técnico in Lisbon, Portugal, and the University of Loughborough in the United Kingdom, the purpose of the course is to train pre-doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in the translation of cell-based technologies for the large-scale production into clinical therapies.  

“Getting these young people together to network leads to future collaborations, and that leads to future growth of the field,” says Joaquim Cabral, from the Instituto Superior Técnico, who hosted the first advanced course in 2013.

Sean Palecek, professor at the University of Wisconsin who chaired the organizing committee for the Hilton Head advanced course, calls the event, “a unique opportunity for trainees, grad students, and postdocs to get exposure to the industrial side of cell manufacturing. I think bringing in more industry partners this time worked really well. That was a big hit with the trainees.”

As the advanced course concluded, a new era began for the Regenerative Medicine Workshop, which added a new sponsor this year in the Mayo Clinic, who joined fellow sponsors Georgia Tech, Emory University, the University of Georgia, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin.  

“The workshop has evolved considerably, and its exciting to see how the meeting content has changed over time,” Guldberg says. “For example, 20 years ago topics like immunoengineering or cell manufacturing were not part of the discussion. The combination of beautiful venue, great partnerships, and exciting science make this workshop really unique and I’m already energized about the possibilities for next year.” 

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1459508344 2016-04-01 10:59:04 1475896874 2016-10-08 03:21:14 0 0 news Regenerative Medicine Workshop brings top researchers together for 20th year

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2016-04-01T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-01T00:00:00-04:00 2016-04-01 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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520491 520521 520501 520551 520541 520491 image <![CDATA[Bob G, Linda G, Bob N]]> image/jpeg 1459544429 2016-04-01 21:00:29 1475895289 2016-10-08 02:54:49 520521 image <![CDATA[Nerem Lecture]]> image/jpeg 1459558800 2016-04-02 01:00:00 1475895289 2016-10-08 02:54:49 520501 image <![CDATA[Abhay Pandit]]> image/jpeg 1459544429 2016-04-01 21:00:29 1475895289 2016-10-08 02:54:49 520551 image <![CDATA[Poster contest]]> image/jpeg 1459558800 2016-04-02 01:00:00 1475895289 2016-10-08 02:54:49 520541 image <![CDATA[Bob and Buddy]]> image/jpeg 1459558800 2016-04-02 01:00:00 1475895289 2016-10-08 02:54:49
<![CDATA[Bio's Best and Brightest visit Tech]]> 28153 Michael Hunckler worked in biomechanics labs when he was an undergraduate at Notre Dame, but he’s shifting his focus toward cell mechanics, which is why he was among the 113 students visiting the Georgia Institute of Technology, where the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering hosted some of the nation’s top recruits.

“It’s hard to pass up an opportunity like this, the reputation of Georgia Tech speaks for itself,” says Hunckler, who is considering Tech’s Bioengineering (BioE) Ph.D. program. 

Hunckler was one of 40 students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in the interdisciplinary BioE program, checking out the Petit Institute and Georgia Tech during the recruitment event on March 11. 

Meanwhile, at the same time, the Coulter Department (a combined department of Georgia Tech and Emory University) hosted 73 students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in biomedical engineering (BME). Students like Cara Nunez from the University of Rhode Island.

“I like the interdisciplinary approach here, because I have a wide range of interests,” says Nunez, whose undergraduate majors at Rhode Island are bioengineering and Spanish. “I feel like Georgia Tech would give me an opportunity to explore different areas and tie it together in a project that is specific to me.”

It was a collection of young, big brains that you might expect at two of the nation’s most respected graduate programs. BioE’s interdisciplinary students come from eight different home schools at Georgia Tech, most of which are ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report, including the No. 2 ranked Coulter Department.

“How do you build a strong class of graduate students? Well, it starts with recruitment,” says Shannon Barker, director of graduate training for the Coulter Department, who is especially interested in attracting future leaders in their field, “those rare students who have outstanding technical and analytical potential, while at the same time, possess well-developed communication skills and professional attitudes.”

This was a record-setting affair for both the BioE and BME programs in terms of sheer size.

“It was the largest recruitment event BioE has ever had,” says Laura Paige, academic advisor for the BioE program. It was the same thing for BME – this was the largest number of recruits they’ve hosted.

In spite of the bigger crowd, Paige says BioE faculty still maintained the program’s individual touch when it comes to recruitment. 

“One student commented that they did not expect one-on-one interviews with faculty, that she was one of 10 in a group with the faculty at other schools she visited,” says Paige, who organized the BioE event with five of the program’s eight home schools: (mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, materials science and engineering, and BME).

In addition to meeting one-on-one with faculty, the BioE recruits had a chance to grill a panel of current BioE grad students, who answered questions on everything from the academic load, to housing and quality of life issues. The BME recruits received the same kind of student-to-student inside skinny, which is critical, says Shannon O. Sullivan, because for many students, particularly those on a Ph.D. track, this is a five or six-year commitment.

“We show them labs and we introduce them to professors and tell them they can get a great education here, like they can at many of the schools they applied to. But we also ask them if they can imagine coming here and building a life,” says Sullivan, the Coulter Department’s graduate program manager, who organized a three-day BME event – the largest ever for BME – that included visits to both Emory and Georgia Tech (and a fancy dinner at the Fox Theater, as well as visits to different Atlanta hotspots with current BME grad students).

“We’ve orchestrated this event to emphasize both the intellectual side as well as the interpersonal side of Georgia Tech and Atlanta,” Sullivan says. “This is about creating a community.”

And it took a community of 50 student volunteers to pull it off, led by Aline Yonezawa, a second-year BME grad student in the lab of Michael Davis. Yonezawa remembers when she was being courted by the Coulter Department, and used that as inspiration.

“My recruitment experience was a deciding factor for my graduate school decision,” she says. “I remember being impressed by all the faculty. But what really stood out to me was how friendly and collaborative everyone seemed to be.”

In that spirit, the two programs – BioE and BME – collaborated for the week’s climactic event on Friday, a research poster session that brought all 113 students and a large number of faculty together in the Petit Institute atrium.

“Coordinating the events was a wonderful change this year,” Barker says. “These two programs are so important and complement each other well.”


CONTACT:
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1458836059 2016-03-24 16:14:19 1475896869 2016-10-08 03:21:09 0 0 news Record number of graduate student recruits hosted by Petit Institute and Coulter Department

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2016-03-24T00:00:00-04:00 2016-03-24T00:00:00-04:00 2016-03-24 00:00:00
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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517291 517301 517321 517331 517311 517291 image <![CDATA[BioE Recruitment]]> image/jpeg 1458923959 2016-03-25 16:39:19 1475895282 2016-10-08 02:54:42 517301 image <![CDATA[Bob G.]]> image/jpeg 1458923959 2016-03-25 16:39:19 1475895282 2016-10-08 02:54:42 517321 image <![CDATA[BME recruits]]> image/jpeg 1458923959 2016-03-25 16:39:19 1475895282 2016-10-08 02:54:42 517331 image <![CDATA[BioE and BME students]]> image/jpeg 1458923959 2016-03-25 16:39:19 1475895282 2016-10-08 02:54:42 517311 image <![CDATA[Garcia and class]]> image/jpeg 1458923959 2016-03-25 16:39:19 1475895282 2016-10-08 02:54:42
<![CDATA[Bacterial Biofilms in Hospital Water Pipes May Show Pathogenic Properties]]> 27303 The human microbiome, a diverse collection of microorganisms living inside us and on our skin, has attracted considerable attention for its role in a broad range of human health issues. Now, researchers are discovering that the built environment also has a microbiome, which includes a community of potentially-pathogenic bacteria living inside water supply pipes.

A paper published March 11 in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology describes microbial communities found in shower hoses at a major U.S. hospital. The study documented bacteria – and related genes – using cutting-edge metagenomic techniques that allow the characterization of organisms that cannot be detected using traditional culture-based microbiology assays.

Researchers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Institute of Technology collaborated to study these biofilm communities, but can’t say yet if these bacteria pose a threat to hospital patients. But because some of the genes could indicate pathogenic characteristics – such as resistance to antibiotics – the researchers want to learn more about the potential health implications, and whether other buildings house similar biofilms. Antibiotic resistance is a public health emerging priority identified by the World Health Organization, which in 2015 released a global action plan to address the problem.

“We can say confidently that if pathogens are in there, they are not there in very high abundance,” said Kostas Konstantinidis, an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech. “But the organisms that we detected as abundant in these biofilms appear to have characteristics that could be of interest because they are related to some bacteria that are opportunistic pathogens that could pose a threat, especially to immunocompromised hospital patients”

The study began by culturing bacteria from 40 shower hoses removed from individual hospital rooms by EPA researchers. Nucleic acid was extracted from five of the shower hoses and processed using next-generation sequencing technology. The sequencing data was sent to Georgia Tech, where doctoral student Maria Juliana Soto-Girón matched the sequences against known bacteria – and genes that have known effects, such as virulence and antibiotic resistance.

The microbiome study found an abundant population of bacteria that the researchers believe are novel “Mycobacterium-like” species not described previously, closely related to Mycobacterium rhodesiae and Mycobacterium tusciae. Traditional culture-based methods instead identified organisms affiliated with Proteobacteria – such as members of the genera Sphingomonas, Blastomonas and Porphyrobacter – as the most abundant.

The biofilm communities harbored genes related to disinfectant tolerance, which constituted 2.3 percent of the total annotated proteins – and a lower abundance of virulence determinants related to colonization and evasion of the host immune system. Additionally, genes potentially conferring resistance to beta-lactam, aminoglycoside, amphenicol and quinolone antibiotics were identified. The frequency of these genes was higher than the frequency found in Lake Lanier, a natural freshwater ecosystem that has been studied by the Georgia Tech research team, suggesting that the drinking water pipe environments merit closer attention.

The research grew out of an EPA research project to understand the issues of drinking water systems and building microbiomes – the collection of microbes found in such structures. While biofilms are common in building water pipes, this study generated the most metagenomic data so far for the organisms living in these water systems. Additionally, the researchers analyzed 94 partial genomes of isolated biofilm bacteria, including some that had not been reported before, though they are related to previously-characterized microorganisms.

Though well-known pathogens weren’t seen in abundance, the presence of genes for antibiotic resistance, resistance to water disinfectants and virulence raises concerns because bacteria can share such genes to potentially become more significant health threats.

“If they have a core of genes, they may be receptive to acquiring other genes that will render these microorganisms more problematic," said Jorge Santo Domingo, a microbial ecologist with the EPA’s Office of Research and Development in Cincinnati. “These organisms are very good at living in difficult environmental conditions with limited carbon sources, so fighting them could become a challenging proposition. We don’t know if they constitute a problem, but we certainly want to find out.”

The analysis of material taken from the shower hoses is only a preliminary study, and much more research will be needed. Santo Domingo compared the findings to a “check engine” light in an automobile. The warning doesn’t necessarily indicate an immediate problem, though it does show that attention – and potential action – may be required.

“Some of the identified genes are the kind that we’d want to keep an eye on,” he explained. “We would like to conduct more studies to gather data on the dynamics of these bacterial groups, but the fact that these genes are present indicates that more studies should be done.”

The potential clinical significance of the bacteria needs to studied, and any public health impacts understood, he added. Other questions include whether similar biofilms would be found in other hospitals, whether biofilms differ among facilities, how monitoring should be done – and whether shower heads and hoses should be replaced on a regular basis.

The work could also provide a foundation for new research into the types of water disinfection used in hospitals. The chlorine compounds used in public drinking water may not provide sufficient protection for water supplies in these facilities. The sequencing data and bioinformatics analyses will help identify genetic markers that could be used to monitor these genes and determine their public health relevance.

While Konstantinidis and his research group have been studying microbes in natural ecosystems such as Lake Lanier in Georgia, this represents their first metagenome analysis of microbial communities in the built environment. They are hopeful that the technique, which is still in the research and development stage, can help understand issues involving microbial populations and their virulence potential in buildings where humans spend most of their time.

“Metagenomics gives you a more complete and quantitative picture of what microorganisms are there and how abundant they are,” he said. “This shows that traditional culture methods are limited in what they can detect, and that they can often provide a biased look at what is there.”

In addition to those already mentioned, the paper’s authors included Luis Rodriguez and Chengwei Luo from Georgia Tech, Michael Elk and Hodon Ryu from Pegasus, Inc., and Jill Hoelle from the EPA.

CITATION: Maria J. Soto-Girón, et al., “Characterization of biofilms developing on hospital shower hoses and implications for nosocomial infections,” (Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2016).

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1457712916 2016-03-11 16:15:16 1475896865 2016-10-08 03:21:05 0 0 news Researchers have described microbial communities found in shower hoses at a major U.S. hospital. The study documented bacteria – and related genes – using cutting-edge metagenomic techniques that allow the characterization of organisms that cannot be detected using traditional culture-based microbiology assays.

]]>
2016-03-11T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-11T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-11 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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512491 512501 512511 512491 image <![CDATA[Hospital Biofilms1]]> image/jpeg 1458923712 2016-03-25 16:35:12 1475895275 2016-10-08 02:54:35 512501 image <![CDATA[Hospital Biofilm]]> image/jpeg 1458923712 2016-03-25 16:35:12 1475895275 2016-10-08 02:54:35 512511 image <![CDATA[Hospital Biofilms2]]> image/jpeg 1458923712 2016-03-25 16:35:12 1475895275 2016-10-08 02:54:35
<![CDATA[Lachance lab engaged in global effort]]> 28153 Georgia Institute of Technology researchers led by Joseph Lachance are participating in a multicenter genetic study of prostate cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa seeking new information about the genetic causes of prostate cancer. 

Men of African descent suffer disproportionately from prostate cancer compared to men of other ethnicities. So, researchers from 11 institutions in the U.S. and Africa will look at genetic susceptibility and population genomics of prostate cancer in men of African descent. 

Specifically, the study hopes to provide new information about the genetic etiology of prostate cancer and evaluate how population differences and history of African and African American populations affects the underlying reasons for high rates of prostate cancer in African Americans. 

Lachance, a Petit Institute faculty member, and his lab will use their expertise in population genetics and computational biology to focus on the evolutionary genomics of prostate cancer in African populations. 

“It is important to know which populations and ancestries have a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer and to understand whether these health disparities are due to natural selection or neutral evolution,” said Lachance.

The five-year study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is led by principal investigator Timothy Rebbeck, professor of medical oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of cancer epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“Aggressive prostate cancer is the form of the disease that is the most important to control,” said Rebbeck. “African descent men, including African Americans, seem to have biologically more aggressive forms of prostate cancer than other groups.  By studying African descent men, we may also learn about aggressive prostate cancer so that we can better prevent and treat the disease.”

The participating centers, part of an international consortium called Men of African Descent and Carcinoma of the Prostate, include: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston); 37 Military Hospital (Ghana); Albert Einstein College of Medicine (New York); the Center for Proteomic & Genomic Research and Clinical Laboratory Services (South Africa); Hȏpital Général de Grand Yoff (Senegal);  Korle-Bu Hospital (Ghana); National Health Laboratory Services (South Africa); Stellenbosch University (South Africa); University College Hospital (Nigeria); as well as the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, the Stanford Cancer Institute, and Georgia Tech.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1458303264 2016-03-18 12:14:24 1475896869 2016-10-08 03:21:09 0 0 news Georgia Tech researcher part of NIH-funded multicenter genetic study of prostate cancer in African men

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2016-03-18T00:00:00-04:00 2016-03-18T00:00:00-04:00 2016-03-18 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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515291 515191 515291 image <![CDATA[Prostate cancer research]]> image/jpeg 1458923790 2016-03-25 16:36:30 1475895280 2016-10-08 02:54:40 515191 image <![CDATA[Lachance study prostate cancer]]> image/jpeg 1458923790 2016-03-25 16:36:30 1475895280 2016-10-08 02:54:40
<![CDATA[FireHUD Wins the 2016 InVenture Prize]]> 27918 A device that helps firefighters track their vital signs while fighting fires won the 2016 InVenture Prize.

The two-person team behind FireHUD invented a real-time monitoring system and Head Up Display that provides biometric and environmental data to firefighters and officials outside. The goal is to decrease the level of uncertainty firefighters face.

The inventors – Zachary Braun, a computer engineering major, and Tyler Sisk, an electrical engineering major – won $20,000 plus a free patent filing and a spot in Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech accelerator that helps company founders think about their business model and formation.

The two will now represent Georgia Tech at the inaugural ACC InVenture Prize. This competition, which will involve student startups and inventions from each of the 15 universities in the Atlantic Coast Conference, will take place at Georgia Tech April 5 and 6.

The Georgia Tech students behind Wobble finished second Wednesday night and scored $10,000, a free patent filing and a spot in Flashpoint.

Wobble is an automated balance test to assess athletes following concussions. The device would keep athletes safe and reduce the risk of permanent brain damage.

The inventors are: Hailey Brown, mechanical engineering; Matthew Devlin, biomedical engineering; Ana Gomez del Campo, biomedical engineering; and Garrett Wallace, biomedical engineering.

TruePani walked away with $5,000 as winners of the People’s Choice Award, which goes to the fans’ favorite invention.

This all-female team designed an antimicrobial cup and water storage device that makes drinking water safer. The social entrepreneurs came up with the device after two of the team members traveled across India.

The inventors are: Samantha Becker, civil engineering; Sarah Lynn Bowen, business administration; Naomi Ergun, business administration; and Shannon Evanchec, environmental engineering.

The InVenture Prize brings together student innovators from all academic backgrounds across campus in an effort to foster creativity, invention and entrepreneurship.

More than 500 students signed up for this year’s contest. They were narrowed to the six teams that competed in the finale, which was broadcast live on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Learn more about all six finalists here

]]> Laura Diamond 1 1458204456 2016-03-17 08:47:36 1475896865 2016-10-08 03:21:05 0 0 news As the winner, FireHUD will represent Georgia Tech in the ACC InVenture Prize. Wobble finished second in the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize. TruePani was named fan favorite.

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2016-03-17T00:00:00-04:00 2016-03-17T00:00:00-04:00 2016-03-17 00:00:00 Laura Diamond
Media Relations 
404-894-6016 

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514721 47390 514731 514751 514761 514721 image <![CDATA[2016 InVenture Prize Winners]]> image/jpeg 1458923790 2016-03-25 16:36:30 1475895277 2016-10-08 02:54:37 47390 image <![CDATA[InVenture Prize Logo]]> image/jpeg 1449175107 2015-12-03 20:38:27 1475894442 2016-10-08 02:40:42 514731 image <![CDATA[FireHUD - 2016 InVenture Prize winner]]> image/jpeg 1458923790 2016-03-25 16:36:30 1475895277 2016-10-08 02:54:37 514751 image <![CDATA[Wobble Finishes Second in 2016 InVenture Prize]]> image/jpeg 1458923790 2016-03-25 16:36:30 1475895277 2016-10-08 02:54:37 514761 image <![CDATA[TruePani - 2016 InVenture Prize People's Choice Award Winner]]> image/jpeg 1458923790 2016-03-25 16:36:30 1475895277 2016-10-08 02:54:37 <![CDATA[Inventure]]> <![CDATA[ACC InVenture Prize]]>
<![CDATA[Understanding Morphogenesis with Biomaterials]]> 28153 Epithelium is the layer of tissue that covers most of the of internal and external surfaces of your body and organs, a wide-ranging inventory that includes the skin, lungs, gut, urinary and reproductive tracts. The process by which epithelia transforms into these things, epithelial morphogenesis, is critical in the construction and ongoing maintenance of your body, which includes tissue repair.

Playing an essential role in this transformation is the extracellular matrix (ECM), providing physical scaffolding for cells, but also initiating biophysical and biochemical cues required for morphogenesis – contributions that are poorly understood.

“We know morphogenesis is heavily influenced by the surrounding cell matrix, the ECM around the cells,” says Andrés J. García, faculty member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “But the ECM is very complex and difficult to study in its normal state.”

So García, Rae S. and Frank H. Neely Endowed Chair and Regent’s Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, and his colleagues set out to develop a better understanding by making their own matrices, and published their research recently in The Journal of Cell Biology, a paper entitled, “Synthetic matrices reveal contributions of ECM biophysical and biochemical properties to epithelial morphogenesis.”

The team engineered synthetic ECM-mimetic hydrogels to better study the impact of ECM properties on epithelial morphogenesis. Using synthetic matrices, the researchers could control mechanical properties and biochemical signals, making comparisons to a normal matrix.

“To me, the most remarkable thing was that we were able to find formulations that gave rise to normal structures, like you see in a normal matrix,” García says. “If we change the properties we could get conditions that did not allow the cells to grow. They basically stay a single cell and die. And then we had other conditions that gave rise to abnormal structures that looked like pathological conditions – all of this within the same material.”

In addition to elucidating the contributions of ECM biophysical and biochemical properties to morphogenesis, the research also provides a platform, García says, “that can be used to study the process. As a research tool it has a lot of value. If we want to engineer the matrices to direct cells during repair, this provides a good platform, because we’re not relying on matrix derived from the tumor of an animal. We can make it synthetically.”

Basically, it’s technology that can be used to answer fundamental questions of biology while also having a real impact in biomedical technologies, which ultimately leads to better treatments for patients.

García’s co-authors were fellow Petit Institute researcher Todd Sulchek, associate professor in the Woodruff School, as well as Ph.D. students, Ricardo Cruz‑Acuña, Tom Bongiorno, Christopher T. Johnson and José R. García, and the paper’s lead author, former Georgia Tech Ph.D. student Nduka O. Enemchukwu, now a postdoc at the Baylor School of Medicine.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1457527595 2016-03-09 12:46:35 1475896861 2016-10-08 03:21:01 0 0 news García lab develops platform that could lead to better regenerative medicine delivery

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2016-03-09T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-09T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-09 00:00:00
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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511151 511161 511151 image <![CDATA[Epithelium]]> image/jpeg 1458923712 2016-03-25 16:35:12 1475895273 2016-10-08 02:54:33 511161 image <![CDATA[Andrés J. García]]> image/jpeg 1458923712 2016-03-25 16:35:12 1475895273 2016-10-08 02:54:33
<![CDATA[Petit Scholars Scaling New Heights]]> 28153 For 17 years, the Petit Undergraduate Scholars program has been developing a new generation of bioengineering and bioscience researchers, providing a full year of comprehensive research experience for Atlanta area university students.

Since it’s launch in 2000, the program has fostered hundreds of top undergraduate researchers who have gone on to distinguished careers in research, medicine, and industry. That is the point of the program, after all, and this year’s record-setting class of Petit Scholars is poised to carry on that tradition.

“We’re excited about this year’s cohort of students,” says faculty mentor for the Petit Scholars program, Tom Barker, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME). “They represent the most diverse pool of applicants we’ve ever had. And this year’s class again broke records for academic achievement.”

The 2016 version of the Petit Scholars is the largest one yet, with 22 students, and for the first time there as many females as males (11 each). And while the class represents just two schools this year, Georgia Tech and Emory University, it spans a wide range of disciplines (seven different academic majors are represented), and is supported by a record number of funding sources (ten, including a high of six scholarships supported by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta).

Other funding sources include the Petit Endowment, the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine (REM) research center (a collaboration of Emory, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia), pharmaceutical firm UCB, the Beckman Coulter Foundation, medical device giant Medtronic, biotech company Cook Regentec, longtime Georgia Tech supporters Henry and Mary Pruitt and Karl Dasher.

The majors Half of this year’s scholars are BME majors. Other majors represented this year are biomedical engineering, biology, chemistry/biochemistry, chemical and biomolecular engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, and for the first time, industrial and systems engineering (ISYE).

“Applying industrial engineering principles and techniques to analyzing health systems is something that hasn’t really been done until recently,” says Sean Monahan, one of two Petit Scholars (Alex Moran is the other) majoring in ISYE. “Our technique and ability to analyze a health system can have implications at all levels.”

It shouldn’t be too surprising that industrial and systems engineering would be part of the Petit Scholar mix, considering the broad range of bio-related projects the students are immersed in. 

Working with graduate student mentors and Petit Institute faculty, the scholars participate in research in the areas of cancer biology, biomaterials, drug development, molecular evolution, stem cell engineering, systems biology, regenerative medicine, as well as molecular, cellular and tissue biomechanics.

This year, there also is focused interest in the areas of bioinformatics, immunoengineering, neuroengineering, and pediatrics (including robotics, data analytics, interoperability, process improvement, nanomedicine, sensor and device development).

So, for example, Monahan’s project will center on data analytics related to the utilization of pediatric healthcare, while Moran’s research will help determine the lifetime cost of pediatric depression. 

For his part, Barker is eager to see what this year’s group of Petit Scholars will be doing in 10 years.

“I expect great things from this class,” he says. “One day I’ll likely be calling them colleagues.” 

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1457119992 2016-03-04 19:33:12 1475896857 2016-10-08 03:20:57 0 0 news Largest, most diverse group of undergraduate researchers comprise 2016 class

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2016-03-04T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-04T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-04 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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509651 509651 image <![CDATA[Petit Scholars 2016]]> image/jpeg 1458923537 2016-03-25 16:32:17 1475895270 2016-10-08 02:54:30
<![CDATA[These Projects are CHARMED]]> 28153 Children and athletes have a new friend in the CHARMED Foundation, which launched last month. 

The non-profit CHARMED (short for “Children and Athletes Regenerative Medicine”) Foundation, based in New York, is the first organization of its kind in that it supports regenerative medicine research specific to pediatric illnesses and sports medicine. 

A collaboration of leading scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians, the foundation focuses on three research areas: cell manufacturing, personalized medical devices, and therapeutic delivery.

“The unique functional needs and physiology of children and athletes make them ideally suited for emerging regenerative therapies designed to cooperate with the patient’s own healing capabilities and provide long term biological solutions,” says Bob Guldberg, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, who leads the foundation’s Scientific Board of Advisors.

Guldberg also is one of three principal investigators from the Petit Institute leading research projects that are receiving funding from the new foundation. He is teaming with Gary Lourie, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, on a project titled, “Human Amnion Treatment to Augment Repair of Ligament Injuries.”

Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) are the most common knee injuries, typically associated with sports. About 100,000 reconstruction surgeries are performed annually.

The gold standard for ligament reconstruction is the autologous tendon transfer, a method that requires a long rehabilitation time, decreases range of motion, and is associated with weak bone-tendon integration. So the goal of their project is to test the ability of clinically available human amnion, which is used to treat non-healing wounds and corneal injuries, to accelerate the functional repair of damaged ligaments following reconstruction surgery.

Meanwhile, Krishnendu Roy, Petit Institute researcher and Robert A. Milton Chair in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, is leading a CHARMED supported project called, “Synthetic Particle-based Nanobodies to Reverse Chronic Inflammation.”

"Inflammatory and autoimmune disorders impact the lives of children and adults and have devastating consequences,” says Roy, who also is director of the Center for Immunoengineering at Georgia Tech. “Through this project with the CHARMED foundation our goal is develop new therapeutic nano-tools that can directly modulate the immune system, reverse or block chronic inflammation, and can be used to harness the body's own healing mechanisms to treat incurable inflammatory disorders."

The third project, led by Petit Institute researcher Andrés J. García, Rae S. and Frank H. Neely Endowed Chair and Regent’s Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, is titled, “Immunomodulatory Biomaterials to Cure Juvenile Diabetes.”

Type I diabetes affects 3 million children and adults in the U.S., with approximately 80 new cases diagnosed every day and a healthcare price tag exceeding $15 billion. One promising treatment strategy is the transplantation of pancreatic beta cells isolated from cadaveric donors. 

However, this strategy is limited by an insufficient supply of donor islets and also by immune rejection. So the goal of García’s research is to develop advanced biomaterials that prolong beta cell survival and function without the need of immunosuppressive drugs.

The CHARMED Foundation donated $150,000 to begin these three projects, which will provide preliminary results that can be leveraged to secure federal funding dollars in the future. The expectation is to transform the pediatric healthcare system and improve the availability of safe and effective regenerative medicine therapies within 10 years. So this is just the beginning. 

“I’m honored to be part of the CHARMED Foundation and its vision,” says Guldberg. “And I look forward to all that we will accomplish.”

CHARMED Foundation 


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1457115868 2016-03-04 18:24:28 1475896857 2016-10-08 03:20:57 0 0 news New foundation supporting regenerative medicine research for children and athletes

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2016-03-04T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-04T00:00:00-05:00 2016-03-04 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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509631 509631 image <![CDATA[CHARMED Pic]]> image/jpeg 1458923537 2016-03-25 16:32:17 1475895270 2016-10-08 02:54:30
<![CDATA[Study Shows Large Variability in Abundance of Viruses that Infect Ocean Microorganisms]]> 27303 Viruses infect more than humans or plants. For microorganisms in the oceans – including those that capture half of the carbon taken out of the atmosphere every day – viruses are a major threat. But a paper published January 25 in the journal Nature Microbiology shows that there’s much less certainty about the size of these viral populations than scientists had long believed.

Collecting and re-examining more than 5,600 estimates of ocean microbial cell and virus populations recorded over the past 25 years, researchers have found that viral populations vary dramatically from location to location, and at differing depths in the sea. The study highlights another source of uncertainty governing climate models and other biogeochemical measures.

“What was surprising was that there was not a constant relationship, as people had assumed, between the number of microbial cells and the number of viruses,” said Joshua Weitz, an associate professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and one of the paper’s two senior co-authors. “Because viruses are parasites, it was assumed that their number would vary linearly with the number of microbes. We found that the ratio does not remain constant, but decreases systematically as the number of microbes increases.”

The research, which involved authors from 14 different institutions, was initiated as part of a working group from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), which is supported by the National Science Foundation. The research was completed with additional support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the Simons Foundation. The research was co-led by Steven Wilhelm, a professor of microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

In the datasets examined by the researchers, the ratio of viruses to microbes varied from approximately 1 to 1 and 150 to 1 in surface waters, and from 5 to 1 and 75 to 1 in the deeper ocean. For years, scientists had utilized a baseline ratio of 10 to 1 – ten times more viruses than microbes – which may not adequately represent conditions in many marine ecosystems.

“A marine environment with 100-fold more viruses than microbes may have very different rates of microbial recycling than an environment with far fewer viruses,” said Weitz. “Our study begins to challenge the notion of a uniform ecosystem role for viruses.”

A key target for viruses are cyanobacteria – marine microorganisms that obtain their energy through photosynthesis in a process that takes carbon out of the atmosphere. What happens to the carbon these tiny organisms remove may be determined by whether they are eaten by larger grazing creatures – or die from viral infections.

When these cyanobacteria die from infections, their carbon is likely to remain in the top of the water column, where it can nourish other microorganisms. If they are eaten by larger creatures, their carbon is likely to sink into the deeper ocean as the grazers die or excrete the carbon in in their feces.

“Viruses have a role in shunting some of the carbon away from the deep ocean and keeping it in the surface ocean,” said Wilhelm. “Quantifying the strength of the viral shunt remains a vital issue.”

Influenza and measles come to mind when most people think of viruses, but the bulk of world’s viruses actually infect microorganisms. Estimates suggest that a single liter of seawater typically contain more than ten billion viruses.

To better understand this population, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of the microbial and virus abundance data that had been collected over multiple decades, including datasets collected by many of the co-authors whose laboratories are based in the United States, Canada and Europe. The data had been obtained using a variety of techniques, including epifluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry.

By combining data collected by 11 different research groups, the researchers created a big picture from many smaller ones. The statistical relationships between viruses and microbial cells, analyzed by first-author Charles Wigington from Georgia Tech and second-author Derek Sonderegger from Northern Arizona University, show the range of variation.

The available data provides information about the abundance of viral particles, not their diversity. Viruses are selective in the microbes they target, meaning the true rates of infection require a renewed focus on virus-microbe infection networks.

“Future research should focus on examining the relationship between ocean microorganisms and viruses at the scale of relevant interactions,” said Weitz, “More ocean surveys are needed to fill in the many blanks for this critical part of the carbon cycle. Indeed, virus infections of microbes could change the flux of carbon and nutrients on a global scale.”

This work was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grants OCE-1233760 and OCE-1061352, a Career Award at the Scientific Interface from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and a Simons Foundation SCOPE grant. This work arose from discussions in the Ocean Viral Dynamics working group at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, an Institute sponsored by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Science Foundation.

CITATION: Charles H. Wigington, et al., “Re-examination of the relationship between marine virus and microbial cell abundances,” (Nature Microbiology, 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmicrobiol.2015.24

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Assistance: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1453668631 2016-01-24 20:50:31 1475896827 2016-10-08 03:20:27 0 0 news Marine microorganisms play a critical role in capturing atmospheric carbon, but a new study finds much less certainty than previously believed about the populations of the viruses that infect these important organisms.

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2016-01-25T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-25T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-25 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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489661 489681 489701 489711 489661 image <![CDATA[Community of marine bacteria and viruses]]> image/jpeg 1453737600 2016-01-25 16:00:00 1475895245 2016-10-08 02:54:05 489681 image <![CDATA[Virus to microbial cell ratio]]> image/jpeg 1453737600 2016-01-25 16:00:00 1475895245 2016-10-08 02:54:05 489701 image <![CDATA[Virus that infects cyanobacteria]]> image/png 1453737600 2016-01-25 16:00:00 1475895245 2016-10-08 02:54:05 489711 image <![CDATA[Water sampling locations]]> image/jpeg 1453737600 2016-01-25 16:00:00 1475895245 2016-10-08 02:54:05
<![CDATA[Zyrobotics Wins $750,000 NSF Grant]]> 28153 The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant to Zyrobotics, a company that got an initial boost from the Atlantic Pediatric Device Consortium (APDC).

Launched in September 2013 with APDC support by Ayanna Howard, professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the company is commercializing assistive technology that enables children with limited mobility to operate tablet computers, smartphones, toys, gaming apps, and interactive robots.

Based in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, APDC provides a national platform to translate ideas through the product development pathway all the way to commercialization. APDC continues to assist Zyrobotics in an advisory capacity and contribute to Howard’s work as she moves the technology into the marketplace.

Read the whole story here at the Georgia Tech News Center.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1456320535 2016-02-24 13:28:55 1475896853 2016-10-08 03:20:53 0 0 news Company launched with APDC support gets a big boost

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2016-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-24 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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313961 313961 image <![CDATA[Ayanna Howard]]> image/jpeg 1449244929 2015-12-04 16:02:09 1475895022 2016-10-08 02:50:22
<![CDATA[The Chemistry of Microbes]]> 28153 Microbes are living proof of strength in numbers. Too small to be seen with the naked eye, they nonetheless comprise most of the Earth’s biomass, exerting their influence on every aspect of the environment. Understand microbes and you’ve unlocked the door to understanding the past and future of our species and our planet. 

“If you think back over history, over geologic time, microorganisms have driven the chemistry of the Earth,” says Jennifer Glass, assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “So our lab tends to be microbe centered.”

Her lab specializes in biogeochemistry, which is, “kind of a medley of disciplines,” says Glass, a program faculty member within the newly established Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences (QBioS) at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

More than 50 faculty members from a wide range of disciplines came together last fall to launch QBioS. The program's mission is to train Ph.D. level scientists, enabling the discovery of scientific principles underlying the dynamics, structure, and function of living systems.

“This combination is what is needed from the next generation of scientists if we are to understand principles of living systems and, in turn, tackle global-scale challenges,” says QBioS Director Joshua Weitz, associate professor in the School of Biology, courtesy associate professor in the School of Physics, and a member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. 

Students will pursue thesis research across a broad range of themes, including ecology and earth systems, which is Glass’s area.

Glass and her lab members are particularly interested in researching microbes that produce or consume greenhouse gases (like methane and nitrous oxide, both many times more potent than carbon dioxide). For example, they’d really like to understand how ocean systems do such a good job of both making and quelling the methane that comes from the depths.

“A lot of methane is produced in the sediments of the ocean, yet not very much makes it to the atmosphere – it’s only three percent of global sources,” says Glass, whose research currently draws funding from NASA Exobiology, the NASA Astrobiology Institute Alternative Earths team, and NSF Biological Oceanography. “So the ocean is very good at trapping most of the methane that is produced in the sediments.”

So, on the one hand they’re trying to understand exactly where that potential source of natural gas is coming from, and on the other, they want to understand how to leverage natural processes to scrub out harmful emissions. And this is a team that will routinely go to the source to find its samples.

“We try to make our work environmentally relevant, so we go out and sample marine systems or lakes or lake sediments, trying to get representative samples so that what we’re working on in the lab closely represents what’s in the environment,” says Glass. “You have to go to these exotic environments to discover novel ways that nature makes and then consumes greenhouse gases.”

Getting out of the lab into world comes naturally to Glass, who grew up in an outdoorsy family in Olympia, Washington. 

She spent her youth hiking and exploring, romping through marshes with her family, developing an interest in environmental issues that has evolved into full-blown expertise in the clandestine chemistry of microbes and a better grasp of their affect on the Earth’s health.

“We don’t know yet what the applications of the research will be,” says Glass. “But I think the sky will be the limit.”


LINKS:

Sampling Sapelo Island

Blood, Sweat and Tears 

Oxygen Minimum Zone (video)

The Glass Lab

QBioS Program


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1456233542 2016-02-23 13:19:02 1475896849 2016-10-08 03:20:49 0 0 news Glass lab exploring the big picture of tiny organisms

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2016-02-23T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-23T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-23 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Petit Scholar Reaches InVenture Prize Finals]]> 28153 Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar Ana Gomez del Campo is standing on solid ground as a member of team Wobble, a collection of students from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), plus one from the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering (ME). 

They qualified as one of the six finalist teams from across the Georgia Institute of Technology for the 2016 InVenture Prize.

The Wobble is an instrumented platform that translates in two dimensions, testing a subject's relative balance. Force sensors detect when a subject loses his/her balance and takes a step. This makes it useful for evaluating when a concussed athlete is healthy enough to return to play. 

In addition to Gomez del Campo, team members include BME students Matthew Devlin and Garrett Wallace, and ME student Hailey Brown. Gomez del Campo is part of the largest, most diverse Petit Scholar class in the 17-year history of the program, with 22 students. 

Georgia Tech’s InVenture Prize competition is designed to encourage and support undergraduate students’ interest in innovation and entrepreneurship. Once again, more than 500 students signed up for the competition. 

This year’s six finalist teams have invented ways to make life safer, healthier, and a bit more fun. The other five teams are:

FireHUD: A display and data monitor that will track and display real-time information to firefighters in hazardous conditions. The goal is to decrease the level of uncertainty firefighters face. Inventors: Zachary Braun, computer engineering; and Tyler Sisk, electrical engineering.

FretWizard: A virtual guitar teacher for students at varying levels. The inventors designed the site to give people a simpler and more intuitive way to learn how to play songs on the guitar. Inventors: Ali Abid, computer science; and Molly Ricks, international affairs.

RoboGoalie: An automatic retrieval device that collects a soccer ball and launches it back to the player. Similar to a batting cage, this device gives soccer players the flexibility of practicing alone. Inventors (all mechanical engineering majors): Siu Lun Chan, Ming Him Ko, Zhifeng Su, and Timothy Woo.

TEQ Charging: A power management system for electric vehicle chargers. The technology and design lowers the cost of installing current charge stations and increases efficiency by sequentially charging vehicles. Inventors: Dorrier Coleman, computer engineering; Mitchell Kelman, computer science; Joshua Lieberman, mechanical engineering; and Isaac Wittenstein, mechanical engineering.

TruePani: A household sanitation solution, consisting of a passive antimicrobial cup and storage water device that kills harmful microbes in drinking water. This invention was designed for children in rural India who are most affected by waterborne illnesses, but it also could be used in underserved communities worldwide. Inventors: Samantha Becker, civil engineering; Sarah Lynn Bowen, business administration; Naomi Ergun, business administration; and Shannon Evanchec, environmental engineering.

The winning team earns $20,000 and the second-place team receives $10,000. Both first- and second-place finishers will receive free U.S. patent filings by Georgia Tech’s Office of Technology Licensing and a spot in Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator program, Flashpoint.

A $5,000 People’s Choice Award will go to the fans’ favorite invention. Voting will be by text messaging during the finale, which will take place March 16 at the Ferst Center for the Arts. 

The event will also be aired live on Georgia Public Broadcasting. 

Look here to find out more about Wobble.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1456231295 2016-02-23 12:41:35 1475896849 2016-10-08 03:20:49 0 0 news Ana Gomez del Campo part of BME team in university-wide competition

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2016-02-23T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-23T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-23 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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505131 505131 image <![CDATA[Ana Gomez del Campo]]> image/jpeg 1456344000 2016-02-24 20:00:00 1475895265 2016-10-08 02:54:25
<![CDATA[Matt Torres Awarded $1.2M Grant from the National Institutes of Health for Investigating Novel Protein Mechanism Involved in Hormone Signaling]]> 27245 The Torres lab has been awarded a four year, $1.2 million grant by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences to investigate a newly discovered regulatory mechanism that controls G protein signaling, a process essential for the transduction of extracellular signals (such as hormones, neurotransmitters, and photons of light), and the target of most pharmaceutical drugs.

Spawned by their development and application of a custom bioinformatics software tool (called SAPH-ire) 1, the Torres lab discovered a new way in which G protein signaling is regulated by phosphorylation – an enzyme-driven chemical modification of specific amino acid side chains found in most proteins. The newly discovered phospho-regulatory element, like G proteins themselves, is well conserved throughout eukaryotes, which will enable Torres and his lab to investigate how the element functions across diverse organisms such as budding yeast and humans. The National Institutes of Health grant will also provide funding to determine the biochemical mechanism of G protein phosphorylation – including the enzymes that activate the regulatory element in coordination with other cellular processes including cell division and stress. Through these and other approaches, Torres hopes to determine whether his lab has discovered a protein mechanism that is not only fundamental to the process of G protein signaling in all eukaryotes, but also a possible alternative target for pharmaceutical drug therapies.

Dewhurst, H. M., Choudhury, S. & Torres, M. P. Structural Analysis of PTM Hotspots (SAPH-ire)--A Quantitative Informatics Method Enabling the Discovery of Novel Regulatory Elements in Protein Families. Mol. Cell. Proteomics 14, 2285–97 (2015).

]]> Troy Hilley 1 1453882162 2016-01-27 08:09:22 1475896831 2016-10-08 03:20:31 0 0 news The Torres lab has been awarded a four year, $1.2 million grant by the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences to investigate a newly discovered regulatory mechanism that controls G protein signaling, a process essential for the transduction of extracellular signals (such as hormones, neurotransmitters, and photons of light), and the target of most pharmaceutical drugs.

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2016-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-27 00:00:00 491201 491201 image <![CDATA[Matthew Torres]]> image/jpeg 1454009867 2016-01-28 19:37:47 1475895248 2016-10-08 02:54:08 <![CDATA[School of Biology]]> <![CDATA[Torres Lab]]> <![CDATA[Matthew Torres]]>
<![CDATA[Looking Beyond the Structure]]> 28153 The last few years have seen a revolution in the way that diagnosticians evaluate the genetic mechanisms that cause debilitating congenital abnormalities, from heart defects to intellectual disability.  Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is just around the corner, and in about a third of cases it finds a strong candidate mutation, sometimes suggesting new treatment options, but otherwise bringing understanding to parents.  

But what about all of the other cases?

A study from School of Biology Professor Greg Gibson’s group at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, argues that we should be looking not just at the structural parts of genes, but also the regulatory regions around them.  

The paper, entitled “A Burden of Rare Variants Associated with Extremes of Gene Expression in Human Peripheral Blood,” demonstrates that there is a burden of rare genetic variants in these regions that associates with abnormal gene expression.  It does not show that they cause birth defects, but does suggest that they need to be seriously considered as WGS technology develops.

Gibson explains it in the form of a metaphor about building a house.  

“There are two critical components, the bricks and mortar, and the plans for where to put them,” says Gibson, a faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “If there is a defect in the glass or a crack in a piece of wood, then sooner or later the structure may fall apart. This is what current approaches focus on, the so-called protein coding-regions. But if the architect’s plans call for more windows than the beams can support, or the contractor doesn’t deliver enough concrete, then the consequences can be just as bad.”  

We now know that a lot more of the genetic component related to differences in the way we look and behave (or what makes us susceptible to different diseases) is in the planning than the structural components. This insight is based on studies of common polymorphisms, namely the millions of genetic differences that we all share. The new study argues that it will also be true of rare genetic variants, including new mutations that are specific to a single person.

Graduate student Jing Zhao sequenced the regulatory regions of almost 500 genes from 500 participants in the Georgia Tech-Emory Predictive Health Institute study, and added up the number of rare mutations in people whose expression of those genes was toward the extreme.  The result is what she calls a “smile plot,” because the curve has a high number at either end and low number in the middle. It means that the plans can be off in either direction, making too little or too much transcript for each gene.  

“It is as if all the houses with crooked window frames are that way not because of the wood quality, but because each builder made different mistakes when putting the frames in,” Gibson says. 

Furthermore, Gibson says, there seem to be specific subsets of genes where these events are more or less likely to happen. This is important, because it implies that we may be able to develop algorithms that identify the most likely places for regulation to go wrong, based on the evolutionary conservation of different parts of genes.

Projects such as President Obama’s precision medicine initiative aim to use genomics to help researchers decipher individual causes of disease.  In the next few years, Gibson expects that much larger datasets of tens and eventually hundreds of thousands of people, in many different tissues, will appear.  

“The challenges,” Gibson says, “are as much in the bioinformatics than the technology. “

In addition to Gibson and Zhao, also contributing to the published study were research scientist Dalia Arafat-Gulick (lab manager for the Gibson lab), T.J. Cradick (former director of the Protein Engineering Facility at Georgia Tech, now head of genome editing for CRISPR Therapeutics in Cambridge, Massachusetts), Cirian Lee (former postdoc at Georgia Tech, now at Rice University), Urko Marigorta (postdoc in the School of Biology), Gang Bao (former Georgia Tech professor, now at Rice University), Idowu Akinsanmi (former researcher in Bao’s lab at Georgia Tech) and Samridhi Banskota, an undergraduate student in the Gibson lab.

Read the study here.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1455728369 2016-02-17 16:59:29 1475896846 2016-10-08 03:20:46 0 0 news Genetics study shows a burden of rare mutations affecting how our genes are used

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2016-02-17T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-17T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-17 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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502661 502661 image <![CDATA[Medical Genetics]]> image/jpeg 1455904800 2016-02-19 18:00:00 1475895263 2016-10-08 02:54:23
<![CDATA[Physics: It's What's Happening Inside Your Body Right Now]]> 27303 Simple physics may play a larger role than previously thought in helping control key bodily processes – such as how the body fights infection.

Using a model blood vessel system built on a polymer microchip, researchers have shown that the relative softness of white blood cells determines whether they remain in a dormant state along vessel walls or enter blood circulation to fight infection. Changes in these cell mechanical properties – from stiff to soft – can be triggered as a side effect of drugs commonly used to fight inflammation or boost blood pressure.

Other researchers have found that blood flow affects the cells that line arteries and that particles within cells tend to congregate near cell walls. Better understanding the role of physics in fine-tuning such biological processes could give researchers new approaches for both diagnosing and treating disease.

The work, believed the first to show how biophysical effects can control where white blood cells are located within the blood circulation, was reported February 8 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the American Heart Association.

“We are showing that white blood cells, also known as leukocytes, respond physically to these drugs and that there is a biological consequence to that response,” said Wilbur Lam, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “This may suggest new ways to treat disease, and new places to look for diagnostic information. There may be physics-based disease biomarkers that we can use in addition to the common biological and biochemical markers we have been using.”

Lam’s research group began studying the issue to better understand a common side effect of glucocorticoid drugs such as hydrocortisone used to treat inflammatory disorders such as asthma and allergic reactions. These hormonal drugs prompt an increase in white blood cell counts, a change that had been attributed to biological processes, including a reduced “stickiness” between the cells and blood vessel walls. The increase in white cell count is also seen with drugs that support blood pressure, such as epinephrine, also known as adrenaline.

“The biological explanation for this seemed to fall short, so we thought maybe some of what was happening could be attributed to other factors – such as physical and mechanical issues,” said Lam, who is also a physician in the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the Department of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine.

To examine the theory, graduate student Meredith Fay and postdoctoral researcher David Myers fabricated model blood vessel systems that include artificial blood vessels with diameters as narrow as the smallest capillaries in the body. To isolate effects attributable only to physics, the systems – which were fabricated in Georgia Tech’s Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology – did not include the endothelial cells that normally line blood vessels in the body.

Using blood samples taken from a healthy human volunteer, they studied the behavior of white blood cells in the presence – and absence – of the drugs dexamethasone – a glucocorticoid drug – and epinephrine. Working with Georgia Tech Professor of Mechanical Engineering Todd Sulchek, they also used atomic force microscopy to characterize the stiffness of individual white blood cells before and after they had been exposed to the drugs, and determined that the drugs cause the cells to become significantly softer than before exposure.

“When we fluorescently label the white blood cells and perfuse them into the artificial vessels, the white blood cells are always flowing along the edge, on the walls of these artificial blood vessels,” said Lam. “But when they are exposed to the drugs, they go to the center of the channel and enter the main blood flow. Then, we discovered that the drugs cause the cells to remodel actin, which comprises the ‘skeleton’ of all mammalian cells.”

The group’s overall hypothesis is that the body uses the mechanical properties of these cells to help control their activity and where they are located within the circulation. The relative softness or stiffness of the cells, which collide constantly with billions of other cells in the bloodstream, including red and white blood cells, causes the cells to self-sort and determines where they end up physically within both the model blood vessels and in the human body.

“The soft cells are always flowing in the middle of the bloodstream, while the stiff ones are sequestered on the edges,” Lam said. “We believe this is how white blood cells traffic in the body and get to the site of an infection. This may be a way that the body very efficiently sorts and directs its white blood cells to get them where they’re needed.”

As a next step, Lam hopes to study how physical properties affect the movement of hematopoietic stem cells used in bone marrow transplants. Once injected intravenously into the body, the cells quickly move from the circulation to bone marrow sites where they belong, and he believes mechanical properties may also play a role in this homing process.

“Whenever there is a change in some cellular activity or physiological activity, we tend to try to explain everything at the genetic level – which genes turn off and which genes turn on,” he said. “Gene expression is a relatively complex process, and our hypothesis is that there are probably a lot of cellular processes that are much simpler and more efficient than the typical paradigm of DNA expression, then RNA translation, and then protein production. A little tweak of a white blood cell’s actin will allow it to change from stiff to soft, and that small change, in and of itself, may have profound physiologic consequences and enable it to be transported from one part of the body to another.”

In addition to those already mentioned, the research also included Amit Kumar and Michael Graham from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; Cory Turbyfield, Rebecca Byler and Kaci Crawford from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech; Robert Mannino, Alvin Laohapant, Erika Tyburski, Yumiko Sakurai and Micahel Rosenbluth from the Coulter Department, the AflacCancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University School of Medicine, the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, the Parker E. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, and the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology at Georgia Tech; and Neil Switz of The Evergreen State College.

This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under grant 5R01HL121264-03, the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant CBET-1436082 and the American Heart Association. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.

CITATION: Meredith E. Fay, et al., “Cellular softening mediates leukocyte demargination and trafficking, thereby increasing clinical blood counts,” (PNAS 2016). http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1508920113

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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).
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]]> John Toon 1 1454793104 2016-02-06 21:11:44 1475896835 2016-10-08 03:20:35 0 0 news Using a model blood vessel system built on a polymer microchip, researchers have shown that the relative softness of white blood cells determines whether they remain in a dormant state along vessel walls or enter blood circulation to fight infection.

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2016-02-08T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-08T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-08 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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496251 496241 496261 496251 image <![CDATA[Blood vessel on a chip2]]> image/jpeg 1455120000 2016-02-10 16:00:00 1475895253 2016-10-08 02:54:13 496241 image <![CDATA[Blood vessel on a chip]]> image/jpeg 1455120000 2016-02-10 16:00:00 1475895253 2016-10-08 02:54:13 496261 image <![CDATA[Studying blood flow in microchip vessels]]> image/jpeg 1455120000 2016-02-10 16:00:00 1475895253 2016-10-08 02:54:13
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Adds Brainpower]]> 28153 The community of world-class researchers at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience has taken another leap forward with the recent addition of seven new faculty members.

 

Joining the Petit Institute at the Georgia Institute of Technology are Gary Bassell, Sam Brown, Stanislav Emelianov, Douglas Robertson, Wilfried Rossoll, Edmund K. Waller and Aaron Young.

 

Bassell is a professor in the Emory University School of Medicine’s departments of Cell Biology and Neurology. The main research interest of his laboratory is to understand the mechanism and function of mRNA transport and local protein synthesis in neurons of the central and peripheral nervous system. He’s been particularly interested in how impairments in mRNA regulation may underlie spinal muscular atrophy and fragile x syndrome, two inherited neurological diseases affecting children.

 

Brown is making the lengthiest move of the new faculty members, coming to Georgia Tech from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where he was an assistant professor of evolutionary medicine. His lab’s research there focused on the social lives of bacteria – in particular how bacterial social strategies shape disease traits (virulence, transmission, emergence, resistance) and also present new opportunities for control. He is now based in Georgia Tech’s School of Biology.

 

Emelianov was appointed the Joseph M. Pettit Chair in Microelectronics and as a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in 2015, after coming to Georgia Tech from the University of Texas, where he was director of the Ultrasound Imaging and Therapeutics Research Laboratory. His research interests are in the development of advanced imaging methods to diagnose cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other pathologies. Emelianov is based in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering with a joint appointment as professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

 

Robertson, who is based at Emory University Hospital, also provides instruction to students within the Coulter Department (a joint department of Georgia Tech and Emory University). An associate professor in musculoskeletal radiology, his research titled “Using Mathematical Modeling to Design Effective Regenerative Medicine Strategies for Orthopadics” was published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

 

Rossoll is an assistant professor in the Department of Cell Biology at Emory, where his lab’s primary research interest is in the biological role of mRNA transport and local translation in neurons and their dysfunction in neurological diseases (such as spinal muscular atrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS). He’s also a faculty member of Emory’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease.

 

Waller is professor of hematology and oncology in Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, where he also serves as director of stem cell transplantation and immunotherapy. He is a co-director of the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine research center (a collaborative effort between Emory, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia). His research focuses on enhancing immune reconstitution after stem cell transplant and developing cell therapy for anti-tumor immunology and in regenerative medicine. 

 

Young is, indeed, the youngest of the new faculty members. He earned his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University in 2014 then served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Human Neuromechanics Lab at the University of Michigan. He’ll join Georgia Tech as an assistant professor based in the School of Mechanical Engineering, where his research will focus on designing and improving powered orthotic and prosthetic control systems.

 

Now with almost 180 faculty members, the Petit Institute is an internationally recognized hub of multidisciplinary research on the Georgia Tech campus, bringing together engineers and scientists to solve some of the world’s most complex health challenges. With 17 research centers and more than $24 million invested in state-of-the-art core facilities, the Petit Institute is translating scientific discoveries into game-changing solutions to solve real-world problems.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1454497153 2016-02-03 10:59:13 1475896835 2016-10-08 03:20:35 0 0 news New faculty added to community of multidisciplinary researchers

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2016-02-03T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-03T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-03 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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494761 494761 image <![CDATA[New Petit Faculty Feb. 16]]> image/jpeg 1454522400 2016-02-03 18:00:00 1475895253 2016-10-08 02:54:13
<![CDATA[Professor Pamela Peralta-Yahya selected 2016 Kavli Fellow]]> 27370 Professor Pamela Peralta-Yahya was selected as a 2016 Kavli Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences.  She will be attending the 2016 German-American Frontiers of Science Symposium to be held in March 2016 in Potsdam, Germany, which is organized in collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.  The Kavli Frontiers of Science Symposium is a gathering of the best researchers, from the natural sciences to engineering, to discuss advances at the forefront of their fields through one-on-one discussion and networking with a variety of disciplines, to foster connections and collaborations.

The premiere activity of the National Academy of Sciences for distinguished young scientists, the Kavli Symposium is an invitation only event.  Kavli Fellows are selected from recipients of prestigious fellowships, awards, and other honors, or are nominated by members of the National Academy of Sciences or previous fellows.  Over 5,000 celebrated young scientists have attended Kavli Symposia since its inception in 1989.

Congratulations to Prof. Peralta-Yahya on this remarkable honor.

]]> Sue Winters 1 1454332040 2016-02-01 13:07:20 1475896831 2016-10-08 03:20:31 0 0 news 2016-02-01T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-01T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-01 00:00:00 493451 493451 image <![CDATA[Peralta-Yahya_landscape]]> image/jpeg 1454432400 2016-02-02 17:00:00 1475895251 2016-10-08 02:54:11
<![CDATA[Reddi Wins NSF CAREER Award]]> 28153 Nature is fraught with paradox. For example, as much as half of the proteins that we rely on require metals to function properly. But metals can be pretty toxic to cells. So, somehow cells have managed to repurpose something that is inherently toxic into something beneficial. And it’s Amit Reddi’s job to find out why.

“Broadly speaking, we’re interested in figuring out how cells assimilate metals into metabolism in a safe way,” says Reddi, assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a faculty researcher with the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

The work is important enough and challenging enough so that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Reddi with a CAREER Award, an early career development program for young investigators. 

“Basically, the program provides funding for the investigator’s potential to really make an impact,” says Reddi, whose lab focuses primarily on copper and iron, which are among the dozen or so metals that are frequently encountered in biology.

Reddi’s lab is particularly interested in a form of iron called heme (heme gives blood its red color). Heme is very important, he says, because of its presence in a lot of proteins. However, heme is also toxic.

“But we have no idea how the cell shuttles heme around,” says Reddi. “So we want to figure out exactly how cells handle heme – from the time its acquired or made by a cell, to how it’s distributed to all of the proteins that require heme. The grant is focused on understanding how these types of processes work.”

The five-year award is totaled at $912,000, a lengthy jump start, “that gives me time to really build the program,” says Reddi.

His lab has developed sensors to track the flow of heme, so one of the grant goals is to apply these sensors help identify the molecules and processes that regulate the mobilization of heme. 

“The longer term view, beyond the grant, is to recast heme as this very dynamic and mobile molecule,” Reddi says. “Our work has showed that it is actually a very mobile nutrient, and it might be important for signaling.”

Heme is basically present in every aspect of metabolism. So, Reddi’s even longer-term goal would be to control metabolism through the control of heme. 

“If we can inhibit the ability of certain proteins from acquiring heme,” he says, “we can begin to think about targeting diseases like cancer or neurodegenerative diseases where heme plays a role in the pathology.”


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1454334788 2016-02-01 13:53:08 1475896831 2016-10-08 03:20:31 0 0 news Five-year grant will support research on metals in the body

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2016-02-01T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-01T00:00:00-05:00 2016-02-01 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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493511 493511 image <![CDATA[Amit Reddi]]> image/jpeg 1454432400 2016-02-02 17:00:00 1475895251 2016-10-08 02:54:11
<![CDATA[Nelson Wins Fellowship]]> 28153 Tyler Nelson always imagined that some day he’d be working for a large corporation engaged in the work of biotechnology. But the fourth-year PhD student in bioengineering has broadened his scope.

“I’m starting to realize that maybe I want something different and the idea of entrepreneurship is really attractive,” says Nelson. “Making something based on your research, and looking back to say it succeeded or failed – that kind of independence appeals to me.”

Nelson recently got a substantial boost for his research efforts when he was named an American Heart Association (AHA) Fellowship Award winner. The award began January 1 and will extend through 2017.

AHA is supporting Nelson’s project, titled ‘The effects of diet induced obesity on lymphatic function and therapeutic intervention in lymphedema progression,’ with an award totaled at $52,000 over two years.

“Lymphedema affects about one in six cancer survivors,” says Nelson, who works in the lab of J. Brandon Dixon, faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “It basically occurs as the result of some common cancer treatments, like lymph node removal, chemotherapy, radiation.”

The disease causes irreversible swelling, mostly in the arms or legs. It results from a blockage in the lymphatic system (part of your immune system). This blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well and that fluid buildup leads to swelling. There is presently no cure, but lymphedema can be managed with early diagnosis.

“It turns out that people who are obese develop lymphedema at a much higher rate than the rest of the population,” Nelson says. “We want to understand how obesity affects the lymphatic system and its function.”

Nelson, who is from the Nashville, Tennessee, area, earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Mississippi State. After enrolling at the Georgia Institute of Technology, he joined Dixon’s Laboratory of Lymphatic Biology and Bioengineering (LLBB), where researchers focus on developing non-invasive methods to quantify lymphatic function.

He’s always been interested in pursuing a career in industry once he earns his PhD. But since arriving at Georgia Tech, is thoughts on what that might look like have shifted a little bit. 

“Now, I’m thinking that I’d really like to start up a small company, or work with an early-stage company,” he says.

That line of thought is driven in part by his experience in the TI:GER (Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results) program, administered through the Scheller College of Business at Tech. The program is designed to teach students how to address the multidisciplinary issues that are part of technology commercialization. 

Through TI:GER, Nelson has teamed with two MBA students and two Emory Law students. Together, they’re focused on the commercialization of diagnostic and monitoring devices for lymphedema. 

The team, called Lumenostics, is working on a product designed to detect swelling in the earliest stages of the disease. This semester, the students will be engaged in business plan competitions.

“The training I’ve gotten through TI:GER is irreplaceable,” Nelson says. “It really sets you apart and gives you great exposure to the business side of research.”

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1454081869 2016-01-29 15:37:49 1475896831 2016-10-08 03:20:31 0 0 news Bioengineering student using American Heart Association award for lymphedema research

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2016-01-29T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-29T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-29 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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492901 492901 image <![CDATA[Tyler Nelson]]> image/jpeg 1454115600 2016-01-30 01:00:00 1475895251 2016-10-08 02:54:11
<![CDATA[BME grad makes Forbes 30-under-30 list]]> 28153 Allen Chang is in elite company. The former Georgia Institute of Technology student, who earned his undergraduate degree from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering in 2008, was named recently to the Forbes 2016 30 Under 30 list in the Manufacturing and Industry sector.

 

Chang, 29, is co-founder of Vertera Spine, a company that is working on unique spine solutions featuring its novel biomaterial, PEEK Scoria™ – a porous surface technology made entirely out of polyetheretherketone (PEEK). 

 

He was one of 600 people selected across 20 sectors (from a pool of more than 15,000 candidates) to make the Forbes list, now in its fifth year. The honorees represent a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators that are pushing the boundaries in their respective industries by taking disruptive approaches to solve difficult problems.

 

“I'm honored to be included in this extraordinary group of talented people,” Chang says. “I'm also grateful for the opportunity to work at Vertera Spine with a team of passionate engineers, scientists, clinicians and business people.”

 

PEEK Scoria was developed in the lab of Ken Gall at Georgia Tech. Gall is a former faculty researcher at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. He now heads the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University, and is a co-founder of Vertera Spine, where Chang invented a method for manufacturing the porous PEEK material, so that it could be commercialized. 

 

The company plans a commercial launch of the COHERE™ Cervical Interbody Fusion Device, its first PEEK Scoria product cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), later this year. Chang has high hopes for the product’s success.

 

“PEEK is a well-known polymer, it’s widely used, but it doesn’t integrate really well with bone,” Chang says. “But our porous device has been shown to elicit a positive response in a body. With PEEK Scoria, we’re solving the integration problem.”

 

Though he never worked in Gall’s lab while attending Georgia Tech, Chang did take the professor’s ‘Principles and Applications of Engineering Materials’ course, and it made an impression. “That was one of my favorite classes,” he says.

 

After earning his Master of Engineering from Boston University, Chang returned to Atlanta and worked at MedShape, another startup company Gall co-founded.

 

“Allen’s role has been instrumental. He completely led the scale up efforts,” says Gall. “In addition to being a great engineer, he is a risk taker. Rather than short-term compensation, he opted to bet on the company’s long-term value and is a big equity owner because of this.”

 

So Chang is completely invested in the company’s success and is already looking ahead to the next challenge. Vertera Spine is developing a PEEK Scoria lumbar device, and Chang is leading that effort. 

 

“Right now our major task is actually producing our cleared cervical device, so that surgeons can start implanting it into patients. I mean, that’s why we do this, to help patients,” says Chang, who was born in Taiwan and moved to Atlanta when he was 10. 

 

He’s already got a background in helping to improve the human condition, having worked 10 months with AmeriCorps, rehabilitating houses in Gulf Coast states that were affected by Hurricane Katrina, and up-scaling the production of biodiesel. With Vertera Spine, he’s helping humanity in a different way, developing products that can actually replace bone.

 

“We’ve come a long way since founding the company over two years ago,” says Chang. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve as we develop additional product lines in spine and beyond.”

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1453938370 2016-01-27 23:46:10 1475896831 2016-10-08 03:20:31 0 0 news Allen Chang leading production of novel biomaterial technology for Vertera Spine

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2016-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-27 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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492011 492011 image <![CDATA[Allen Chang and device]]> image/jpeg 1454083200 2016-01-29 16:00:00 1475895248 2016-10-08 02:54:08
<![CDATA[Spotlight on Core Facilities]]> 28153 What do you know about the systems mass spectrometry, neuroscience, genome analysis, or microscopy and biophotonics core facilities? What would you like to know? Bring your questions and your ideas to the Petit Institute Core Facilities Symposium on Friday, Jan. 29.

The Petit Institute serves of the hub of 11 state-of-the-art core facilities (including those mentioned above). These are a shared resource for the bioengineering and bioscience community, offering consultation, training and technical support as well as access to more than 100 pieces of lab equipment valued at more than $24 million.

“In general, we’d like to better acquaint the biocommunity with our core facilities, which keep growing,” says Steve Woodard, core facilities manager. 

The past year has seen bio-community core facilities expand to the new Engineered Biosystems Building (where some facilities are still in different stages of development). It’s part of what Woodard sees as an expanding toolbox for the bio-research community. But, as Petit Institute founding director Bob Nerem often says, research is mostly a people business, and one of the goals of the symposium supports that contention.

“This is an opportunity for everyone to meet in a central place, to hear about our different facilities from the people who actually manage them,” Woodard says. “This is a great way to put a face with a name and establish an important contact.”

So, the symposium will offer a quick and intimate glimpse at the people and tools that are here to enhance and accelerate research at Georgia Tech.

It will begin with opening remarks from Woodward and proceed to a series of five-minute presentations from core managers talking about their specific areas of expertise. This will be broken up into sessions: three or four core manager presentations followed by questions and answers; then five more sessions following the same pattern.

The symposium will conclude with a poster session beginning around 11:30 a.m., lasting an hour or so.

In addition to learning about the nuts and bolts and whizbang technology at their disposal, symposium attendees will hear about the new Shared User Management System, or SUMS (a new Georgia Tech-based facilities management system).

“The bottom line is, we want to share information about this incredible resource, our core facilities,” Woodard says. “We also see this as a chance for our world-class researchers to look at our toolbox and offer ideas on how to augment it going forward.”

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1453675737 2016-01-24 22:48:57 1475896827 2016-10-08 03:20:27 0 0 news Symposium will focus on Petit Institute’s state-of-the-art research facilities

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2016-01-24T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-24T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-24 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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489731 391671 489731 image <![CDATA[Core Facilities ENGAGES]]> image/jpeg 1453737600 2016-01-25 16:00:00 1475895245 2016-10-08 02:54:05 391671 image <![CDATA[Steve Woodard]]> image/jpeg 1449246332 2015-12-04 16:25:32 1475894406 2016-10-08 02:40:06
<![CDATA[ENGAGES Coast to Coast]]> 28153 Years from now, maybe when he’s a surgeon repairing damaged shoulders and knees, Qwantayvious Stiggers can look back on his Project ENGAGES experience as a key that opened the door to opportunities he hardly knew existed. 

ENGAGES stands for Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering and Science. Accordingly, the program raises awareness of engineering, science and technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology for students in economically challenged, minority-serving public schools. 

Headquartered at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, ENGAGES gives high school students a chance to work in labs led by some of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s world-class researchers. Stiggers, a senior at B.E.S.T. Academy High School, spends many of his after-school hours in the lab of Krishnendu Roy. It is both a job and a rare education opportunity, and the experience has been invaluable, Stiggers said. But it was a trip far afield that clinched the idea for him that he has a role to play in the world of healthcare.

During fall semester, he was part of a group of seven ENGAGES students who attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (AMRCMS) in Seattle.

“What an eye-opener,” Stiggers said. “The conference exposed me to a world of diversity I didn’t really know about. It was great to see and meet so many other African-American people – people who look like me – pursuing the things that I want to pursue, doing the things that I want to do. It was encouraging.”

That was kind of the point of the trip, admitted Manu Platt, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, who co-founded and co-chairs Project ENGAGES with the Petit Institute’s founding director, Bob Nerem. 

“I wanted them to go because I remember the first time I attended this conference,” said Platt, a Petit Institute faculty researcher. “It’s amazing when you walk in and there are all of these dark-skinned, brilliant kids, dressed to the nines, professional looking. I wanted our students to see this large group of young scientists that look like them, so they could interact and network.”

That Seattle trip was a highlight for Stiggers in particular (it helped reinforce his dreams of becoming a physician with a yen toward research), and the ENGAGES program in general last semester, capped in December with the annual winter celebration at the Petit Institute. The atrium hummed with the chatter of students, their mentors, faculty, family and representatives from the participating high schools (Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, KIPP Atlanta Collegiate and Mays High School in addition to B.E.S.T., all of them in the Atlanta Public School system).

They gathered around and among a maze of student research posters. Then everyone packed themselves into the Suddath Room for an enlightening panel discussion among former ENGAGES students who are now in college: Amadou Bah (Stanford), Katrina Burch (Georgia Tech), Jovanay Carter (Dartmouth), and Imani Moon (North Carolina A&T).

The current group of ENGAGES students wanted to know what to expect from the college experience. The panel didn’t sugarcoat its answers. 

“I study all of the time. I haven’t been out since homecoming,” Burch said. “I usually go to sleep around 4 a.m., wake up around 9 on a good day, sometimes 8. So yeah, I’m always studying.”

Bah, who went from his Atlanta roots all the way across the country to attend Stanford, is one of Stiggers’ closest friends, “and he didn’t hold anything back,” said Stiggers, who has been accepted at Georgia Tech, but also is considering the University of Michigan and Stanford. “Amadou said the course work was extremely difficult, but you can’t give in to doubt – you’ve got to push through. College is a whole different ballgame, he said. It changes you.”

The same might be said of travel. It changes you. That was certainly the case for five of the seven students who went on the Seattle trip. “It was the first time they stepped foot on a plane,” Platt said.

Once in Seattle, the ensemble mingled with college students and scientists, met Nobel Laureates, heard keynote speeches from some of the most influential researchers and healthcare leaders in the country and saw or heard a mountain of research.

Most of the 4,000 attendees were college students, but Stiggers, who will graduate high school this year, felt like he was exactly where he belonged.

“It was inspiring. They kept drawing me in,” he said. “It felt like I was already in college.”

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1453326773 2016-01-20 21:52:53 1475896827 2016-10-08 03:20:27 0 0 news Students inspired by Seattle conference and straight scoop from alums at winter celebration

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2016-01-20T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-20T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-20 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
488671 488681 488691 488671 image <![CDATA[ENGAGES Seattle Seven]]> image/jpeg 1453395600 2016-01-21 17:00:00 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02 488681 image <![CDATA[Manu and student]]> image/jpeg 1453395600 2016-01-21 17:00:00 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02 488691 image <![CDATA[Amadou and Katrina]]> image/jpeg 1453395600 2016-01-21 17:00:00 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02
<![CDATA[Center Will Develop Consistent Manufacturing Processes for Cell-based Therapies]]> 27303 A $15.7 million grant from the Atlanta-based Marcus Foundation has helped launch a new Georgia Institute of Technology research center that will develop processes and techniques for ensuring the consistent, low-cost, large-scale manufacture of high-quality living cells used in cell-based therapies. The therapies will be used for a variety of disorders such as cancer, lung fibrosis, autism, neuro-degenerative diseases, autoimmune disorders and spinal-cord injury – as well as in regenerative medicine.

The work of the new Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing (MC3M) will help provide standardized production and quality testing for these living cells, which have great therapeutic potential. Standardized manufacturing techniques already exist for drug-based pharmaceuticals; the new center will help provide similar methods and standards for manufacturing therapeutic cells.

Expected to be the first of its kind in the United States, the center will include a validation facility for good manufacturing practices in cell production. In addition to The Marcus Foundation, funding will come from the Georgia Research Alliance and Georgia Tech sources for a total investment of $23 million. The center will also seek support from federal agencies, clinical research organizations and other sources.

“The aspirin you buy today from one pharmacy is essentially the same as the aspirin you buy from another pharmacy, but cell-based therapies may have different efficacy depending on the source and manufacturing processes,” said Krishnendu Roy, Robert A. Milton Chair and professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “There are established ways to quickly assess the efficacy and safety of small-molecule drugs that are acceptable around the world. We want to develop and establish similar processes for therapeutic cell manufacturing.”

Ultimately, the growing need for these cell therapeutics could require large-scale production facilities similar to those used in today’s pharmaceutical production. But living stem cells and immune system cells are readily affected by the varying conditions under which they are grown, stored and packaged, meaning the same type of cell produced at different facilities could behave very differently. Unless those cells can be produced with consistency, in large scale and at low cost with high quality, use of the new cell therapies could be limited and their promise would not extend to large numbers of patients.

“The critical goal is to either minimize differences caused by varying manufacturing conditions, or to have a very defined characterization process so we exactly know how much the cells have changed and what specific characteristics are predictive of their efficacy in patients,” explained Roy, who will lead the new center. “That consistency will allow us to produce affordable products that can make this new technology available to the large community of people who need it.”

The new center will collaborate with research and clinical institutions around the country, especially those at which The Marcus Foundation funds research on cell-based therapies, including Duke University, the University of Miami, City of Hope, Emory University, as well as the University of Georgia and other national and international universities.

“Access to this network will provide us a huge advantage by bringing together experts to work on a common problem,” Roy said.

"Stem cell treatments and cell-based immunotherapies are, and will be, the treatment of the future,” said Bernie Marcus, who co-founded The Home Depot. “Manufacturing and characterization of stem cells and immune cells is a major first step, and that is why The Marcus Foundation chose Georgia Tech and its teams – they have the experience and the personnel to achieve key goals in this process."

The new center will be a collaboration among research groups at Georgia Tech, as well as numerous outside institutions, noted Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson.

“Reproducible production of high-quality therapeutic cells and understanding what markers predict cell effectiveness could give clinicians worldwide new tools in the battle against some of the most difficult human health challenges we face today,” Peterson said. “Transitioning these cells into broad clinical use will require the kind of multidisciplinary collaboration that Georgia Tech is known for. Beyond Georgia Tech, this effort will involve The Marcus Foundation, top clinical institutions, the private sector and the Georgia Research Alliance.”

The center will involve multiple research organizations at Georgia Tech, including the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute and the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. Also involved will be faculty researchers from the College of Sciences, College of Computing, and various schools in the College of Engineering, which includes the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering operated by Georgia Tech and Emory University. The center will also work closely with the Center for Immunoengineering at Georgia Tech, the Georgia Immunoengineering Consortium, and the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine (REM) Center, a partnership between Georgia Tech, Emory University and the University of Georgia.

“There is no question that stem cell and immune cell manufacturing have the potential to significantly impact our lives, especially as we age,” said Ravi Bellamkonda, chair of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “We are fortunate to have a visionary foundation in The Marcus Foundation, and the foresight of the Georgia Research Alliance providing leadership in this endeavor.”

Work of the center will help make new cell-based therapies more widely available to patients.

“The timing of this investment in cell manufacturing by The Marcus Foundation is absolutely critical,” said Robert E. Guldberg, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “Cell therapies are being evaluated in nearly 9,000 clinical trials worldwide, but their potential to impact human healthcare will be severely limited until we can scale up their production reproducibly and at low cost. There are currently FDA-approved, clinically effective cell therapy products sitting on the shelf and unavailable to patients because the cost of manufacturing them is simply too high.”

The cell manufacturing effort grew, in part, out of a major planning grant awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to the Georgia Research Alliance in 2014. That effort focused on developing a road map for cell manufacturing in the state of Georgia – an initiative expected to provide significant economic development benefits. Georgia Tech has been leading this road mapping effort that involves more than 30 industry partners and 16 academic institutions as well as key federal agencies.

“The NIST grant kick-started our efforts to develop a national road map for cell manufacturing,” said Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance. “The cell manufacturing industry is an emerging and growing industry with annual revenues of about $1 billion. This initiative has the potential to turn scientific research into new businesses and jobs for Georgia.”

Initial funding is for five years, and ultimately the center will be expected to support itself with corporate, government and nonprofit funding, Roy said.

“This is a unique public-private philanthropic partnership to address a grand challenge,” he added. “We hope to make significant contributions to improving cell-based treatments and lowering their cost. This could provide huge benefit not only to the health of our fellow citizens, both adults and children, but as a manufacturing initiative, could be transformative to the economic development and workforce in Georgia.”

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).
Writer: John Toon

 

]]> John Toon 1 1453126008 2016-01-18 14:06:48 1475896824 2016-10-08 03:20:24 0 0 news A $15.7 million grant from the Atlanta-based Marcus Foundation has helped launch a new Georgia Institute of Technology research center that will develop processes and techniques for ensuring the consistent, low-cost, large-scale manufacture of high-quality living cells used in cell-based therapies.

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2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-19 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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487451 487461 487451 image <![CDATA[MC3M Center1]]> image/jpeg 1453233601 2016-01-19 20:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02 487461 image <![CDATA[MC3M Center2]]> image/jpeg 1453233601 2016-01-19 20:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02
<![CDATA[Keeping Tabs on Electron Flow]]> 28153 One of the most basic processes in nature is the transfer of electrons from one molecule to another. For example, this flow of electrons is essential in the critical biological processes of photosynthesis, respiration, and DNA synthesis.  

Electron transfer involves the generation of highly reactive intermediates, called radicals.  A fundamental question in biological chemistry is how the movement of electrons is controlled and radical-induced damage is prevented.

The lab of Bridgette Barry at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience is helping to provide an answer with their research paper, “A tyrosine-tryptophan dyad and radical-based charge transfer in a ribonucleotide reductase-inspired maquette,” published last month in the journal Nature Communications.

A large number of different proteins – especially metalloproteins like ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) – can mediate a high-energy flow of electrons.  Often, the movement of electrons involves hopping between aromatic groups, such as tyrosine and tryptophan.  In RNR and other proteins, these aromatic amino acids have complex interactions with each other and with other components of the protein.   Often, tyrosine and tryptophan are found in close proximity.  Because proteins like RNR are complex, it is difficult to determine the functional role of these tyrosine-tryptophan pairs or “dyads.”

To better understand their role, Barry, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and her collaborators designed and characterized a peptide model of RNR.  This model or maquette contains a tyrosine-tryptophan pair, but has a much simpler structure than RNR.  The results showed that an unpaired electron is shared between a tyrosine-based radical and the nearby tryptophan.  This transfer of charge between the tyrosine and tryptophan may be critical in directing a flow of electrons and in protecting the protein from damage.

Ultimately, the lab’s findings could have implications for cancer biology.  A hallmark of cancer is rapid cell proliferation. RNR is an iron-dependent enzyme that is essential for DNA synthesis. If you can inhibit the rapid synthesis of DNA, you can prevent cancer cells from proliferation. So, Barry and her team are learning more about RNR and its electron transfer pathway.

“When we understand the mechanism of a protein, we are better at designing inhibitors and useful drugs,” says Barry, whose co-authors for the Nature Communications paper are Cynthia Pagba, Tyler McCaslin, Gianluigi Veglia, Fernando Porcelli, Jiby Yohannan, Zhanjun Guo, and Miranda McDaniel.

Veglia is a faculty member at the University of Minnesota, and Porcelli is a faculty member of the University of Tuscia in Italy. The other coauthors are or were students in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and two of them – McDaniel and Yohannan – contributed to the research as undergraduates.

Barry Lab Research Paper

 

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1453204823 2016-01-19 12:00:23 1475896827 2016-10-08 03:20:27 0 0 news Barry lab publishes latest research in Nature Communications

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2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-19 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
487631 487631 image <![CDATA[DNA Barry story]]> image/jpeg 1453233601 2016-01-19 20:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02
<![CDATA[Scientists Demonstrate Basics of Nucleic Acid Computing Inside Cells]]> 27303 Using strands of nucleic acid, scientists have demonstrated basic computing operations inside a living mammalian cell. The research could lead to an artificial sensing system that could control a cell’s behavior in response to such stimuli as the presence of toxins or the development of cancer.

The research uses DNA strand displacement, a technology that has been widely used outside of cells for the design of molecular circuits, motors and sensors. Researchers modified the process to provide both “AND” and “OR” logic gates able to operate inside the living cells and interact with native messenger RNA (mRNA).

The tools they developed could provide a foundation for bio-computers able to sense, analyze and modulate molecular information at the cellular level. Supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the research was reported December 21 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

“The whole idea is to be able to take the logic that is used in computers and port that logic into cells themselves,” said Philip Santangelo, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “These devices could sense an aberrant RNA, for instance, and then shut down cellular translation or induce cell death.”

Strand displacement reactions are the biological equivalent of the switches or gates that form the foundation for silicon-based computing. They can be programmed to turn on or off in response to an external stimuli such as a molecule. An “AND” gate, for example, would switch when both conditions were met, while an “OR” gate would switch when either condition was met.

In the switches the researchers used, a fluorophore reporter molecule and its complementary quenching molecule were placed side-by-side to create an “off” mode. Binding of RNA in one of the strands then displaced a portion of nucleic acid, separating the molecules and allowing generation of a signal that created an “on” mode. Two “on” modes on adjacent nucleic acid strands created an “AND” gate.

“Demonstrating individual logic gates is only a first step,” said Georg Seelig, assistant professor of computer science and engineering and electrical engineering at the University of Washington. “In the longer term, we want to expand this technology to create circuits with many inputs, such as those we have constructed in cell-free settings.”

The researchers used ligands designed to bind to specific portions of the nucleic acid strands, which can be created as desired and produced by commercial suppliers.

“We sensed molecules and showed that we could respond to them,” said Santangelo. “We showed that we could utilize native molecules in the cell as part of the circuit, though we haven’t been able to control a cell yet.”

Getting basic computing operations to function inside cells was no easy task, and the research required a number of years to accomplish. Among the challenges were getting the devices into the cells without triggering the switches, providing operation rapid enough to be useful, and not killing the human cell lines that researchers used in the lab.

“We had to chemically change the probes to get them to work inside the cell and to make them stable enough inside the cells,” said Santangelo. “We found that these strand displacement reactions can be slow within the cytosol, so to get them to work faster, we built scaffolding onto the messenger RNA that allowed us to amplify the effects.”

The nucleic acid computers ultimately operated as desired, and the next step is to use their switching to trigger the production of signaling chemicals that would prompt the desired reaction from the cells. Cellular activity is normally controlled by the production of proteins, so the nucleic acid switches will have to be given the ability to produce enough signaling molecules to induce a change.

“We need to generate enough of whatever final signal is needed to get the cell to react,” Santangelo explained. “There are amplification methods used in strand displacement technology, but none of them have been used so far in living cells.”

Even without that final step, the researchers feel they’ve built a foundation that can be used to attain the goal.

“We were able to design some of the basic logical constructs that could be used as building blocks for future work,” Santangelo said. “We know the concentrations of chemicals and the design requirements for individual components, so we can now start putting together a more complicated set of circuits and components.”

Cells, of course, already know how to sense toxic molecules and the development malignant tendencies, and to then take action. But those safeguards can be turned off by viruses or cancer cells that know how to circumvent natural cellular processes.

“Our mechanism would just give cells a hand at doing this,” Santangelo said. “The idea is to add to the existing machinery to give the cells enhanced capabilities.”

Applying an engineering approach to the biological world sets this example apart from other efforts to control cellular machinery.

“What makes DNA strand displacement circuits unique is that all components are fully rationally designed at the level of the DNA sequence,” said Seelig. “This really makes this technology ideal for an engineering approach. In contrast, many other approaches to controlling the cellular machinery rely on components that are borrowed from biology and are not fully understood.”

Beyond those already mentioned, the research team included Benjamin Groves, Yuan-Jyue Chen and Sergii Pochekailov from the University of Washington and Chiara Zurla and Jonathan Kirschman from Georgia Tech and Emory University.

This material is based on work supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under contract W911NF-11-2-0068 and by National Science Foundation CAREER award 1253691. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of DARPA or the NSF.

CITATION: Benjamin Groves, et al., “Computing in mammalian cells with nucleic acid strand exchange,” (Nature Nanotechnology, 2015). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.278

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (joon@gatech.edu).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1453120327 2016-01-18 12:32:07 1475896824 2016-10-08 03:20:24 0 0 news Using strands of nucleic acid, scientists have demonstrated basic computing operations inside a living mammalian cell. The research could lead to an artificial sensing system that could control a cell’s behavior in response to such stimuli as the presence of toxins or the development of cancer.

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2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-19 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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487431 487411 487431 image <![CDATA[Studying gate in nucleic acid computing]]> image/jpeg 1453233601 2016-01-19 20:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02 487411 image <![CDATA[Studying nucleic acid computing]]> image/jpeg 1453233601 2016-01-19 20:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02
<![CDATA[“Bursting” Cells Gain the Brain’s Attention for Life-or-Death Decisions]]> 27303 As you start across the street, out of the corner of your eye, you spot something moving toward you. Instantly, your brain shifts its focus to assess the potential threat, which you quickly determine to be a slow-moving bicycle – not a car – which will pass behind you as you complete your crossing.

The brain’s ability to quickly focus on life-or-death, yes-or-no decisions, then immediately shift to detailed analytical processing, is believed to be the work of the thalamus, a small section of the midbrain through which most sensory inputs from the body flow. When cells in the thalamus detect something that requires urgent attention from the rest of the brain, they begin “bursting” – many cells firing off simultaneous signals to get the attention of the cortex. Once the threat passes, the cells quickly switch back to quieter activity.

Using optogenetics and other technology, researchers have for the first time precisely manipulated this bursting activity of the thalamus, tying it to the sense of touch. The work, done in animal models, was reported January 14th in the journal Cell Reports. The research is supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“If you clap your hands once, that’s loud,” explained Garrett Stanley, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “But if you clap your hands several times in a row, that’s louder. And if you and your friends all clap together and at the same time, that’s even stronger. That is what these cells do, and the idea is that this mechanism produces bursts synchronized across many cells to send out a very strong signal about a stimulus in the outside world.”

Neuroscientists have long believed that such coordinated spikes of activity serve to focus the brain’s attention on issues requiring immediate attention. Stanley and graduate student Clarissa Whitmire – working with researchers Cornelius Schwarz and Christian Waiblinger from the University of Tübingen in Germany – used optogenetics techniques to study bursting activity in the thalamus of rats. Their findings could lead to a better understanding of how cells in this walnut-sized portion of the human brain perform a variety of sensory and motor control tasks, switching from one mode to another as needed.

“Clarissa was able to get into the mechanism of synchronized thalamic bursting so we can manipulate it and look at it not only from within individual cells, but also across cells, recording from multiple cells simultaneously,” said Stanley, who has been studying the thalamus for more than a decade. “We can now begin to provide a coherent story about how information gets from the outside world to the brain machinery that’s in the cortex.”

The researchers studied the connection between the rats’ whiskers and cells in their thalamus. By stimulating the whiskers in many different ways, they were able to induce signals – including bursting – in the thalamus. The researchers used light-sensitive proteins introduced into the thalamic cells – a technology known as optogenetics – to establish optical control of the bursting activity.

“We were able to turn the bursting mechanism on or off at will,” explained Stanley, who is the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professor in the Coulter Department. “This is really the first time we have been able to readily control this, turning the knob in one direction to eliminate the bursting activity and then turning it the other way to make the cells produce these bursts in rapid succession.”

The control extended not just to turning the bursting on or off, but also allowed the researchers to create a continuum of cell activity.

“Clarissa could make them act very ‘bursty’ and very synchronized, or she could turn the knob and move them very smoothly to the opposite end of the spectrum,” Stanley said. “There is a range of activity that people had speculated would be there, but nobody had actually done the experiments to show it existed.”

The cellular bursting mechanism likely developed very early in mammalian evolution to help creatures survive threats posed by predators. The brain’s cortex is always busy with higher-level activity, and the thalamic bursting serves to let it know that critical outside activities need its urgent attention.

Other sensory inputs such as vision can initiate bursting, but Stanley’s group chose to study sense of touch in this work. In rats, the whiskers are embedded in follicles that have specialized cells whose function is similar to that of human sensory cells. Thus, these whiskers serve many of the same “touch” functions as human fingers.

“When you reach out with your hand and touch a surface, you are mechanically deforming the skin, stretching the sensors that are in the skin and sending signals to tell the brain about the surface you are touching,” Stanley noted. “In the rats, we moved the whiskers, recorded the activity, and identified the presence of a burst.”

As a next step, Stanley and his research team plan to connect what they’ve learned about bursting activity of the thalamus to behavior in an effort to fully confirm the theory. “The next step is to take this to behavior and work with animals that are trained to detect and discriminate between different kinds of inputs,” he said.

With the optogenetics and other advanced technology, researchers are beginning to see the big picture of how sensory inputs affect brain activity.

“These thalamic cells are somewhere in between the outside world and the cognitive machinery of the brain, and they have a job that changes rapidly,” Stanley said. “In some cases, they are saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about something in the outside world, and in some cases they are discriminating between the final details of objects in the outside world.”

This work was supported by US-German Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience grant (US: NSF CRCNS IOS-1131948; German: BMBF CRCNS 01GQ1113) and NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke grants R01NS048285 and R01NS085447. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

CITATION: Clarissa Whitmire, Christian Waiblinger, Cornelius Schwarz, Garrett Stanley, “Information Coding Through Adaptive Gating of Synchronized Thalamic Bursting, (Cell Reports, 2016).

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1452804740 2016-01-14 20:52:20 1475896824 2016-10-08 03:20:24 0 0 news Using optogenetics and other technology, researchers have for the first time precisely manipulated the bursting activity of cells in the thalamus, tying this alerting activity to the sense of touch.

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2016-01-14T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-14T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-14 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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486851 486861 486851 image <![CDATA[Studying bursting brain cells]]> image/jpeg 1452902401 2016-01-16 00:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02 486861 image <![CDATA[Studying bursting brain cells2]]> image/jpeg 1452902401 2016-01-16 00:00:01 1475895242 2016-10-08 02:54:02
<![CDATA[Double Play for Peralta-Yahya]]> 28153 Pamela Peralta-Yahya’s lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology develops technologies to better engineer biological systems for chemical synthesis, and the group is getting front-page treatment on a national scale to showcase its groundbreaking work.

The cover for the December issue of ACS Synthetic Biology features an artistic depiction of the group’s latest research in the development of biosensors to screen chemical-producing microbes, which could lead to the faster, more efficient production of chemicals.

Peralta-Yahya conceived the research, which is entitled “GPCR-Based Chemical Biosensors for Medium-Chain Fatty Acids,” and designed the experiments with her co-authors, post-doctoral researcher Kuntal Mukherjee and former lab member and graduate student Souryadeep Bhattacharyya.

They set out to address one of the key limitations to engineering microbes for chemical production, which is the reliance on low-throughput chromatography. Many value-added chemicals require sensors for high-throughput screening – that’s what Peralta-Yahya and her colleagues are going after.

“We engineer microorganisms to make chemicals and one of our areas is making biofuels,” says Peralta-Yahya, who is an assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a faculty researcher with the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “Right now, when we engineer a biofuel-producing microorganism – when we make changes and screen large numbers of cells to determine how the changes affect the microorganism’s biofuel production – we use chromatography, so we can only test 100 samples a day. It limits what we can do.”

For the larger scale genome engineering Peralta-Yahya has in mind, a process that can screen on the order of 10 million samples a day is needed. 

But making biosensors for biofuel precursors isn’t easy, she says, “because biofuels are hydrocarbons, so they don’t have a lot of functional groups to bind, which is one way of triggering a sensor.”

So they used G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs, a class of protein at the root of our five senses) as a sensing unit. GPCRs naturally bind a wide array of chemicals, including medium-chain fatty acids, which are immediate precursors to advanced biofuel fatty acid methyl esters (which comprise biodiesel).

“This research was the first to show that we can quickly assemble sensors for these difficult molecules, like biofuels,” says Peralta-Yayha, who actually co-authored not one, but two research papers published in December’s ACS Synthetic Biology.

“To our knowledge this is the first report of a whole-cell medium-chain fatty acid biosensor,” the researchers write, “which we envision could be applied to the evolutionary engineering of fatty acid-producing microbes.” 

To carry out their experiments, the team made use of the Petit Institute’s core facilities, particularly the Cellular Analysis core and its BD LSR II Flow Cytometer. Flow cytometry is a powerful method for isolating cells of interest (and investigating many aspects of cell biology, for that matter). The equipment allowed Peralta-Yahya’s team to run their samples and quickly attain and analyze the data.

Meanwhile, the second article, entitled, “Pterin-Dependent Mono-oxidation for the Microbial Synthesis of a Modified Monoterpene Indole Alkaloid,” touches on another focus area of the Peralta-Yahya lab: pharmaceutical precursors.

Monoterpene Indole Alkaloids (MIAs) have important therapeutic value as anticancer, antimalarial and antiarrhythmic agents. They are derived from plants, but the challenge is, “plants take a long time to grow and they produce very little of the compound you want,” says Peralta-Yahya, who co-authored the article with graduate students Amy Ehrenworth and Stephen Sarria. 

“If you can make a microbe that produces that precursor, then we can produce larger quantities and produce it faster,” Peralta-Yayha says. “So in this research we make a derivatized alkaloid, removing a few steps for the chemist in the process from plant precursor to the final drug.”

The researchers conceived the first microbial synthesis of a modified MIA, with its important medicinal compounds.

“This work opens the door to the scalable production of MIAs as well as the production of modified MIAs to serve as late intermediates in the semi-synthesis of known and novel therapeutics,” the authors write. “Further, the microbial strains in this work can be used as plant pathway discovery tools to elucidate known MIA biosynethetic pathways or to identify pathways leading to novel MIAs.”

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452101008 2016-01-06 17:23:28 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Petit Institute researcher published twice in same journal; core facilities play key role in the work

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
482781 482801 482781 image <![CDATA[Peralta-Yahya and students]]> image/jpeg 1452204000 2016-01-07 22:00:00 1475895236 2016-10-08 02:53:56 482801 image <![CDATA[Kuntal]]> image/jpeg 1452204000 2016-01-07 22:00:00 1475895236 2016-10-08 02:53:56
<![CDATA[Ciciliano wins Suddath Award]]> 28153 Fred Leroy “Bud” Suddath was a pioneer, one of the scientists who came together to help form what would become the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and the first vice president for information technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

When he died suddenly on June 17, 1992, his loss was felt throughout the Georgia Tech community. So his family, friends, and colleagues established an award in his honor.

Every year since, the F.L. “Bud” Suddath Memorial Award has been given to a Ph.D. student who has at least one year remaining in his or her program and who has demonstrated a significant research achievement in biology, biochemistry, or biomedical engineering. This year, that student is Jordan Ciciliano, who earned the top prize in the 2016 Suddath Award competition.

Ciciliano is a bioengineering student whose home school is the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. She’s a member of Wilbur Lam’s lab in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, where her research interests are biomechanics, diagnostics, microfluidics, hematology, and oncology.

As winner of the $1,000 top prize, her name will be engraved on the award plaque and she’ll deliver a presentation on her research, entitled, “Developing microfluidic approaches to solve longstanding hematologic questions," at the Suddath Symposium (Feb. 11-12 at the Petit Institute).

A second place Suddath Award ($500) went to Eric Parker, a chemistry and biochemistry grad student in the lab of Facundo Fernandez. Third place ($250) went to Jose García, a bioengineering student who works in the lab of Andrés García.

The Suddath Awards were announced during the Petit Institute’s annual holiday party in December 2015, along with a number of other awards and honors for institute faculty, staff and students.

The evening’s other award winners were:

• Al Merrill, Krishnendu Roy and Fred Vannberg took home the faculty awards. Merrill is a professor in the School of Biology, where he is the Smithgall Chair in Molecular Cell Biology. Roy is a professor in the Coulter Department and director of the Center for ImmunoEngineering at Georgia Tech. Vannberg is assistant professor in the School of Biology.

• Trainee awards went to Kyle Blum (grad student in the lab of Lena Ting), Josh Hooks (Brandon Dixon’s lab) and Claire Segar (Ed Botchwey’s lab).

• Staff awards went to Karen Ethier and Floyd Wood.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452086920 2016-01-06 13:28:40 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Petit Institute honors researchers, scholars and staff

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
482581 482581 image <![CDATA[Suddath winner 2016]]> image/jpeg 1452106800 2016-01-06 19:00:00 1475895236 2016-10-08 02:53:56
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Scholars]]> 28153 The Petit Institute is an education hub that serves the needs of a diverse student body that brings a buzz of curiosity and ingenuity to one of the nation’s leading bio-research communities. 

Last year, among other things, scholars at the Petit Institute made hefty contributions to wide-ranging research efforts, earned recognition and financial support for their entrepreneurial endeavors and, in the case of the high school students in Project ENGAGES, caught the attention of the White House.

These are some of the top news stories about Petit Institute’s graduate, undergraduate, and high school students:

Capstone champs gaining national appeal

Former Petit Scholar’s team wins TI:GER competition

Allen named Ruffin Award winner

Mistilis scores with microneedle research

Mentor and scholar work on simple solution 

Project ENGAGES on the air: Listen

Garcia Wins Society for Biomaterials Student Research Award 

Viapore wins national business plan competition

Salazar-Noratto takes research to Ireland

Undergrads help drive cancer research

ENGAGES leader honored, student invited to D.C. 

Catching the Buzz on Biotechnology 

Grad students join I-Corps 

Taylor wins Nerem Travel Award 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452084427 2016-01-06 12:47:07 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Student body brought a buzz to bio-research in 2015

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
403251 364391 403251 image <![CDATA[Ashley Allen, Ruffin Award]]> image/jpeg 1449252000 2015-12-04 18:00:00 1475895124 2016-10-08 02:52:04 364391 image <![CDATA[Platt and Burch]]> image/jpeg 1449245805 2015-12-04 16:16:45 1475895100 2016-10-08 02:51:40
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Researchers]]> 28153 Last year, Petit Institute researchers developed a new test to detect early-stage ovarian cancer, listened to the communication of neurons, dug deeper than ever into the roots of all life, and unveiled micro-needle technology that could dramatically change the future of vaccinations.  

That barely scratches the surface. They also received millions of dollars in funding from a variety of agencies to support their game-changing research.

In 2015, the number of faculty researchers at the Petit Institute surpassed 170 for the first time. So, expect the discovery, innovation and collaboration that the institute is known for to continue apace.

You can read, watch or listen to some of the institute’s research highlights here:  

• Microneedles could change future of vaccinations

Read    Watch   Listen

• Blood Test could be game changer for ovarian cancer 

Read    Watch   Listen   

• Thomas’ Komen grant targets breast cancer in new ways

Watch

 

And here are some more top research/researcher stories to read from 2015:

Predictive model could help guide breast cancer patients

BRAIN Initiative taps two Petit Institute labs

Origin of life: What came before the chicken and the egg?

Helping Kids with Feeding Disorders

Marcus Foundation grants $6.5 million for tumor project

Barker Wins Transformative Research Award

El-Sayed earns highest honor from American Chemical Society

Regrowing New Teeth? Some day 

Improving Children’s Lives

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452083542 2016-01-06 12:32:22 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Faculty busy with game-changing developments in 2015

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
407691 407691 image <![CDATA[Neurons]]> image/jpeg 1449254168 2015-12-04 18:36:08 1475895132 2016-10-08 02:52:12
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Events]]> 28153 The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience extended its reach in 2015, hosting over 100 events that brought together more than 6,000 individuals from around the world to learn and share the latest bio-discoveries.

The annual Business of Business Medicine workshop, which rotates among some of the world’s leading research institutions, came to Georgia Tech for the first time.

Also, the executive committee of multinational pharmaceutical company UCB held its annual meeting at the Petit Institute, which also hosted the first Military Healthcare Technology Symposium.

Here are stories about some of the year’s top events:

Business of Regenerative Medicine: Mission of Impact

Business of Regenerative Medicine white paper

Building Knowledge and Community at Hilton Head

UCB’s Top Brass Meets at Petit Institute

Suddath Symposium Hits Full Speed

Developing Better Military Healthcare Options

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452085575 2016-01-06 13:06:15 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Meetings, conferences, summits, major events mark 2015

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00
Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
430191 430191 image <![CDATA[BRM Crowded Room]]> 1449254381 2015-12-04 18:39:41 1475895169 2016-10-08 02:52:49
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Milestones]]> 28153 A number of important milestones marked 2015 as a momentous year for the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and its community.

Most notable was the opening last fall of the $113 million Engineered Biosystems Building in September, followed a month later by a gala celebration for the Petit Institute’s 20th anniversary.

The year also saw the addition of a new Ph.D. program headquartered in the Petit Institute, new core facilities, and the generous renewal of a leading edge research center striving to answer humanity’s most fundamental question.

Check out the Petit Institute’s major milestones from 2015 here:

Petit Institute Turns 20

Engineered Biosystems Building Opens

Center for Chemical Evolution Gets Big Boost

Tech Announces New Graduate Program

New Core Facility Launched in EBB

Neuro Design Suite Core Open for Business

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452082505 2016-01-06 12:15:05 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news 20th anniversary, EBB opening mark 2015 in bio community

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
482461 464641 464651 482461 image <![CDATA[Heavy hitting trio]]> image/jpeg 1452099600 2016-01-06 17:00:00 1475895234 2016-10-08 02:53:54 464641 image <![CDATA[Bob Nerem reflects]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 464651 image <![CDATA[Guldberg talks]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31
<![CDATA[2015: A Look Back]]> 28153 President Barack Obama visited campus. So did the Rolling Stones. Those stories alone would be worth writing home about.

But, 2015 was an incredible year at the Georgia Institute of Technology, filled with groundbreaking research, institutional milestones and other top stories.

You'll find some of the best stories and videos from Georgia Tech's eventful 2015 right here.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1452080758 2016-01-06 11:45:58 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Notable stories and videos from Georgia Tech

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2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2016-01-06 00:00:00 482411 482411 image <![CDATA[Look Back Buzz]]> image/jpeg 1452099600 2016-01-06 17:00:00 1475895234 2016-10-08 02:53:54
<![CDATA[Physics and the Force]]> 28153 A long time ago in this very galaxy, a science fiction fairy tale swept moviegoers into an unprecedented cinematic adventure across distant, fantastic worlds.

Star Wars brought together ancient mythological themes with the spirit of a classic American art-form – the Western – to create a different kind of science fiction film, overflowing with adventure, mysticism and romance, but fueled by mind-blowing science and technology.

The universe that director George Lucas created in Star Wars contains a diverse set of worlds and life forms, autonomous robots infused with something like humanity, space ships that travel at the speed of light, and at the center of it all, a powerful, invisible energy field called the Force.

With the latest installment of the fantasy saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in filling theaters now, Georgia Tech researchers (including Petit Institute faculty member Flavio Fenton) discuss the impact, and the science of Star Wars.

Read the whole story by Jason Maderer here.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1451470394 2015-12-30 10:13:14 1475896820 2016-10-08 03:20:20 0 0 news Georgia Tech professors weigh in on the science of Star Wars

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2015-12-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
480741 480741 image <![CDATA[Star Wars robots]]> image/jpeg 1451937600 2016-01-04 20:00:00 1475895234 2016-10-08 02:53:54
<![CDATA[There and Back Again]]> 28153 A group of graduate students from the Georgia Institute of Technology took a whirlwind trip to the cradle of the biotechnology industry last month to learn from the experts and make connections within the growing field of cell and tissue engineering.

 

The 13 students, trainees from the Cell and Tissue Engineering Program (CTEng) supported by NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Science and based in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, visited the South San Francisco headquarters of Genentech, the company often credited with launching the biotech industry.

 

Though the trip was a blur – Tuesday evening arrival, Wednesday tour of Genentech, Wednesday night flight back to Atlanta – it was a red-eye opening experience that left a deep impression on the students.

 

“I didn’t realize how much of an academic environment there was,” says Alexandra Atalis, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “For one thing, they have a postdoc program.”

 

The Georgia Tech group, which featured seven bioengineering students and six biomedical engineering students, heard presentations about the company’s research as well as its rich history. The company was founded in 1976 by venture capitalist Robert Swanson and biochemist Herbert Boyer after Swanson had learned about the recombinant DNA technology pioneered by Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen.

 

The students also got a tour of the facility, “and that was cool to see,” says Erin Edwards, a bioengineering Ph.D. student. “They had a fully-automated testing system – robots transferring nanoscale samples through a variety of assays. But we also saw familiar things like microscopy facilities that are similar to what we’re used to at Georgia Tech. It illustrated to me how far out on the cutting edge we are at Tech.”

 

Like Atalis, Edwards was impressed with the academic-like atmosphere at Genentech, which is not typical in an industry setting, according to CTEng Director Andrés García, professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and a Petit Institute faculty member.

“They’re not just interested in developing a pipeline. There’s a big focus on research and a push to publish in academic journals,” Edwards says. “It’s nice to see that there’s an opportunity to do basic research in an industry setting.”

 

The Georgia Tech group began the day with a Genentech history lesson. In the early 1970s, biochemist Herbert Boyer and geneticist Stanley Cohen pioneered a new scientific field called recombinant DNA technology. After hearing about this development, Swanson called Boyer and what was supposed to be a 10-minute meeting turned into three hours. When they were finished, Genentech was born. 

 

Then the students received “a presentation geared toward research, something we’re used to hearing,” says Edwards, who works in the lab of Petit Institute researcher Susan Thomas. “But we also were exposed to things we don’t see very often – robots that transfer small nanoscale samples through a variety of testing. That was a cool thing to see, a fully automated assembly line.”

 

There was a personal connection to Genentech for Atalis, who is interested in cancer immunotherapy and works in the lab of Petit Institute faculty member Krishnendu Roy, a Coulter Department professor whose focus is on immunoengineering. Much of Genentech’s research is in immunology. 

 

“Monoclonal antibody therapy is one of their main areas of focus,” says Atalis, referring to Avastin, a leading cancer drug made by Genentech. “My mother, who has been battling ovarian cancer for the past five years, recently used Avastin as part of her drug regimen. So, going behind the scenes at the company that makes this important drug had a deep personal meaning for me.”


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1450202124 2015-12-15 17:55:24 1475896816 2016-10-08 03:20:16 0 0 news CTEng Trainees Make Quick, Productive Trip to Genentech

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2015-12-15T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-15T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-15 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
479431 479411 479741 479431 image <![CDATA[CTEng group]]> image/jpeg 1450285200 2015-12-16 17:00:00 1475895232 2016-10-08 02:53:52 479411 image <![CDATA[Antibodies]]> image/jpeg 1450285200 2015-12-16 17:00:00 1475895232 2016-10-08 02:53:52 479741 image <![CDATA[Cell antibodies]]> image/jpeg 1450371600 2015-12-17 17:00:00 1475895232 2016-10-08 02:53:52
<![CDATA[García Wins Student Research Award]]> 28153 Jose García, a bioengineering graduate student based in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is engaged in some ambitious, groundbreaking research. He's working to develop engineered hydrogels to improve the engraftment of stem cells and ultimately enhance bone healing. And his research is getting some national attention.

García, who works in the lab of Petit Institute researcher Andrés García (no relation), has been honored with a 2016 Society for Biomaterials Student Award for Outstanding Research.

The Society for Biomaterials (SFB), which promotes advances in biomedical research and development, annually recognizes significant contributions to the field of biomaterials science from industry, academia, regulatory agencies and students. 

The 2016 awards and respective recipients include: 

Founders Award: Cato Laurencin, MD, PhD (University of Connecticut)

Clemson Award for Applied Research: Justin Hanes, PhD (The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) 

Clemson Award for Basic Research: Molly Stevens, PhD (Imperial College of London)

Clemson Award for Contributions to the Literature: Rocky Tuan, PhD (University of Pittsburgh)

C. William Hall Award: Jim Curtis, PhD (Dow Corning Corporation)

SFB Award for Service: Alan Litsky, MD, ScD (Ohio State University)

Technology, Innovation and Development Award: Joseph Salamone, PhD (Rochal Industries LL)

Young Investigators Award: Fan Yang, PhD (Stanford University)

Student Awards for Outstanding Research: Jose García (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Student Awards for Outstanding Research: Abigail Erin Loneker (University of Pittsburgh)

Student Awards for Outstanding Research: Veronica Ibarra (Illinois Institute of Technology)

“Every year we recognize our members for their outstanding achievements in the biomaterials industry, whether it be from industry, academia, regulatory agencies or from the student population,” said Tom Webster, SFB president. “The 2016 recipients have shown tremendous thought leadership in their respective fields. I commend each and every one of them on this achievement and look forward to their continued contributions to our industry and Society.” 

García is a trainee in the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program in Stem Cell Manufacturing, awarded to Georgia Tech in 2010 to educate and train the first generation of Ph.D. students in the transition and commercialization of stem cell technologies for diagnostic and therapeutic applications. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biological engineering with a concentration in biomechanics from the University of Florida in May 2012.

The recipients are honored for their contributions to advancing the Society’s objectives and goals in a variety of ways and will be honored during the 2016 World Biomaterials Congress, May 18, 2016, Montreal, Canada.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1449504322 2015-12-07 16:05:22 1475896812 2016-10-08 03:20:12 0 0 news Society for Biomaterials honors Georgia Tech bioengineering grad student

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2015-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-07 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
476811 476811 image <![CDATA[Jose Garcia]]> image/jpeg 1449586800 2015-12-08 15:00:00 1475895230 2016-10-08 02:53:50
<![CDATA[HyPer-Tau Provides Spatially-resolved Hydrogen Peroxide Sensing in Cells]]> 27303 By attaching a hydrogen peroxide reporter protein to cellular microtubule structures, researchers have developed the first sensor able to show the location of the key cellular signaling chemical inside living cells with high resolution over time.

Knowing the precise location of hydrogen peroxide within cells could help scientists gain a better understanding of oxidation-reduction reactions taking place there. The sensor was developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who have demonstrated several applications for its ability to spatially resolve the chemical’s presence inside cells.

Known as HyPer-Tau, the new sensor modifies a commercially-available protein that alters its fluorescence properties in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. The research, which was supported by the National Institutes of Health, was reported November 20 in the journal Scientific Reports.

“The chemistry of cells, unlike more traditional chemistry in test tubes, is highly dependent on where a chemical reaction is occurring,” said Christine Payne, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and one of the paper’s senior authors. “HyPer-Tau is a tool that will provide us with information on the ‘where’ and ‘when’ for hydrogen peroxide inside living cells.”

Until development of the new technique, hydrogen peroxide sensors could only tag certain components of cells, or show that the cells contained the oxidant. To understand the role of hydrogen peroxide in signaling and oxidation, however, the researchers wanted to know the time-resolved location of the chemical.

“We needed a tool that could discriminate between locations to provide more than a whole readout of oxidation,” said Melissa Kemp, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “With very specific spatial information, we could be better informed about how cellular processes or therapies involving oxidation are going to operate.”

Kemp and Payne realized that if they could anchor the reporter protein to microtubules – fibrous structures that crisscross cells like railroad tracks – they might obtain the location information they needed.

Other researchers had already created variants of the HyPer reporter protein, so the researchers – with technician Emilie Warren, undergraduate researcher Tatiana Netterfield and postdoctoral researcher Saheli Sarkar – set out to create a new tool. They added a tubulin-binding protein known as Tau, that connects the HyPer protein to the microtubule structures. Fluorescence microscopy then allowed them to observe the real-time change in fluorescence as oxidation occurred in the cells they were studying.

“Connecting the reporter protein allows us to get a grid-type readout of oxidation going on inside the cells,” said Kemp. “By having the protein tethered, we can get very specific sub-cellular information. You can readily see areas with more intense oxidation.”

She used a traffic analogy to compare information provided by the new technique to that provided by the earlier one. Earlier sensors would have reported that traffic in a downtown area was congested, while the new sensor could pinpoint an accident on a specific street causing the delays. The latter information allows specific action to be taken, Kemp said.

Kemp and Payne have already used the tool to visualize the signaling process that takes place as macrophages discover bacteria and move to engulf and destroy the invaders.

“When the macrophages are activated, they begin shooting out tiny leg-like structures that seek the bacterial signal,” explained Kemp. “To do so, they require hydrogen peroxide to control the migration and other activities. We can see in these leading edges where the oxidation is occurring inside the cells, providing an unprecedented view of the behavior.”

By combining multiple images, the researchers produced movies correlating the production of hydrogen peroxide to the activities of the immune system cells.

In another application, the sensor was used to study how cells respond to the introduction of extracellular hydrogen peroxide, which produces a wave of oxidation as it moves through the cellular structures.

“This provides a way to quantify both intracellular and intercellular variation that is occurring,” Kemp explained. “Our goal is to be able to monitor in real-time the events that are occurring. Because of the spectral features of the reporter, you can couple this with other types of dyes to monitor organelles and different types of production.”

Kemp hopes to use the new sensor to better understand oxidation of another type of immune cell, T cells, as they form contact with other cells to recognize the presence of viruses. In studies that could be important to understanding the effects of nanoscale materials on living cells, the researchers are working to understand the suspected oxidative impacts of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. The new technique could also be useful in understanding how stem cells change oxidation properties during differentiation into other cell types.

In current research, Netterfield is working with Kemp and Payne to combine the existing technique with other reporter proteins to gain additional information.

Once thought to be a sign of disease processes, hydrogen peroxide is now understood to be a critical signaling chemical inside cells, Kemp noted. Cells purposely produce the chemical, which can quickly oxidize proteins to alter their functions. Hydrogen peroxide is also generated at sites of inflammation, and as macrophages destroy pathogens.

Collaboration between Payne – a physical chemist – and Kemp – a biomedical engineer, demonstrates how innovation can occur at the intersections of disciplines.

“Chemistry and biomedical engineering offer a pretty natural collaboration,” said Payne. “We both speak the same science language and have a shared interest in developing new tools to enable new science.”

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director and NIAID under grants DP2OD006483-01 and R01AI088023. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

CITATION: Emilie A. K. Warren, Tatiana S. Netterfield, Saheli Sarkar, Melissa L. Kemp and Christine K. Payne, “Spatially-resolved intracellular sensing of hydrogen peroxide in living cells, (Scientific Reports, 2015). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep16929

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986)

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1449142845 2015-12-03 11:40:45 1475896812 2016-10-08 03:20:12 0 0 news By attaching a hydrogen peroxide reporter protein to cellular microtubule structures, researchers have developed the first sensor able to show the location of the key cellular signaling chemical inside living cells with high resolution over time. 

]]>
2015-12-03T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-03T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-03 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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475641 475671 475641 image <![CDATA[Microtubular structure]]> image/jpeg 1449257215 2015-12-04 19:26:55 1475895227 2016-10-08 02:53:47 475671 image <![CDATA[Macrophage imaging]]> image/png 1449257215 2015-12-04 19:26:55 1475895227 2016-10-08 02:53:47
<![CDATA[Intellimedix Takes Innovation Award]]> 28153 Developing new, life-saving treatments isn’t cheap or fast – on average, it costs more than $1 billion and takes 15 years to take a drug to market. It’s time that some people simply don’t have.  

But a researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology is working to streamline the process of getting good medicine to people who need it. 

The lab of Jeffrey Skolnick, faculty member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, has spent years developing algorithms to identify new therapeutic uses for existing drugs. 

The technology is promising enough to have earned an Intel Innovation Award. Skolnick, a computational biologist, is chief science officer of Intellimedix, the company that deployed his lab’s technology and took home the award recently at the Health IT Leadership Summit in Atlanta.

“We see the award as recognizing the potential of the technology we’ve been developing,” says Skolnick, professor in the School of Biology and director of the Center for the Study of Systems Biology. “Imagine if one could use repurposed drugs to treat a disease, especially an intractable disease that leaves a patient with very few options.”

Created in 2010 by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Technology Association of Georgia, the Health IT Leadership Summit annually brings together leaders from across the healthcare continuum to discuss how the industry can drive innovation to improve healthcare delivery.

Intellimedix was founded several years ago by two fathers who had become frustrated with the lack of treatments available for their children (who have a rare form of childhood epilepsy called Dravet syndrome). They met with Skolnick, whose technology, he says, “was ready for prime time testing.”

Recognizing that there was a lack of personalized medicine or effective treatments for a wide range of human diseases, they built a company around the Skolnick lab’s systems biology algorithms. 

Now, the early-stage company is looking to make an impact in the world of precision medicine, thanks to the advances that have been made in the science of human genomics and computer processing speed.

The company’s core strategy is to use its technology to efficiently screen and validate large numbers of compounds against molecular/genetic targets known to cause a given disease – such as Dravet syndrome, something Intellimedix is working on, using zebrafish as an in vivo tool.

Intellimedix also uses its gene sequencing capabilities and high-throughput drug screening to provide precision medicine services to patients. They start by sequencing a patient’s genome, to identify disease-causing genes, as well as any genes modifying the disease.

“We live in the age of the cheap genomic sequence,” says Skolnick. “Actually, getting the sequencing done is cheaper than a lot of blood tests now. Of course, it’s like getting a parts list without an instruction manual.”

So, while your sequence might show 8,000 variants, about 95 to 99 percent of them will probably have no impact. Intellimedix uses its technology to narrow down the number.

“We have the ability to prioritize and identify a much smaller set of targets, which might be causative of certain types of disease,” Skolnick says.

After identifying suspicious genes, Intellimedix finds compounds that will bind to them, which can help determine the most efficacious treatment option with least side effects.

Intellimedix is looking to run clinical trials in humans based on its research into Dravet syndrome, and according to Skolnick, the company is in discussions with a major cancer treatment center for the possibility of using the technology in an effort to develop novel treatments for pancreatic cancer.

Skolnick, who came to Georgia Tech in 2006, says his team’s discoveries could not have been made without a supportive, multi-disciplinary environment, and a large computer cluster.

The result, after almost 10 years of work, is “a general toolkit,” Skolnick says. “But it could have a transformative impact.” 

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1449078048 2015-12-02 17:40:48 1475896812 2016-10-08 03:20:12 0 0 news Technology from Skolnick lab driving company focus on precision medicine

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2015-12-02T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-02T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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475451 475451 image <![CDATA[Jeffrey Skolnick]]> image/jpeg 1449257215 2015-12-04 19:26:55 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45
<![CDATA[Mistilis Wins Poster Award]]> 28153 A seasonal flu can spread easily from person to person. Yearly epidemics sweep through schools, nursing homes, businesses and towns, taking a destructive toll on human public health and the economy. 

Each year, flu epidemics make up to 5 million people severely ill worldwide, killing up to 500,000. In the U.S. alone, up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, sending about 200,000 people to the hospital, and killing up to 49,000 a year. 

The flu also is very expensive, costing an estimated $10.4 billion a year in direct medical expenses plus $16.3 billion in lost annual earnings in this country, which shoulders a total flu-related economic burden of $87 billion.

The single best way to prevent the flu is vaccination, according to the World Health Organization as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means Matt Mistilis should have plenty of work to do, going forward.

“It is really an exciting time right now,” says Mistilis, who recently completed his work toward a Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “We have an opportunity to make a real impact.”

For the past several years, Mistilis has worked in the lab of Mark Prausnitz at the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience on cutting edge microneedle patch technology for the painless, minimally invasive application of vaccines. 

Specifically, Mistilis has been focusing on vaccine stability. His work was recognized at the annual Georgia Bio Innovation Summit in November, when he took home the award for best poster in the Anthony Shuker Scientific Poster Session. 

His poster, entitled, “Stabilization of Influenza Vaccine in Microneedle Patches for Room-Temperature Storage,” grabbed a lot of attention because, he believes, the subject matter is easily grasped.

“People understand why this is important from a public health perspective, this idea of making sure that people get the vaccines they need,” says Mistilis, whose poster shows how he developed the formulations to keep the vaccine stable, then how he tested the stability.

The ability to retain the vaccine’s immunogenicity at elevated temperatures for more than a year will allow for cheaper and simpler vaccination campaigns. This is particularly good news for parts of the world where cold storage and accessibility to medicine are a challenge.

“It’s relatively easy to get vaccines here in the U.S.,” says Mistilis, who plans to work in the pharmaceutical industry. “But around the world, there are countries that have trouble running vaccine campaigns efficiently.” 


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1449076860 2015-12-02 17:21:00 1475896812 2016-10-08 03:20:12 0 0 news Research focused on vaccine stability in microneedle patches

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2015-12-02T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-02T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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475401 475401 image <![CDATA[Matt Mistilis]]> image/jpeg 1449257202 2015-12-04 19:26:42 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45
<![CDATA[Before the Chicken and the Egg]]> 28153 Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) are trying to unravel the mystery of how prebiotic molecules gave rise to life.


Launched in 2010 with a $20 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation and NASA, the center is comprised of researchers from multiple institutions led by Georgia Tech’s Nick Hud, director of the CCE, associate director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.


CCE, whose funding was renewed earlier this year, continues to push the envelope of prebiotic chemistry and make advances toward understanding how life took shape on Earth. 


Read all about the CCE in the current edition of Georgia Tech’s Research Horizons.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1449002621 2015-12-01 20:43:41 1475896808 2016-10-08 03:20:08 0 0 news Center for Chemical Evolution profiled in Research Horizons

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2015-12-01T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-01T00:00:00-05:00 2015-12-01 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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474851 474851 image <![CDATA[Nick Hud CCE]]> image/jpeg 1449257202 2015-12-04 19:26:42 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45
<![CDATA[Chernoff, Fahrni named AAAS Fellows]]> 28153 Two researchers with the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for 2015.

Yury Chernoff and Christoph J. Fahrni are among six Georgia Institute of Technology faculty members named to this year’s class of AAAS Fellows, who are elected by their peers in recognition of distinguished contributions to science or its application. 

This year’s honorees from Georgia Tech are:

• School of Biology Professor Yury Chernoff: For distinguished contributions to the field of molecular/cellular biology, particularly for understanding prion formation and deciphering the chaperone role in prion propagation in yeast.

• School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Christoph J. Fahrni: For distinguished contributions on the development of metal ion sensors and for discoveries on the mechanisms for metal transport and storage during growth and development.

• School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Jean Lynch-Stieglitz: For bringing physical oceanography approaches to the study of transient circulation changes during ice ages, providing a window into the ocean’s interaction with today’s climate change.

• School of Public Policy Professor Philip Shapira: For distinguished contributions to science, technology and innovation policy, particularly for contributions to improved understanding of effective means of modernizing manufacturing.

• Scheller College of Business Regents Professor Marie Thursby: For research contributions to the role universities play in innovation and the development of pioneering graduate programs that prepare students for careers commercializing new technologies.

• School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Emeritus Paul H. Wine: For distinguished contributions to the fields of physical and atmospheric chemistry, particularly for experimental studies of the kinetics and mechanisms of fast free radical reactions.

A formal ceremony to induct new fellows will be held during the AAAS Annual Meeting in February.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1448888949 2015-11-30 13:09:09 1475896808 2016-10-08 03:20:08 0 0 news Petit Institute researchers among six Georgia Tech faculty to receive honor

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2015-11-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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473361 473361 image <![CDATA[Georgia Tech AAAS Fellows for 2015]]> image/jpeg 1449257190 2015-12-04 19:26:30 1475895223 2016-10-08 02:53:43
<![CDATA[Looking Back 3.8 Billion Years into the Root of the “Tree of Life”]]> 27303 NASA-funded researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are tapping information found in the cells of all life on Earth, and using it to trace life’s evolution. They have learned that life is a master stenographer – writing, rewriting and recording its history in elaborate biological structures.

Some of the keys to unlocking the origin of life lie encrypted in the ribosome, life’s oldest and most universal assembly of molecules. Today’s ribosome converts genetic information (RNA) into proteins that carry out various functions in an organism. But the ribosome itself has changed over time. Its history shows how simple molecules joined forces to invent biology, and its current structure records ancient biological processes that occurred at the root of the Tree of Life, some 3.8 billion years ago.

By examining variations in the ribosomal RNA contained in modern cells, scientists can visualize the timeline of life far back in history, elucidating molecular structures, reactions and events near the biochemical origins of life.

“Biology is a great keeper of records,” said Loren Williams, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and principal investigator for the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Georgia Tech Center for Ribosome Adaptation and Evolution from 2009-2014. “We are figuring out how to read some of the oldest records in biology to understand pre-biological processes, the origin of life, and the evolution of life on Earth.”

The study was reported November 30 in the Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Like rings in the trunk of a tree, the ribosome contains components that functioned early on in its history. The center of the trunk records the tree’s youth, and successive rings represent each year of the tree’s life, with the outermost layer recording the present. Just as the core of a tree’s trunk remains unchanged over time, all modern ribosomes contain a common core dating back 3.8 billion years. This common core is the same in all living organisms, including humans.

“The ribosome recorded its history,” said Williams. “It accreted and got bigger and bigger over time. But the older parts were continually frozen after they accreted, just like the rings of a tree. As long as that tree lives, the inner rings will not change. The very core of the ribosome is older than biology, produced by evolutionary processes that we still don’t understand very well.”

While exploiting this record-keeping ability of the ribosome reveals how biology has changed over time, it can also point to the environmental conditions on Earth in which that biology evolved, and help inform our search for life elsewhere in the Universe.

“This work enables us to look back in time past the root of the tree of life – the ancestor of all modern cells – to a time when proteins and nucleic acids had not yet become the basis for all biochemistry,” said Carl Pilcher, interim director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. “It helps us understand some of the earliest stages in the development of life on Earth, and can guide our search for extraterrestrial environments where life may have developed.”

By rewinding, reverse engineering, and replaying this ancient ribosomal tape, researchers are uncovering the secrets of creation and are answering foundational, existential questions about our place in the Universe.

By studying more additions to the ribosome, the research team – with key contributions by Georgia Tech Research Scientist Anton Petrov – found “molecular fingerprints” that show where insertions were made, allowing them to discern the rules by which it grew. Using a technique they call the Structural Comparative Method, the researchers were able to model the ribosome’s development in great detail.

“By taking ribosomes from a number of species – humans, yeast, various bacteria and archaea – and looking at the outer portions that are variable, we saw that there were very specific rules governing how they change,” said Williams. “We took those rules and applied them to the common core, which allowed us to see all the way back to the first pieces of RNA.”

Some clues along the way helped. For instance, though RNA is now responsible for creating proteins, the very earliest life had no proteins. By looking for regions of the ribosome that contain no proteins, the researchers could determine that those elements existed before the advent of proteins. “Once the ribosome gained a certain capability, that changed its nature,” Williams said.

While the ribosomal core is the same across species, what’s added on top differs. Humans have the largest ribosome, encompassing some 7,000 nucleotides representing dramatic growth from the hundred or so base pairs at the beginning.

“What we’re talking about is going from short oligomers, short pieces of RNA, to the biology we see today,” said Williams. “The increase in size and complexity is mind-boggling.”

The researchers obtained their ribosomes from structure and sequence databases that have been produced to help scientists identify new species. Ribosomes can be crystallized, which reveals their three dimensional structures.

Beyond understanding how evolution played out over time, this knowledge of the ribosome’s development could have more practical modern-day health applications.

“The ribosome is one of the primary target for antibiotics, so understanding its architecture and consistency throughout biology could be of great benefit,” said Williams. “By studying the ribosome, we can start thinking about biology in a different way. We can see the symbiotic relationship between RNA and proteins.”

As a next step, Williams and colleagues are now using experiments to verify what their model shows.

“We have a coherent and consistent model that accounts for all the data we have going all the way back to a form of biology that is very primitive compared to what we have now,” Williams explained. “We plan to continue testing the predictions of the model.”

In addition to those already named, the research included Burak Gulen, Ashlyn Norris, Chad Bernier, Nicholas Kovacs, Kathryn Lanier, Stephen Harvey, Roger Wartell and Nicholas Hud from Georgia Tech, and George Fox from the University of Houston.

This research was funded in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute under grant NNA09DA78A. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NASA.

Founded in 1998, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is a partnership between NASA, 12 U.S. research teams, and 14 international consortia. NAI’s goals are to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research, train a new generation of astrobiology researchers, and share the excitement of astrobiology with learners of all ages. The NAI is part of NASA’s Astrobiology Program which supports research into the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the Universe. http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181

Media relations Contacts:
Georgia Tech – John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).
NASA Astrobiology Institute -- Daniella Scalice, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

 

]]> John Toon 1 1448897829 2015-11-30 15:37:09 1475896808 2016-10-08 03:20:08 0 0 news NASA-funded researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are tapping information found in the cells of all life on Earth, and using it to trace life’s evolution. They have learned that life is a master stenographer – writing, rewriting and recording its history in elaborate biological structures. 

]]>
2015-11-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-30 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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474091 474111 474121 474131 474091 image <![CDATA[Ribosome grew like a tree]]> image/jpeg 1449257202 2015-12-04 19:26:42 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45 474111 image <![CDATA[Ribosome grew like a tree2]]> image/jpeg 1449257202 2015-12-04 19:26:42 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45 474121 image <![CDATA[Ribosome grew like a tree3]]> image/jpeg 1449257202 2015-12-04 19:26:42 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45 474131 image <![CDATA[Ribosome grew by accretion]]> image/jpeg 1449257202 2015-12-04 19:26:42 1475895225 2016-10-08 02:53:45
<![CDATA[Aerospace Student Wins Inaugural 3MT Competition]]> 27445 From monster El Niños to electronic spaghetti, the thesis topics covered during Georgia Tech’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition were as different as the students who presented them. But it was a compelling argument to leave ancient rocket engines behind that brought home the gold.

On Nov. 18, Jonathan Walker, a Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering, walked away from the competition with a $2,000 research travel grant. He will also represent Tech at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools annual meeting, which will be held in February 2016 in Charlotte, N.C.

Other winners included the following Ph.D. students:

Videos of all of the presentations can be found here. For more information about the 3MT competition at Georgia Tech, visit www.grad.gatech.edu/3MT.

]]> Amelia Pavlik 1 1448277283 2015-11-23 11:14:43 1475896808 2016-10-08 03:20:08 0 0 news From monster El Niños to electronic spaghetti, the thesis topics covered during Georgia Tech’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition were as different as the students who presented them. But it was a compelling argument to leave ancient rocket engines behind that brought home the gold.   

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2015-11-23T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-23T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-23 00:00:00 Amelia Pavlik
Graduate Education and Faculty Development

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472451 472451 image <![CDATA[3MT Winners]]> image/jpeg 1449257190 2015-12-04 19:26:30 1475895223 2016-10-08 02:53:43 <![CDATA[3MT Competition]]>
<![CDATA[Brown Brings It All Together]]> 28153 Emery Brown may be forgiven if he sometimes feels as if he’s collaborating with himself, combining two seemingly disparate disciplines together in an effort to know more about the human brain.

Brown, who is an anesthesiologist and a statistician, affiliated with both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, brought all of it together recently when he delivered the annual Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Lecture in Biomedical Engineering (BME).

“How many people have had anesthesia before?” Brown asked his audience of more than 130 at the Academy of Medicine at the outset of his lecture, entitled, “Deciphering the Dynamics of the Unconscious Brain Under General Anesthesia.”

When half the people in the room raised their hands, he said, “well, I picked the right topic then.”

Then he spent the next 45 minutes or so presenting his research on what happens to the human brain, at different ages, under anesthesia. Sorting it all out, he said, required “an amalgam of neuroscience, statistics and modeling.” 

The work represents an important contribution to neuroscience because historically, “we haven’t taken the study of general anesthesia seriously as a neuroscience discipline, and it very much is,” he said, adding that a more serious approach to studying anesthesiology will not only improve patient care, but lead to a greater understanding of how the brain works and help address other problems in clinical neuroscience.

Along the way, Brown also helped answer another, broader question for Coulter Department Chairman Ravi Bellamkonda, faculty researcher with the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

“People ask me all the time, ‘what do biomedical engineers do,’” said Bellmkonda, who had earlier described the BME department as, “a powerful incubator of ideas.”

Brown’s presentation, he said, was a great example of how different disciplines help spark the knowledge and discovery that keeps the incubator humming with activity. “This talk was a perfect illustration of how technology and math and physics can help us understand something that we think of as biology,” Bellamkonda added. 

This year’s lecture provided an opportunity for BME’s growing expertise in neuroscience to step to the forefront, said Garrett Stanley, the BME professor and Petit Institute researcher who served as faculty host, and who first met Brown years ago. 

At the time, Stanley was just starting his lab at Harvard and a colleague suggested he seek out Brown for some statistical information. Stanley was surprised to discover that Brown was also an anesthesiologist.

“But he was also a serious statistician and mathematician, immersed in the field of neuroscience,” Stanley said. “I’m not a scholar in etymology, but I’m pretty sure that the two words ‘anesthesiologist’ and ‘statistician’ have probably never been concatenated in the history of the English language. I think we can thank Emery for that.” 

For his part, Brown took note of the collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach being taken in general at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and specifically within the Coulter Department, a joint department of Georgia Tech and Emory, and the Petit Institute, which includes also faculty members from Emory.

“The work here is phenomenal,” he said. “This beautiful integration of medicine and engineering and science, because you’ve brought together two institutions, Georgia Tech and Emory. It’s unique, and the possibilities are boundless.”

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1448042887 2015-11-20 18:08:07 1475896808 2016-10-08 03:20:08 0 0 news Distinguished lecturer presents research on anesthesia’s effects on the brain

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2015-11-20T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-20T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-20 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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470291 472271 470291 image <![CDATA[Guest speaker Emery Brown (left), and Ravi Bellamkonda (right), BME department chair.]]> image/jpeg 1449257160 2015-12-04 19:26:00 1475895218 2016-10-08 02:53:38 472271 image <![CDATA[Emery and Garrett]]> image/jpeg 1449257190 2015-12-04 19:26:30 1475895223 2016-10-08 02:53:43
<![CDATA[World Stem Cell Summit Comes to Atlanta]]> 28153 The Regenerative Engineering and Medicine (REM) research center, a collaboration among three of Georgia’s top research institutions, will not only have a front row seat for the World Stem Cell Summit, Dec. 10-12, in Atlanta – it is playing a lead role in facilitating the planet’s largest interdisciplinary gathering of professionals engaged in stem cell science and regenerative medicine.

REM, a sponsor of the summit, is a research partnership including Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia (UGA), and is focused on transforming the treatment of diseases and injuries.

Scientists, students, clinicians, venture capitalists, investors, industry leaders, philanthropists, policy makers, experts in law and ethics, patient advocates – an array of stakeholders in stem cell science and regenerative medicine – will convene at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta for the summit.

"This is a fantastic opportunity that brings together different viewpoints to share the latest in research and commercialization of regenerative medicine therapies," said Johnna Temenoff, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and the co-director of the Regenerative Engineering and Medicine research center.

The summit brings more than 200 international speakers and 65 hours of in-depth programming arranged around thematic tracks that include: “Discovery, Translation & Clinical Trials,” “Regenerative Services & Restorative Medicine,” “Innovation Showcase for Cell Manufacturing,” “Regenerative Engineering & BioBanking,” “Hot Topics & Emerging Trends,” and “Ethics, Law and Society.” 

In addition to compelling keynote speeches, plenary sessions and focus sessions, the three-day event includes the “Conversations with Experts” luncheon, roundtable discussions, a centrally located exhibit hall, the poster forum, and an awards dinner. 

One of the honorees is Dr. Robert Nerem, who led the launch of the Georgia Tech/Emory Center for the Engineering of Living Tissues, which has evolved into REM. Nerem, founding director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, is being honored with the Leadership Award. 

Nerem, is slated to offer comments during the morning session of the first day, Thursday, Dec. 10, leading off the list of speakers from the three REM institutions, including REM directors Temenoff, Steven Stice (who also leads the Regenerative Bioscience Center at UGA) and Edmund Waller (Emory Winship Cancer Institute).

Attendees of the World Stem Cell Summit also have an opportunity to attend the RegMed Capital Conference, a co-located meeting committed to advancing commercialization and investment opportunities for companies targeting cures. This could be particularly useful for the 18 start-up companies that have emerged from the research of REM lab members.

Currently, REM has more than 70 faculty members from its three institutions working to develop innovative treatments for a variety of diseases in the areas of cancer, neurology, cardiology, orthopedics, and pediatrics. Since 2000, REM has garnered almost $121 million in total funding and its researchers have licensed 25 technologies.

The World Stem Cell Summit and RegMed Capital Conference serve as the flagship gathering of the international stem cell and regenerative medicine community, with the aim of accelerating the discovery and development of lifesaving cures and therapies and bringing together stakeholders to solve global challenges.

In addition to REM, other organizing partners are the Genetics Policy Institute/Regenerative Medicine Foundation (producer of the event), the Mayo Clinic, the Kyoto University Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, BioBridge Global, the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the New York Stem Cell Foundation.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1447862505 2015-11-18 16:01:45 1475896803 2016-10-08 03:20:03 0 0 news REM plays lead role in annual gathering of global stakeholders

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2015-11-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-30T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Metabolic Profiles Distinguish Early Stage Ovarian Cancer with Unprecedented Accuracy]]> 27303 Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer.

Using advanced liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry techniques coupled with machine learning computer algorithms, researchers have identified 16 metabolite compounds that provided unprecedented accuracy in distinguishing 46 women with early-stage ovarian cancer from a control group of 49 women who did not have the disease. Blood samples for the study were collected from a broad geographic area – Canada, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

While the set of biomarkers reported in this study are the most accurate reported thus far for early-stage ovarian cancer, more extensive testing across a larger population will be needed to determine if the high diagnostic accuracy will be maintained across a larger group of women representing a diversity of ethnic and racial groups.

The research was reported November 17 in the journal Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature.

“This work provides a proof of concept that using an integrated approach combining analytical chemistry and learning algorithms may be a way to identify optimal diagnostic features,” said John McDonald, a professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of its Integrated Cancer Research Center. “We think our results show great promise and we plan to further validate our findings across much larger samples.”

Ovarian cancer has been difficult to treat because it typically is not diagnosed until after it has metastasized to other areas of the body. Researchers have been seeking a routine screening test that could diagnose the disease in stage one or stage two – when the cancer is confined to the ovaries.

Working with three cancer treatment centers in the U.S. and Canada, the Georgia Tech researchers obtained blood samples from women with stage one and stage two ovarian cancer. They separated out the serum, which contains proteins and metabolites – molecules produced by enzymatic reactions in the body.

The serum samples were analyzed by ultra-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS), which is two instruments joined together to better separate samples into their individual components. Heavier molecules are separated from lighter molecules, and the molecular signatures are determined with enough accuracy to identify the specific compounds. The Georgia Tech researchers decided to look only at the metabolites in their research.

“People have been looking at proteins for diagnosis of ovarian cancer for a couple of decades, and the results have not been very impressive,” said Facundo Fernández, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemistry and Biochemistry who led the analytical chemistry part of the research. “We decided to look in a different place for molecules that could potentially provide diagnostic capabilities. It’s one of the places that people had really not studied before.”

Samples from each of the 46 cancer patients were divided so they could be analyzed in duplicate. The researchers also looked at serum samples from 49 women who did not have cancer. The work required eliminating unrelated compounds such as caffeine, and molecules that were not present in all the cancer patients.

“We used really high resolution equipment and instrumentation to be able to separate most of the components of the samples,” Fernández explained. “Otherwise, detection of early-stage ovarian cancer is very difficult because you have a lot of confounding factors.”

The chemical work identified about a thousand candidate compounds. That number was reduced to about 255 through the work of research scientist David Gaul, who removed duplicates and unrelated molecules from the collection.

These 255 compounds were then analyzed by a learning algorithm which evaluated the predictive value of each one. Molecules that did not contribute to the predictive accuracy of the screening were eliminated. Ultimately, the algorithm produced a list of 16 molecules that together differentiated cancer patients with extremely high accuracy – greater than 90 percent.

“The algorithm looks at the metabolic features and correlates them with whether the samples were from cancer or control patients,” McDonald explained. “The algorithm has no idea what these compounds are. It is simply looking for the combination of molecules that provides the optimal predictive accuracy. What is encouraging is that many of the diagnostic features identified are metabolites that have been previously implicated in ovarian cancer.”

As a next step, McDonald and Fernández would like to study samples from a larger population that includes significant numbers of different ethnic and racial groups. Those individuals may have different metabolites that could serve as biomarkers for ovarian cancer.

Though sophisticated laboratory equipment was required to identify the 16 molecules, a screening test would not require the same level of sophistication, Fernández said.

“Once you know what these molecules are, the next step would be to set up a clinical assay,” he said. “Mass spectrometry is a common tool in this field. We could use a clinical mass spectrometer to look at only the molecules we are interested in. Moving this to a clinical assay would take work, but I don’t see any technical barriers to doing it.”

The Fernández and McDonald groups have used a similar approach with prostate cancer and plan to explore its utility for detecting other types of cancer.

The research was supported by grants from The Laura Crandall Brown Ovarian Cancer Foundation, The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, The Ovarian Cancer Institute, Northside Hospital (Atlanta), The Robinson Family Fund, and the Deborah Nash Endowment Fund.

CITATION: David A. Gaul, et al., “Highly-accurate metabolomics detection of early-stage ovarian cancer,” (Scientific Reports, 2015). http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep16351

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1447757288 2015-11-17 10:48:08 1475896803 2016-10-08 03:20:03 0 0 news Studying blood serum compounds of different molecular weights has led scientists to a set of biomarkers that may enable development of a highly accurate screening test for early-stage ovarian cancer. 

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2015-11-17T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-17T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-17 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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<![CDATA[Large-Scale Modeling Shows Confinement Effects on Cell Macromolecules]]> 27303 Using large-scale computer modeling, researchers have shown the effects of confinement on macromolecules inside cells – and taken the first steps toward simulating a living cell, a capability that could allow them to ask “what-if” questions impossible to ask in real organisms.

The work could help scientists better understand signaling between cells, and provide insights for designing new classes of therapeutics. For instance, the simulations showed that particles within the crowded cells tend to linger near cell walls, while confinement in the viscous liquid inside cells causes particles to move about more slowly than they would in unconfined spaces.

The research is believed to be the first to consider the effects of confinement on intracellular macromolecular dynamics. Supported by the National Science Foundation, the results are reported November 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Edmond Chow, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Computational Science and Engineering, and Jeffrey Skolnick, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Biology. Their goal is to develop and study models for simulating the motions of molecules inside a cell, and also to develop advanced algorithms and computational techniques for performing large-scale simulations.

“We are setting the stage for what we need to do to simulate a real cell,” said Skolnick. “We would like to put enough of a real cell together to be able to understand all of the cellular biochemical principles of life. That would allow us to ask questions that we can’t ask now.”

Earlier simulations, which produced much less fidelity, had assumed that movement within a cell was the same as movement in an unconfined space.

Skolnick compared the interior of a living cell to a large New Year’s Eve party, perhaps even in Times Square.

“It’s kind of like a crowded party that has big people and little people, snakes – DNA strands – running around, some really large molecules and some very small molecules,” he said. “It’s a very heterogeneous and dense environment with as much as 40 percent of the volume occupied.”

The simulations showed that molecules near the cell walls tend to remain there for extended periods of time, just as a newcomer might be pushed toward the walls of the New Year’s Eve party. Motions of nearby particles also tended to be correlated, and those correlations appeared linked to hydrodynamic forces.

“The lifetimes of these interactions get enhanced, and that is what’s needed there for biological interactions to occur within the cell,” said Skolnick. “This lingering near the wall could be important for understanding other interactions because if there are signaling proteins arriving from other cells, they would associate with those particles first. This could have important consequences for how signals are transduced.”

For particles in the middle of the cell, however, things are different. These molecules interact primarily with nearby molecules, but they still feel the effects of the cell wall, even if it is relatively far away.

“Things move more slowly in the middle of the cell than they would if the cell were infinitely big,” Skolnick said. “This may increase the likelihood of having metabolic fluxes because you have to bring molecules around partners. If they are moving slowly, they have more time to react because intimate interactions by accident are unavoidable.”

While the rate of activity slows quantitatively, qualitatively it is the same kind of motion.

“Slowed motion is a double-edged sword,” Skolnick explained. “If you happen to be nearby, it is likely that you are going to have interactions if you are slower. But if you are not nearby, being slower makes it difficult to be nearby, affecting potential interactions.”

The researchers also compared the activities of systems of particles with different sizes, finding that having particles of different sizes didn’t make an appreciable difference in the overall behavior of the molecules.

While the simulations didn’t include the DNA strands or metabolite particles also found in cells, they did include up to a half-million objects. Using Brownian and Stokesian physics principles, Skolnick and Chow considered what the particles would do within the confined spherical cell a few microns in diameter.

“From the results of the computer simulations, we can measure things that we think might be interesting, such as the diffusion rates near the walls and away from the walls,” said Chow. “We often don’t know what we are looking for until we find something that forces us to ask more questions and analyze more data.”

Such simulations take a lot of computational time, so the algorithms used must be efficient enough to be completed in a reasonable time. The “art” of the algorithms is trading off fidelity with processing time. Even though the simulations were very large, they managed to study the actions of the confined particles for no more than milliseconds.

“Part of the art of this is guessing what will be a reasonable approximation that will mimic the system, but not be so simple to be trivial or too complicated that you can’t take more than a few steps of the simulation,” Chow explained.

Scientists, of course, can study real cells. But the simulation offers something the real thing can’t do: The ability to turn certain forces on or off to isolate the effects of other processes. For instance, in the simulated cell Skolnick and Chow hope to build, they’ll be able to turn on and off the hydrodynamic forces, allowing them to study the importance of these forces to the functioning of real cells.

Results from the simulation can suggest hypotheses to be confirmed or rejected by experiment, which can then lead to further questions and simulations.

“This becomes a tool you can use to understand real cells,” said Chow. “It’s a virtual system, and you can play all the games you want with it.”

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant ACI-1147834. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Science Foundation.

CITATION: Edmond Chow and Jeffrey Skolnick, “Effects of confinement on models of intracellular macromolecular dynamics,” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1514757112

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1447687457 2015-11-16 15:24:17 1475896798 2016-10-08 03:19:58 0 0 news Using large-scale computer modeling, researchers have shown the effects of confinement on macromolecules inside cells – and taken the first steps toward simulating a living cell, a capability that could allow them to ask “what-if” questions impossible to ask in real organisms. 

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2015-11-16T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-16T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-16 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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470211 470221 470211 image <![CDATA[Cell Visualization1]]> image/jpeg 1449257160 2015-12-04 19:26:00 1475895218 2016-10-08 02:53:38 470221 image <![CDATA[Cell Visualization2]]> image/jpeg 1449257160 2015-12-04 19:26:00 1475895218 2016-10-08 02:53:38
<![CDATA[Ballet May Improve Balance]]> 28153 How does long-term training to enhance physical coordination affect the neural control of movements? How does it affect how we do everyday tasks? 

A team of collaborative researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University set out to find the answers. Their study, from the lab of Petit Institute researcher Lena Ting and published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, compares the movements of professional ballet dancers to individuals with no training. 

The research showed that years of ballet training changed how the nervous system coordinated muscles for walking and balancing behavior. The team’s discoveries may also implications for rehabilitation medicine.

Read more about the research from the Ting lab.

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1447277578 2015-11-11 21:32:58 1475896798 2016-10-08 03:19:58 0 0 news Petit Institute researcher Lena Ting studies how long-term training affects motor modules

 

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2015-11-11T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-11T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-11 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Kim Designing New Tool to Fight Brain Tumors]]> 28153 Medulloblastoma (MB) is a big and potentially terrifying word given to a fast-growing, malignant brain tumor that attacks the cerebellum. It accounts for just 1-2 percent of all primary brain tumors, but it is the most common malignant brain tumor in children under 10.

Like most brain tumors, the typical treatment for MB involves surgery followed by radiation and chemotherapy. While the survival rate for children is 60 to 80 percent (depending on the child’s age when diagnosed), the conventional treatment can lead to side effects, including neurocognitive deficits that diminish quality of life.

To address this challenge, a Georgia Institute of Technology researcher, YongTae Kim, is working to give kids a powerful new vehicle for successful drug treatment, without the side effects, and he recently received an R21 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the early stages of his project.

Kim, a faculty member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering, is developing nanocarriers that are capable of getting past the brain’s stubborn natural defense system to deliver potent therapeutic payloads to specific targets. 

“For any disease in the brain, it’s difficult to deliver drugs because we have the blood-brain barrier, or BBB, and it has limited permeability,” says Kim, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, whose lab is headquartered in the Marcus Nanotechnology Building. “The goal of this study is to use our microfluidic technology to develop nanocarriers for targeted delivery of drugs to brain tumors.”

Kim also is employing his cutting-edge microfluidic technology to engineer nanocarriers that allow for targeted delivery of drugs to treat atherosclerosis (a project for which he was awarded Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association). But the R21 project will require different nanocarriers.

Basically, the BBB is like a very choosy doorman, allowing only limited admission to our gray matter, turning back everything else, including good medicine. “Humans are well designed,” says Kim. “Different vasculature in the brain. We need to design unique nanocarriers to cross this barrier.” 

For this project, Kim is collaborating with Tobey MacDonald, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine and director of pediatric neuro-oncology for the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 

The NIH R21 is an exploratory/developmental grant mechanism that will contribute $423,000 to Kim’s project over two years. 

“If we are successful with this idea,” says Kim, “it could have a huge impact in the field.”

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1447330033 2015-11-12 12:07:13 1475896798 2016-10-08 03:19:58 0 0 news NIH grant supporting Petit Institute researcher’s design of novel nanomedicine

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2015-11-12T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-12T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-12 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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469291 443831 469291 image <![CDATA[Cancer Cells]]> image/jpeg 1449257160 2015-12-04 19:26:00 1475895218 2016-10-08 02:53:38 443831 image <![CDATA[Tony Kim]]> image/jpeg 1449256205 2015-12-04 19:10:05 1475895182 2016-10-08 02:53:02
<![CDATA[Center for Integrative Genomics gets a Reboot]]> 28153 The Center for Integrative Genomics (CIG) isn’t new. It just feels that way.

“We’re rebooting,” says CIG Director Greg Gibson, professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Biology and faculty member of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “We’ve got critical mass now, so the time is right for a reboot.”

Gibson is kind of like a head football coach rebuilding his game plan around a new combination of talented core personnel. But instead of a multi-threat quarterback, nimble wide receivers and tenacious offensive linemen, CIG is counting on a diverse team of biologists, engineers and other researchers to carry out work that can impact the future of medicine.

“Over the past several years we’ve attracted about half a dozen people who have expertise in quantitative genetics and analysis of human genomes, and that’s in addition to another half a dozen who were already here,” says Gibson.

The CIG team is comprised mostly of faculty from the School of Biology, including Gibson, King Jordan, Joe LaChance, Annalise Paaby, Todd Streelman, Fred Vannberg and Soojin Yi. CIG’s other faculty members are Melissa Kemp, Peng Qiu, Eberhard Voit and May Wang from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Gibson’s research collaborators include the Predictive Health Institute and multiple pediatric autoimmune disease experts at Emory University, the Georgia Tech Center for Computational Health (headed by Jimeng Sun and Jim Rehg in the School of Computational Science and Engineering) and Bruce Weir's statistical genetics team at the University of Washington.  Other CIG investigators similarly engaged in dozens of national and international collaborators are expanding the reach of the Center.

They bring a wide-range of interest areas and skill sets to the CIG mix, including but not limited to bioinformatics, machine learning, single cell imaging, computational modeling, the evolution of behavior, infectious disease, human population genetics, cardiovascular disease, electronic medical records, and cryptic genetic variation, or CGV, which refers to unexpressed, bottled-up genetic potential that can fuel evolution – nature’s curveball, served up under abnormal conditions, and a concept that interests researchers like Gibson and Paaby, for example.

“It’s not a theme you find commonly in human genetics right now,” says Gibson. “But it’s something we feel is a very important part of personalized medicine.”

Gibson figures that the CIG’s multi-disciplined team of pioneering scientists and engineers will also serve as an excellent recruiting tool – to attract graduate students, as well as future grant opportunities.

“We have a strong nucleus to carry out the real objective of the center, which is to provide a genetics focus for the systems biology and genomics initiatives on campus. It’s pretty much what I envisaged when I first got here,” says Gibson, who came to Georgia Tech in 2009 following a professorial fellowship at University of Queensland in his native Australia.

“Genetics is a big part of contemporary biology,” he adds. “And if we’re looking ahead, it’s a big part of anything to do with predictive health and personalized medicine.”


Center for Integrative Genomics


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1447257415 2015-11-11 15:56:55 1475896798 2016-10-08 03:19:58 0 0 news Multi-disciplined faculty researchers form nucleus of re-energized research center

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2015-11-11T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-11T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-11 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[A Hairy Situation: Hair Increases Surface Area for Animals by 100 Times]]> 27560 Georgia Institute of Technology researchers combed through more than two dozen studies and did surface measurements for 27 mammals and insects to better understand how animals are able to clean themselves. The findings could have implications for keeping manmade structures – such as sensors, robots and unmanned aerial vehicles – free from pollutants, pollen and dirt. The review study is published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.  

The research team focused on the many ways hair allows animals to both get dirty and remain dirt-free. The researchers found that a honeybee has the same amount of hairs as a squirrel: 3 million. That’s nothing compared to butterflies and moths – each have nearly 10 billion hairs. The human head, as a comparison, has just 100,000.

“Animals likely evolved with hair in order to stay warm. But it also brings a burden,” said David Hu, a Georgia Tech associate professor who co-led the study. “More hair means more surface area that can trap dirt, dust and pollen.”

Hu and his mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, Guillermo Amador, ran calculations to find the true surface area of animals, or the surface area that includes every location where dirt can be collected. The hairier it is, the larger the creature’s true surface area. In fact, the team says it’s 100 times greater than its skin surface area.

“A honeybee’s true surface area is the size of a piece of toast,” said Hu. “A cat’s is the size of a ping pong table. A sea otter has as much area as a professional hockey rink.”  

And with all that surface area comes the challenge of keeping away all the dirt. It turns out that animals use a variety of ways to stay clean. Some depend on non-renewable strategies and use their own energy.

“Dogs shake water off their backs, just like a washing machine,” said Amador, who recently graduated. “Bees use bristled appendages to brush pollen off their eyes and bodies. Fruit flies use hairs on their head and thorax to catapult dust off of them at accelerations of up to 500 times Earth’s gravity.”

Other animals and insects use more efficient, renewable cleaning tactics.

“They don’t do anything extra to stay clean. It just happens,” said Amador.

Eyelashes, for example, protect mammals by minimizing airflow and funneling particles away from eyes. Cicadas have sharp points on their wings that act as pincushions, essentially popping airborne bacteria like water balloons.

It’s these renewable cleaning tactics that have the Georgia Tech team thinking about applications for technology.

“Understanding how biological systems, like eyelashes, prevent soiling by interacting with the environment can help inspire low-energy solutions for keeping sensitive equipment free from dust and dirt,” said Hu. “Drones and other autonomous rovers, including our machines on Mars, are susceptible to failure because of the accumulation of airborne particles.” 

The study, “Cleanliness is next to godliness: mechanisms for staying clean,” appears in the current issue (Vol. 218/Issue 20) of Journal of Experimental Biology.

This work is partially funded by the National Science Foundation (PHY-1255127). Any conclusions expressed are those of the principal investigator and may not necessarily represent the official views of the funding organizations.

]]> Jason Maderer 1 1447110061 2015-11-09 23:01:01 1475896798 2016-10-08 03:19:58 0 0 news Georgia Institute of Technology researchers combed through more than two dozen studies and did surface measurements for 27 mammals and insects to better understand how animals are able to clean themselves.

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2015-11-09T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-09T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-09 00:00:00 Jason Maderer
National Media Relations
404-660-2966
maderer@gatech.edu

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<![CDATA[iEAT Application Helps Treat Children with Feeding Disorders]]> 27303 For most of his life, four-year-old Carsten had required a feeding tube for his nourishment. Born with a chromosome abnormality known as translocation, he also had negative experiences with food as an infant. While he seemed to like the taste of food, he just didn’t eat enough to support his growth and development.

But after just six weeks in the feeding disorders program at the Marcus Autism Center, Carsten was able to stop using the feeding tube and now gets all his nourishment by mouth. And that thrills his mom, Lettitia Ussery.

“The program here gave us the structure and the rules to increase the amount that Carsten was eating,” she said. “He’s eating three or four meals a day now, and his teacher feeds him at school. He’s doing really well and seems to be happy with eating. It’s exciting, and a big change for us.”

As many as five percent of children suffer from severe feeding disorders. In many cases, the challenges arise with other health problems leading to negative experiences with food, such as food allergies or reflux disorder. Despite the best efforts of concerned parents, many of these children must be sustained by feeding tubes. Ironically, these interventions may further hinder appropriate feeding patterns and exacerbate an already fragile parent-child mealtime relationship.

At Marcus, which is part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Dr. Will Sharp is the director of a feeding therapy program that helps these children establish a developmentally appropriate relationship with food. The approach is very successful, but Marcus is one of only a handful of programs in the United States – and the only one in the Southeast – offering this kind of help.

“Traditionally, this kind of therapy is at specialty centers spread out geographically and not available in all communities,” said Sharp, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University. “There are only a handful of really well-known programs.”

Sharp’s therapy depends on a customized protocol determined by each child’s individual response to food. For example, the child’s behavior when one type of food is offered determines which food to try next. The goal is to help each child get past the negative association that led to the feeding disorder in the first place.

Sharp has worked to standardize the Marcus treatment model in an effort to increase access to care. The resulting intervention involves more than 140 possible pathways that were delineated on a paper-based flowchart that only Sharp and his team of trained therapists were able to use. The waiting list of children – and their anxious parents – was long.

About two years ago, Sharp met Leanne West, chief engineer for pediatric technologies in the collaborative research program operated by Children’s and the Georgia Institute of Technology. West heard Sharp’s presentation on the successful therapy program, and saw an opportunity to apply computer technology to the complex decisions that are made in treating the children.

The result of their collaboration is iEAT, an app developed for the iPad.

“The idea behind the app is that we bottle up some of the clinical knowledge and techniques into a comprehensive computer program that will allow others to treat children with severe feeding problems in community settings,” explained Sharp. “The goal is to serve many more children than we are able to reach now.”

The app recently underwent a successful clinical trial in which all children exposed to intervention experienced significant improvement in accepting and swallowing food. Carsten was among the first children to use the app in the clinic, and now Sharp hopes to make it available to other clinicians – and to develop a version that parents can use in the home.

“We put the flowchart from his paper-based manual into a computerized decision-support tool,” explained West, who is also a principal research scientist in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI). “The intelligence behind this program all came from Dr. Sharp’s knowledge developed over years of experience. Using the iPad, we made it easier and faster to use the protocol.”

In addition to helping clinicians decide the next step in feeding therapy, the iPad application, which was written by GTRI research scientist Heyward Adams, also captures information about each treatment session. This data capture reduces the time therapists must spend keeping paper records, and allows them to immediately review a session’s progress with parents.

“It worked, and now they are using it clinically,” said West. “It’s really rewarding to see a child go from negative behavior to keep food out of their mouths to starting to accept food on a spoon. We are very excited about helping Dr. Sharp and his staff make a difference for children and their parents.”

Sharp, West and Adams now hope to develop a version of iEAT that could be used by parents in the home. By combining therapy sessions at the clinic with meal activities at home, they hope to serve even more children and make the program both more convenient and less expensive.

The iEAT app was among the first projects of the “Quick Wins” program established as part of the collaboration between Georgia Tech and Children’s. West says it demonstrates the benefits of bringing doctors together with engineers to develop new solutions to clinical challenges.

“This type of project works because you have a multidisciplinary team in which engineers and scientists work with clinicians,” she said. “When you have people with different training and expertise working together, you can go well beyond what each group could think about on its own.”

For West, whose background is in educational and mobile health technology, the experience of working with Sharp and others at Children’s has been rewarding. “I think this will be truly life-changing for the parents of children with severe feeding disorders,” she said.

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1446643898 2015-11-04 13:31:38 1475896794 2016-10-08 03:19:54 0 0 news Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have developed an iPad app that helps therapists treat children who have severe feeding disorders.

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2015-11-04T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-04T00:00:00-05:00 2015-11-04 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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466121 466131 466151 466121 image <![CDATA[iEAT Therapy]]> image/jpeg 1449256408 2015-12-04 19:13:28 1475895213 2016-10-08 02:53:33 466131 image <![CDATA[iEAT Screen]]> image/jpeg 1449256408 2015-12-04 19:13:28 1475895213 2016-10-08 02:53:33 466151 image <![CDATA[Leanne West]]> image/jpeg 1449256408 2015-12-04 19:13:28 1475895213 2016-10-08 02:53:33
<![CDATA[Center for Chemical Evolution Gets Big Boost]]> 28153 Earth wasn’t always a blue-green beauty thriving with life, like it is today. Something happened 3.5 to 4 billion years ago that led to all of this, giving rise along the way to what might be our species’ most fundamental question: How did life begin?

The Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology has gotten increasingly warmer in its search for the answer. That’s why both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have recently renewed funding for the CCE, granting the research center $20 million over the next five years.

“We’ve made what we feel are significant advances,” says Nick Hud, director of the CCE, associate director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Fortunately, the scientist that reviewed our progress over the past five years agreed, and recommended that NSF and NASA continue funding our center.”

The CCE is an NSF Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI), one of nine around the country. These centers are focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. The association with NASA makes the CCE, headquartered at the Petit Institute, the only CCI with another federal partner besides the NSF.

“NASA has historically been the agency that supports research into understanding how life started on Earth and where we might find it on other planets,” says Hud, whose CCE team has been, “looking at chemical processes that would lead to the spontaneous formation of polymers that could have evolved into the biopolymers we see in life today, like RNA.”

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is one of the three major biological macromolecules essential for life (along with DNA and proteins). A common origins-of-life theory regards RNA as the first biological molecule. The CCE team has been exploring the idea that RNA evolved from something older, a biological precursor that evolved into RNA. 

Basically, they are looking for a missing link between the prebiotic world and the biological world we live in – two worlds that could hardly be more different. 

"One of the CCE’s next big goals is to demonstrate a rudimentary form of evolution – to find the conditions and processes under which these polymers evolved and developed the machinery needed to become living organisms," Hud says. "If we do that, it not only has implications of how life might have gotten started, but we believe it would open up a whole new area in polymer chemistry.” 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1446212442 2015-10-30 13:40:42 1475896794 2016-10-08 03:19:54 0 0 news NSF and NASA renew funding for origins-of-life research

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2015-10-30T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-30T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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464741 464751 68624 464741 image <![CDATA[Strand of DNA]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 464751 image <![CDATA[Nick Hud]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 68624 image <![CDATA[RNA Strand]]> image/jpeg 1449177185 2015-12-03 21:13:05 1475894597 2016-10-08 02:43:17
<![CDATA[The Petit Institute at 20]]> 28153 The story of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience always has been more about flesh and blood than bricks and mortar. That theme rang clear when the institute hosted a 20th anniversary gala Tuesday night, Oct. 27. But there was another theme as well: No one could have predicted the chain reaction that resulted from the human chemistry of 20 years ago, when a group of engineers and scientists came together to form a unique research institute. Along the way, they also started a movement.

“The secret to our success is, it started as a grassroots effort – we liked each other and wanted to interact. It wasn’t imposed upon us by some academic structure,” Sheldon May told a packed Suddath Room and an overflow crowd in the Petit Institute atrium, Tuesday when the institute hosted a 20th anniversary celebration. 

“There are so many other things on the Georgia Tech campus now that have to do with interactions among scientists and engineers, but I think we broke a lot of barriers,” May continued. “Sometimes there is a moment in time and you don’t realize what the implications of that moment are.”

Tuesday’s event drew 300 guests, including Petit Institute founding members, like May; Georgia Tech administrators, like President Bud Peterson and President Emeritus Wayne Clough, Executive Vice President of Research Steve Cross, as well as Deans Gary May (College of Engineering) and Paul Goldbart (College of Sciences); institute faculty members, staff, spouses and children, members of the institute’s Executive Advisory Board, and the man whose generosity has been the catalyst for growth and success, Parker H. “Pete” Petit.

They came to celebrate 20 years of interdisciplinary research, to recognize the founders, the leaders and teams, but also to eat and socialize, scientists and engineers like in the old days, but this time catered and with a live band. There were designated speakers: Petit Institute Executive Director Bob Guldberg, Peterson, Petit, founding director Bob Nerem, May and Loren Williams.

The gala was a fitting exclamation point for the Petit Institute on Tuesday, which began with the annual meeting of the advisory board in the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB).

By 4:30 p.m., as members of the board were finishing their tours of new labs in the EBB, guests started arriving at the Petit Institute, and soon after, the presentations began with opening statements from Guldberg, who started by pointing out some of the essential current numbers: 172 faculty members, 17 research centers, more than $58 million in research funding last year.

“We can go on and on about the numbers, but clearly more important than the numbers are the people that make up this collaborative community,” said Guldberg, who introduced Peterson.

The Georgia Tech president applauded the work of his predecessors, Pat Crecine and Clough, “who had so much to do with the creation and success of the Petit Institute.” He recognized Don Giddens, who led the initial task force that resulted in creation of the interdisciplinary bioresearch institute, and founding director Nerem.

The word “team” kept coming up throughout the evening, but if there was a star of the celebration, it was probably Nerem, who got a bighearted introduction from Petit.

“Unselfish leadership makes wonderful things happen,” said Petit, alluding to Nerem. “Bob Nerem’s unselfish leadership brought us to where we are and I don’t think any of us could have envisioned what has played out here.”

Nerem lavished praise on fellow Petit Institute founders and early faculty members, leaders and supporters, like Giddens, May, Guldberg, Jim Powers, Bud Suddath, Bill Todd, Ray Vito, Roger Wartell, Loren Williams and Ajit Yoganathan, most of whom were in the audience. 

“It does take a team,” Nerem said later in the evening. “Ultimately, people in leadership positions have to serve the goals of the organization, but also the people in the organization. The bottom line is, and you’ve heard me say this before, that just like life in general, research is a people business.”

Nerem also recognized the contributions of the presidents, the philanthropists, the foundations, and the unique, integral partnership with Emory University.

And then Nerem, a pioneering bioengineer, closed with a quote from a pioneering rocket scientist, which seemed like a fitting example of cross-disciplinary appreciation, and earned him the only standing ovation of the evening.

“I think, in a way, it tells the story of what we’re all about in this building,” he said, then quoted, “ ‘It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.’”

Petit Institute 20th Anniversary Video

 

Petit Institute History


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1446206802 2015-10-30 12:06:42 1475896791 2016-10-08 03:19:51 0 0 news Presidents, founders, leaders, and faculty celebrate anniversary of interdisciplinary research institute

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2015-10-30T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-30T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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464631 464651 464641 464691 464661 464631 image <![CDATA[Power trio]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 464651 image <![CDATA[Guldberg talks]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 464641 image <![CDATA[Bob Nerem reflects]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 464691 image <![CDATA[Shelly May]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31 464661 image <![CDATA[Pete Petit]]> image/jpeg 1449256395 2015-12-04 19:13:15 1475895211 2016-10-08 02:53:31
<![CDATA[Ants: Both Solid-like and Liquid-like]]> 27560 Collections of ants have a remarkable ability to change shapes and tasks based on the demands of their environment. When floodwaters hit, they self-assemble and form rafts to stay alive. They can also use their bodies to build bridges and span gaps. What are the properties of these ant aggregations that allow for this wide range of abilities? New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology says it’s because the insects are actually liquid-like and solid-like simultaneously. The study is currently published in Nature Materials.

The Georgia Tech group probed the mechanical properties of fire ant aggregations by putting thousands of ants into a rheometer, a machine used to test the solid-like and liquid-like response of materials such as food, hand cream or melted plastic.

The ants were sheared at constant speeds from about 0.0001 rpm up to about 100 rpm. The researchers found that the behavior of live ants was similar to that of dead ants: when the aggregation is forced to flow, live ants let go and play dead. In this case, the viscosity dramatically decreased as the speed increased.

“It’s not unlike ketchup,” said Alberto Fernandez-Nieves, an associate professor in the School of Physics. “The harder you squeeze, the easier it flows. But with ants, this happens much more dramatically than with ketchup.”

Ants seem to have an on/off switch in that they let go for sufficiently large applied forces,” said David Hu, an associate professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “Despite wanting to be together, they let go and behave like a fluid to prevent getting injured or killed.”

This same behavior can be seen by dropping a penny through an ant aggregation. Ants will flow around the coin as it sinks through the aggregation. This flow takes a relatively long time to happen. However, when the aggregation is poked quickly, it responds like a spring and returns to its original shape.

“This is the hallmark of viscoelastic behavior,” said Fernandez-Nieves. “The ants exhibit a springy-response when probed at short times, but behave fluid-like at longer times.”

The group quantified this by looking at the ants’ response to tiny wiggles of the rheometer. They found that the ants are equally liquid-like and solid-like. They did the same experiment with dead ants and saw that they are also solid-like. This showed that live ants are liquid-like and solid-like because of their activity.

“Remarkably, the observed behavior is similar to what is seen in materials that are not alive, like polymer gels right at the point when they become a gel,” said Fernandez-Nieves. “This is quite puzzling, and we are now performing many more experiments to try and understand where these similarities arise from and how much they can be pushed. Doing this will hopefully extend our current way of thinking about materials, that like the ants, are active and thus out-of-equilibrium. There is much more interesting work we plan on doing with ants.”

Hu has studied ant behavior for nearly 10 years. Fernandez-Nieves is a physicist who uses rheology to understand the mechanics of soft materials and unravel the microscopic origin of their overall properties and behaviors.

Michael Tennenbaum, a graduate research assistant who participated in the study, also compared the behavior of the ant aggregation to jello.

“Imagine if you wanted to make the most jello possible out of a packet of gelatin. It would be solid, but also very liquidy,” he said. “That’s because there would be just barely enough gelatin to make it solid-like but not enough to make it completely solid. The jello would be both solid-like and liquid-like.”

Hu has also used the liquid-like nature of the ants to study self-healing materials.

“If you cut a dinner roll with a knife, you’re going to end up with two pieces of bread,” said Hu. “But if you cut through a pile of ants, they’ll simply let the knife go through, then reform on the other side. They’re like liquid metal – just like that scene in the Terminator movie.”

Hu says it’s this flexibility that allows ants to enjoy the best of both worlds. They’re able to become solids to make things and liquids to avoid breaking into “smithereens.”

The study, “Mechanics of Ant Aggregations,” was published in Nature Materials on October 26, 2015.

This research is supported by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army Research Office Mechanical Sciences Division, Complex Dynamics and Systems Program, under contract numbers W911NF-12-R-0011 and W911NF-14-1-0487. Any conclusions expressed are those of the principal investigator and may not necessarily represent the official views of the funding organization.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS AND VIDEO ARE AVAILABLE HERE: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/hycnwywaxdeau60/AAAHt79dAvREDICnt3nL4nlba?dl=0

]]> Jason Maderer 1 1445864387 2015-10-26 12:59:47 1475896791 2016-10-08 03:19:51 0 0 news The researchers found that the behavior of live ants was similar to that of dead ants: when the aggregation is forced to flow, live ants let go and play dead. In this case, the viscosity dramatically decreased as the speed increased.

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2015-10-26T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-26T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-26 00:00:00 Jason Maderer
National Media Relations
404-660-2926
maderer@gatech.edu

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462471 382241 462451 462471 image <![CDATA[Ants in Rheometer]]> image/jpeg 1449256373 2015-12-04 19:12:53 1475895206 2016-10-08 02:53:26 382241 image <![CDATA[David Hu]]> image/jpeg 1449246231 2015-12-04 16:23:51 1493396247 2017-04-28 16:17:27 462451 image <![CDATA[Alberto Fernandez-Nieves]]> image/jpeg 1449256373 2015-12-04 19:12:53 1475895206 2016-10-08 02:53:26 <![CDATA[Read the study]]> <![CDATA[George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering]]> <![CDATA[School of Physics]]> <![CDATA[Ant Physics Website]]>
<![CDATA[ImmunoEngineering Seed Grants Announced]]> 28153 Cutting edge research is not a solo act. Successful results are acquired through an ensemble effort, like the Georgia ImmunoEngineering Consortium, a collaborative partnership of multidisciplinary researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.

But even the best collaborations require nurturing if they are to blossom into world-changing discoveries. That’s where the ImmunoEngineering Seed Grant program comes in.

“These seed grants allow us to pilot new ideas, gather data and be more competitive for large federal grants,” says Krish Roy, director of the ImmunoEngineering Research Center at Georgia Tech. “It also builds new bridges – collaborations across Georgia Tech and Emory, by providing ways to work together and generate new ideas, gather new data.”

Five new “bridges” – teams of Georgia Tech/Emory researchers – have just received important foundational support through the seed grant program for 2015-2016. These research proposals, each receiving a $50,000 award, are:

• “DNA-barcoded peptide-MHC tetramers for profiling antigen-specific T cells.” Researchers: Gabe Kwong (Georgia Tech), John Altman (Emory).

• “Modulation of early inflammatory response to prevent muscle degeneration in massive rotator cuff tears.” Researchers: Claudius Jarrett (Emory), Johnna Temenoff (Georgia Tech).

 • “Development of novel immune enhancing microparticle-conjugated RIG-I agonist.” Researchers: Mehul Suthar (Emory), Krish Roy (Georgia Tech).

• “Engineered mesenchymal stromal cells for enhancing lymphangiogenesis as a therapeutic for osteoarthritis.” Researchers: Nick Willet (Emory/Georgia Tech), J. Brandon Dixon (Georgia Tech), Rebecca Levit (Emory).

• Human mesenchymal stem cell-driven immunomodulation for enhanced engraftment of human pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocytes.” Researchers: Young-Sup Yoon (Emory), Satish Kumar (Georgia Tech).

“We congratulate this year’s class of ImmunoEngineering Seed Grant recipients,” says C. Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), the lead granting agency for the program. “The collaborative work of Georgia Tech and Emory researchers is developing innovative approaches for groundbreaking research.”

The Georgia ImmunoEngineering Consortium brings together engineers, chemists, physicists, computational scientists, immunologists and clinicians to collaboratively explore the inner workings of the immune system in a quest for breakthrough solutions to improve the lives of people suffering from cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders (such as diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibrosis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.), as well as those individuals undergoing regenerative therapies (think of transplantation, spinal cord injury, bone and cartilage repair, etc.).

“In addition to fundamental immunology studies, the program also supports studies aimed at improving our ability to predict, measure and manipulate the intensity, quality and durability of the immune response,” notes Ignacio Sanz, a GRA Eminent Scholar and director of the Lowance Center for Human Immunology at Emory, where he also serves as chief of the Division of Rheumatology.

While GRA provides most of the funding for the seed grant program additional funding is provided by Emory and Georgia Tech. Roy likens the program to an early stage venture investment.

“If you find ten really good ideas that are already pre-screened and peer-reviewed, the chances are, when those apply for large federal grants the success rates will be high,” says Roy, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint department of Emory and Georgia Tech. “Even if only two or three of those 10 gets funded and becomes successful, that represents a manifold return on investment.”

In other words, the ImmunoEngineering Seed Grant program and the winning proposals are a research community example of smart money aimed at a good bet.

 

CONTACTS:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1445593567 2015-10-23 09:46:07 1475896787 2016-10-08 03:19:47 0 0 news Five teams of Georgia Tech-Emory researchers awarded $50,000 each

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2015-10-23T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-23T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-23 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
461811 461811 image <![CDATA[ImmunoEngineering]]> image/jpeg 1449256373 2015-12-04 19:12:53 1475895206 2016-10-08 02:53:26
<![CDATA[Regrow a Tooth? Fish – Yes; Humans – Maybe Some Day]]> 27303 When a Lake Malawi cichlid loses a tooth, a new one drops neatly into place as a replacement. Why can't humans similarly regrow teeth lost to injury or disease?

Working with hundreds of these colorful fish, researchers are beginning to understanding how the animals maintain their hundreds of teeth throughout their adult lives. By studying how structures in embryonic fish differentiate into either teeth or taste buds, the researchers hope to one day be able to turn on the tooth regeneration mechanism in humans – which, like other mammals, get only two sets of teeth to last a lifetime.

The work, which also involved a study of dental differentiation in mice, shows that the structures responsible for growing new teeth may remain active for longer than previously thought, suggesting that the process might be activated in human adults.

The research was conducted by scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and King’s College in London, and published October 19 in early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The research was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

“We have uncovered developmental plasticity between teeth and taste buds, and we are trying to understand the pathways that mediate the fate of cells toward either dental or sensory development,” said Todd Streelman, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Biology. “The potential applications to humans makes this interesting to everybody who has dealt with dental issues at one time or another in their lives.”

Worldwide, approximately 30 percent of persons have lost all their teeth by the time they reach the age of 60. Beyond the painful dental health issues, this can causes significant medical and nutritional problems that can shorten life.

To understand more about the pathways that lead to the growth and development of teeth, Streelman and first author Ryan Bloomquist – a DMD/PhD student at Georgia Tech and Georgia Regents University – studied how teeth and taste buds grow from the same epithelial tissues in embryonic fish. Unlike humans, fish have no tongues, so their taste buds are mixed in with their teeth, sometimes in adjacent rows.

The Lake Malawi cichlids have adapted their teeth and taste buds to thrive in the unique conditions where they live. One species eats plankton and needs few teeth because it locates its food visually and swallows it whole. Another species lives on algae which must be scraped or snipped from rocky lake formations, requiring both many more teeth and more taste buds to distinguish food.

The researchers crossed the two closely-related species, and in the second generation of these hybrids, saw substantial variation in the numbers of teeth and taste buds. By studying the genetic differences in some 300 of these second-generation hybrids, they were able to tease out the genetic components of the variation.

“We were able to map the regions of the genome that control a positive correlation between the densities of each of these structures,” Streelman explained. “And through a collaboration with colleagues at King’s College in London, we were able to demonstrate that a few poorly studied genes were also involved in the development of teeth and taste buds in mice.”

By bathing embryonic fish in chemicals that influence the developmental pathways involved in tooth and taste bud formation, the researchers then manipulated the development of the two structures. In one case, they boosted the growth of taste buds at the expense of teeth. These changes were initiated just five or six days after the fish eggs were fertilized, at a stage when the fish had eyes and a brain – but were still developing jaws.

“There appear to be developmental switches that will shift the fate of the common epithelial cells to either dental or sensory structures,” Streelman said.

Though they have very different purposes and final anatomy, teeth and taste buds originate in the same kind of epithelial tissue in the developing jaws of embryonic fish. These tiny buds differentiate later, forming teeth with hard enamel – or soft taste buds.

“It’s not until later in the development of a tooth that it forms enamel and dentine,” said Streelman. “At the earliest stages of development, these structures are really very similar.”

The studies in fish and mice suggest the possibility that with the right signals, epithelial tissue in humans might also be able to regenerate new teeth.

“It was not previously thought that development would be so plastic for structures that are so different in adult fish,” Streelman said. “Ultimately, this suggests that the epithelium in a human’s mouth might be more plastic than we had previously thought. The direction our research is taking, at least in terms of human health implications, is to figure out how to coax the epithelium to form one type of structure or the other.”

But growing new teeth wouldn’t be enough, Streelman cautions. Researchers would also need to understand how nerves and blood vessels grow into teeth to make them viable.

"The exciting aspect of this research for understanding human tooth development and regeneration is being able to identify genes and genetic pathways that naturally direct continuous tooth and taste bud development in fish, and study these in mammals,” said Professor Paul Sharpe, a co-author from King’s College. “The more we understand the basic biology of natural processes, the more we can utilize this for developing the next generation of clinical therapeutics: in this case how to generate biological replacement teeth."

As a next step, Streelman and research technician Teresa Fowler are working to determine how far into adulthood the plasticity between teeth and taste buds extends, and what can trigger the change.

In addition to those already mentioned, the research included Nicholas Parnell and Kristine Phillips from Georgia Tech, and Tian Yu from King’s College.

This research is supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, under grants 2R01DE019637 (to J.T.S.) and 5F30DE023013 (to R.F.B.). Any opinions or conclusions are those of the authors and may not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

CITATION: Ryan F. Bloomquist, et al., “Co-Evolutionary Patterning of Teeth and Taste Buds,” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015). http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/15/1514298112


Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
177 North Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1445270949 2015-10-19 16:09:09 1475896780 2016-10-08 03:19:40 0 0 news When a Lake Malawi cichlid loses a tooth, a new one drops neatly into place as a replacement. Why can't humans similarly regrow teeth lost to injury or disease?

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2015-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-19 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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460391 460411 460421 460441 460391 image <![CDATA[Examining fish jaw structures]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895197 2016-10-08 02:53:17 460411 image <![CDATA[Examining fish jaw structures2]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 460421 image <![CDATA[Studying 13-day-old fish]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 460441 image <![CDATA[Juvenile Lake Malawi cichlids]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895206 2016-10-08 02:53:26
<![CDATA[BRAIN Initiative Taps Two Labs from Georgia Tech]]> 28153 Two researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology are riding a second wave of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Christine Payne and Garrett Stanley, both faculty members of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, are among the 131 investigators working at 125 institutions in the U.S. and eight other countries receiving 67 new awards, totaling more than $38 million. 

Payne, Stanley and their collaborators are part of a new round of projects for visualizing the brain in action. It’s all part of the initiative launched by President Obama in 2014 as a wide-spread effort to equip researchers with fundamental insights for treating a range of brain disorders, like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

Stanley and Dieter Jaeger, professor in Emory University’s Department of Biology, are principal investigators of a project titled, “Multiscale Analysis of Sensory-Motor Cortical Gating in Behaving Mice.” 

Their overall goal is better understand and capture the flow of information as we sense and perceive the outside world, “so that we can take action,” says Stanley, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), a joint department of Emory and Georgia Tech.  

The Stanley lab provides expertise on tactile sensing and information processing, while the Jaeger lab provides expertise on motor/muscle coordination and control.

“We are developing approaches to using genetically expressed voltage sensors to optically image brain activity during a sensory-motor task,” Stanley says.

The new technology would let the researchers monitor brain activity at high spatial and temporal resolution over long periods of time.

“It allows us to address questions related to the circuits involved in coordinating the relationship between sensing and action for the first time,” Stanley says. 

The project grew out of another collaboration between Jaeger and Stanley. They are co-principal investigators of an NIH-sponsored training grant in computational neuroscience, which targets a new generation of scientists bound together through questions about how the brain computes. 

“Through this interaction, Dieter and I got to know each other better, started to talk more science, and eventually cooked up this project,” Stanley says.  “The research is relevant to public health because it provides an impactful and innovative study of the circuitry underlying the output from the basal ganglia to the motor cortex and the integration of basal ganglia output with sensory information.”

Debilitating and difficult to treat neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and dystonia are caused by dysfunction of this circuitry.

“The proposed research is expected to provide basic insights into motor circuit function and may reveal new possibilities for treatment of these diseases as well as a better understanding of deep brain stimulation treatments already in use,” says Stanley, who was part of the first round of BRAIN Initiative funding last year with fellow Georgia Tech researcher Craig Forest.

Peter Borden, a Ph.D. student in Stanley’s lab, and Christian Waiblinger, a postdoctoral researcher in Stanley’s lab, will also be contributing to the research.

Meanwhile, Payne is principal investigator for a project titled, “Conducting polymer nanowires for neural modulation.” She’s collaborating with Bret Flanders, a professor at Kansas State whose lab is working on new ways to insulate nanowires. Georgia Tech students Scott Thourson (a Bioengineering Ph.D. candidate) and Rohan Kadambi (undergrad in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering) are helping to lead the effort.

“Understanding how the brain functions requires fundamentally new tools to probe individual neurons without damaging the surrounding tissue,” says Payne, associate professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

“This research will develop a prototype device that uses biocompatible conducting polymer nanowires to interface with individual neurons,” says Payne. “The use of flexible conducting polymers in place of traditional metal, silicon, and carbon electrodes is expected to minimize disruption to the surrounding tissue.”    

The new round of funding brings the NIH investment for BRAIN Initiative research to $85 million in fiscal year 2015. Last year NIH awarded $46 million to the effort, designed to ultimately catalyze new treatments and cures for devastating brain disorders and diseases that are estimated by the World Health Organization to affect more than one billion people on the planet. 

“Georgia Tech is proud to play a role in this important global effort,” says Steve Cross, Tech's executive vice president for research. “These grants are further evidence of Tech’s reputation for conducting world-class bioengineering and bioscience research.” 


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1445254958 2015-10-19 11:42:38 1475896787 2016-10-08 03:19:47 0 0 news Petit Institute researchers Christine Payne and Garrett Stanley contributing to global effort

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2015-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-19 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]>
460431 391851 293571 460431 image <![CDATA[Neural activity]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895206 2016-10-08 02:53:26 391851 image <![CDATA[Garrett Stanley]]> image/jpeg 1449246332 2015-12-04 16:25:32 1475894406 2016-10-08 02:40:06 293571 image <![CDATA[Christine Payne, PhD - School of Chemistry & Biochemistry]]> image/png 1449244313 2015-12-04 15:51:53 1475894991 2016-10-08 02:49:51
<![CDATA[Students Catch the Bio Buzz]]> 28153 They swarmed the Georgia Institute of Technology bio-community, hundreds of them, dipping their eager hands into science. Among other things, they made silly putty, they touched eyeballs, hearts and snakes, toured research laboratories, and were instructed in stem cells and biomaterials by real experts. And finally, they dropped eggs from high places without breaking them.

The Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience facilitated all of this on Saturday, Oct. 10, for the Buzz on Biotechnology, an annual open house for high school students and their families.

“This has evolved into one of Georgia Tech’s most effective outreach programs,” said Loren Williams, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and a longtime faculty member of the Petit Institute. “It brings in top Georgia high school students with their parents, siblings, peers and teachers and introduces them to our students, facilities and research programs. It presents the best of Tech to the outside world.”

Organized and presented by the Bioengineering and Bioscience Unified Graduate Students (BBUGS), this year’s Buzz featured 18 different demonstrations, 24 tours of six separate Petit Institute research labs, and four back-to-back seminars for 350 students, parents and teachers from 36 schools and 20 home school groups.

Some parents, especially from the home school crowd, brought younger students, the idea being that it’s never too early to start thinking about college.

“This is an amazing event, great for any age student who is interested in science,” said Tasha Wolford, who brought her 10-year-old home-schooled son, Austin, who stood nearby, enthusiastically nodding his ascent. “The hands-on stuff, that’s what gets kids really excited about the science. And to have the college students, to be able to talk with them and see how excited they are about what they’re doing, that was really valuable.”

The BBUGS were stationed at tables throughout the Petit Institute atrium, the Suddath Room and outside in the quad. They demonstrated some basic science principles with fun, hands-on presentations, including:

• Viscoelasticity: In this demo, attendee students learned how to make silly putty out of common household chemicals, and learned how this famous toy’s chemical properties are used in science and the body.

• Genes by All Means: DNA is the template of life, but it can also be extracted from food using everyday household products. 

• Egg Drop: This exercise teaches about the important design criteria for protective helmets. So, high school (and younger) students use this knowledge to design a “helmet” for a raw egg. The eggs are then dropped them from the second and third-floor balconies.

• Liquid Nitrogen: What happens when you flash freeze a flower, or a tortilla, or fresh produce? What is dry ice and why does it steam? How does liquid nitrogen stay a liquid? In the one demonstration table operated by faculty, Loren Williams answered these questions and made some fans.

“We met a crazy professor outside, and he’s one big reason to come to Georgia Tech, just to take his classes,” Tasha Wolford said after seeing Williams’ presentation. 

“I totally agree,” said her son, Austin, again nodding his head vigorously.

“The response from the attending kids is so positive,” said Williams who, like the BBUGS who plan and carry out the event, is a fixture at the Buzz on Biotechnology each year. “I personally have a blast entertaining them with science tricks and stunts because they are so responsive. Buzz on Biotechnology really works for Tech and for the visitors. Our students have to be congratulated for this.”

If there were student workhorses for the event, they were Kyle Blum, Jenn Pentz and Marissa Ruehle, from the BBUGS education and outreach committee, who pulled together all of the volunteers, solidified final details for the demos, lab tours and seminars, and sent more messages than an army of carrier pigeons. 

Then they brought all of the disparate pieces together on Saturday for an event that seemed to flow easily.

“My primary measure of success was that all the lab tours and demos went smoothly, without any day-of crises, and that I saw a lot of smiling faces, both from participants and volunteers,” said Ruehle. 

The day of the event was a low-stress affair, said Blum, because of the advance planning by the BBUGS and Petit Institute staffers.

“It’s especially fun and challenging to come up with ways to teach complicated scientific concepts in a visually-intuitive way,” Blums said. “Buzz on Biotech is always an important event for me, because it’s our biggest chance to make a serious impact on the lives of high school students.” 

The makeup of the visitors was as diverse as the demonstrations, people from communities surrounding and within Metro Atlanta, all of them with one thing in common: an interest in science.

“Science is a great field, because it is everywhere, and everyday concept,” said Renula Rajasekaran. She teaches advanced placement chemistry at Luella High School near Locust Grove, and brought 10 students and their families.

“Something like this gives our students more exposure than they can get in the classroom, which is extremely valuable as they think about their futures,” said Rajasekaran.

In addition to the exposure to science and experimentation, the Buzz on Biotechnology also served as a kind of unofficial recruiting tool for Georgia Tech. A representative from Georgia Tech Admissions was on hand to answer any questions about applications or student life. But the best feedback in this regard was unsolicited and unexpected.

A 16-year-old student, one of the 350 visitors on Saturday, made a point of stopping to talk with Ruehle and her colleagues that as a result of the event, she was now planning to pursue an engineering degree.

“She had been interested in becoming a doctor,” Ruehle said. “But after learning that engineers are involved with health applications at Buzz, she felt more interested in engineering and science than in medical school.”

The young student also said that meeting so many “normal girls” at the event was very important to her, and that really made an impression on Ruehle.

“I think that her experience is a prime example of two reasons that make this event so important,” Ruehle said. “It introduces people to options they were truly unaware of, and it dispels stereotypes about research science and scientists!”


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1444821488 2015-10-14 11:18:08 1475896787 2016-10-08 03:19:47 0 0 news Annual Buzz on Biotechnology brings 350 guests to the Petit Institute for hands-on science

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2015-10-14T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-14T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-14 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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458751 458781 458801 458821 458831 458841 458851 458871 458751 image <![CDATA[The BBUGS]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458781 image <![CDATA[Brennan in lab]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458801 image <![CDATA[Young Scientist]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458821 image <![CDATA[Loren Williams Buzz]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458831 image <![CDATA[Egg Drop]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458841 image <![CDATA[Snake!]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458851 image <![CDATA[Craig Forest Buzz]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24 458871 image <![CDATA[Buzz DNA table]]> image/jpeg 1449256361 2015-12-04 19:12:41 1475895204 2016-10-08 02:53:24
<![CDATA[A Light Touch May Help Animals and Robots Move on Sand and Snow]]> 27303 Having a light touch can make a hefty difference in how well animals and robots move across challenging granular surfaces such as snow, sand and leaf litter. Research reported October 9 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics shows how the design of appendages – whether legs or wheels – affects the ability of both robots and animals to cross weak and flowing surfaces.

Using an air fluidized bed trackway filled with poppy seeds or glass spheres, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology systematically varied the stiffness of the ground to mimic everything from hard-packed sand to powdery snow. By studying how running lizards, geckos, crabs – and a robot – moved through these varying surfaces, they were able to correlate variables such as appendage design with performance across the range of surfaces.

The key measure turned out to be how far legs or wheels penetrated into the surface. What the scientists learned from this systematic study might help future robots avoid getting stuck in loose soil on some distant planet.

“You need to know systematically how ground properties affect your performance with wheel shape or leg shape, so you can rationally predict how well your robot will be able to move on the surfaces where you have to travel,” said Dan Goldman, a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Physics. “When the ground gets weak, certain animals seem to still be able to move around independently of the surface properties. We want to understand why.”

The research was supported by National Science Foundation, Army Research Laboratory and Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

For years, Goldman and colleagues have been using trackways filled with granular media to study the locomotion of animals and robots, but in the past, they had used fluidized bed only to set the initial compaction of the media. In this study, however, they used variations in continuous air flow – introduced through the bottom of the device – to vary the substrate’s resistance to penetration by a leg or wheel.

Goldman compares the trackway to the wind tunnels used for aerodynamic studies.

“By varying the air flow, we can create ground that is very, very weak – so that you sink into it quite easily, like powdery snow, and we can have ground that is very strong, like sand,” he explained. “This gives us the ability to study the mechanism by which animals and robots either succeed or fail.”

Using a bio-inspired hexapedal robot known as Sandbot as a physical model, the researchers studied average forward speed as a factor of ground penetration resistance – the “stiffness” of the sand – and the frequency of leg movement. The average speed of the robot declined as the increased air flow through the trackway made the surface weaker. Increasing the leg frequency makes the speed decrease more rapidly with increasing air flow.

The five animals – with different body plans and appendage features – all did better than the robot, with the best performer being a lizard collected in a California desert. The speed of the C. draconoides wasn’t slowed at all as the surface became easier to penetrate, while other animals saw performance losses of between 20 and 50 percent on the loosening surfaces.

“We think that this particular lizard is well suited to the variety of terrain because it has these ridiculously long feet and toes,” Goldman said. “These feet and toes really enable it to maintain high performance and reduce its penetration into the surface over a wide range of substrate conditions. On the other hand, we see animals like ghost crabs that experience a tremendous loss of performance as the substrate changes, something that was surprising to us.”

The robot lost 70 percent of its speed even with wheels designed to lighten its pressure on the surface.

Skiers and beachcombers can certainly understand why. As the surface becomes easier for a ski or foot to penetrate, more energy is required to move and forward progress slows. Human and skiers haven’t evolved solutions to that problem, but desert-dwelling creatures have. The research, Goldman says, will help us understand how they do it.

“The magic for us is how the animals are so good at this,” he said. “There’s a clear practical application to this. If you can get the controls and morphology right, you could have a robot that could move anywhere, but you have to know what you are doing under different conditions.”

As part of the research, Georgia Tech graduate students Feifei Qian and Tingnan Zhang used a terradynamics approach based on resistive force theory to perform numerical simulations of the robots and animals. They found that their model successfully predicted locomotor performance for low resistance granular states.

“This work expands the general applicability of our resistive force theory of terradynamics,” said Goldman. “The resistive force theory, which allows us to compute forces on limbs intruding into the ground, continues to work even in situations where we didn’t think it would work. It expands the applicability of terradynamics to even weaker states of material.”

In addition to those already mentioned, co-authors include Wyatt Korff from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, Paul Umbanhowar from Northwest University, and Robert Full from the University of California at Berkeley.

This research was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology (MAST) Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA) under cooperative agreement number W911NF-08-2-0004, and by the National Science Foundation Physics of Living Systems CAREER and Student Research Network and ARO Grant No. W911NF-11-1-0514. Any conclusions or opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the sponsoring agencies.

CITATION: Feifei Qian, et al., “Principles of appendage design in robots and animals determining terradynamic performance on flowable ground,” (Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, 2015). http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-3190/10/5/056014

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1444507913 2015-10-10 20:11:53 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news Having a light touch can make a hefty difference in how well animals and robots move across challenging granular surfaces such as snow, sand and leaf litter. Research shows how the design of appendages – whether legs or wheels – affects the ability of both robots and animals to cross weak and flowing surfaces.

]]>
2015-10-10T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-10T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-10 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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457871 457891 457901 457911 457931 457871 image <![CDATA[Sandbot robot]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457891 image <![CDATA[Preparing Sandbot robot]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457901 image <![CDATA[Preparing Sandbot robot2]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457911 image <![CDATA[Sandbot in trackway]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457931 image <![CDATA[Sandbot closeup]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22
<![CDATA[Viapore Takes TERMIS Crown]]> 28153 Nathan Evans and Brennan Torstrick are men with a plan – an award-winning plan, as it turns out.  

The Georgia Institute of Technology Ph.D. students have been hauling in the hardware in business plan competition for Viapore, a project built around technology they developed. 

Their most recent success, a victory in September at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS) World Congress in Boston, might be the most impressive yet for the research duo, because this time they were on their own.

Viapore was created in the TI:GER (Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results) program at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business, by a team that included Evans, Torstrick, Tech MBA students Anne Hewitt and Matthew Kroge, and Emory Law student Brad Schweizer (who also has an MBA). 

In previous competitions, the business-minded trio – Hewitt, Kroge and Schweizer – were generally on hand to present the team’s plan. But it was just Evans and Torstrick at TERMIS.

“We had been leaning heavily on our teammates in previous competitions,” says Evans, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering (MSE), and has worked in the lab of Ken Gall (who recently became chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Duke University). “But by the time we got to the TERMIS competition, we were fluent on the business side of things.”

Torstrick, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student in the lab of Petit Institute Executive Director Bob Guldberg, adds, “the technology intuitively makes sense to a lot of people. They get it.”

Part of their TI:GER training involved gathering feedback from potential customers as well as key opinion leaders, like surgeons and their advisors, among others.

“The market need is obvious,” Torstrick says.

That was a message that came across at previous competitions as well. Viapore beat 20 other teams to win the TiE Atlanta competition (The Indus Entrepreneurs), and made it to the semifinals in the other contests, including the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition (considered the “Super Bowl of Investment Competitions”) in May, in Austin, Texas.

“TERMIS was different,” Evans says. “The other competitions were mostly MBAs who found a technology in a university and were leveraging that. The fact that Brennan and I are engineers and the inventors who are heavily involved in research and technology was an advantage at TERMIS, where the focus is on tissue engineering.”

Viapore spun out of the duo’s thesis research. It’s something Evans (nearing the end of his fourth year) began working on in January 2012, and Torstrick (early fourth year) got into in August 2012. The surface porous PEEK implant technology they have developed over the last three-plus years addresses a major clinical need. 

“PEEK is a popular polymer implant material, due to its favorable biomechanical and clinical imaging properties, but surgeons have found that it does not integrate well with bone and can easily slip out of place,” Guldberg says.

So, the duo combined their skills in mechanics of materials and bioengineering to come up with an improvement, developing a porous implant for fusion surgeries that will reduce the need for revision surgeries by providing faster and better integration with bone and tissue than nonporous implants.

And with their multidisciplinary teammates from the TI:GER experience, they’ve devised a successful plan to bring the product to market.

“I’m really impressed that they have taken an innovative development from the research laboratory and created an award-winning business plan for translating it into a product to help people who need back surgery.”

Along the way, the Viapore team also created a perfect slogan for the product: “We’ve got your back.”

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1444401614 2015-10-09 14:40:14 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news Grad students win national business plan competition

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2015-10-09T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-09T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-09 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Georgia Tech, Emory Unite to Train Healthcare Roboticists]]> 27241 Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University faculty members are uniting to train the next generation of engineering students in healthcare robotics technologies, so they can better understand the changing needs of patients and their caregivers and healthcare providers.

With the support of a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation National Research Traineeship program, this faculty team will create new bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs and concentrations in healthcare robotics – the first degree programs in this area in the United States.

Led by Ayanna M. Howard, the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), this initiative will blend Emory’s medical and clinical expertise and Tech’s robotics and engineering know-how to train engineering students in robotics, physiology, neuroscience, rehabilitation, and psychology. The program also aims to increase the appeal of STEM fields to a wide range of people, including women, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities.

The U.S. population is living longer and is becoming older and more racially and ethnically diverse. In addition, the number of younger people living with a lifelong disability is also increasing, including 52,351 post-9/11 military veterans with combat injuries and 6.4 million children with developmental disorders or delays. Fifty million people are also diagnosed annually with neurological/neurodegenerative diseases. “Providing innovative solutions to help improve an individual’s quality of life continues to emerge as a growing need,” said Howard, who leads the Human-Automation Systems Lab in ECE. “Keeping this need in mind, we will train engineers not only to develop robotics technologies, but also learn how to work with and listen to the needs of the technology end users – patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals.”

Three faculty join Howard’s leadership team. Charlie Kemp, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University and director of the Healthcare Robotics Lab in BME, focuses on intelligent mobile robots for physical assistance in the context of healthcare. Lena H. Ting, a BME professor with an appointment in Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy, and co-director of the Neural Engineering Center, will integrate human needs related to accessibility and rehabilitation to inform the design of robotics solutions.

Randy D. Trumbower, an assistant professor in both BME and Physical Therapy and the director of research within Rehabilitation Medicine at Emory, will work on interfacing robotics and physical therapy techniques.

Additional faculty will serve as student advisors, including Wendy Rogers, professor in Tech’s School of Psychology; Jun Ueda, an associate professor from Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; Steven L. Wolf, a professor in Emory’s Division of Physical Therapy; and Minoru Shinohara, an associate professor in Tech’s School of Applied Physiology.

The team will focus first on developing the doctoral and master’s programs, with the goal of having a mini-cohort of Ph.D. students in spring 2016 and starting the official graduate degree programs next fall. The undergraduate degree will combine the five-year, B.S./M.S. degree program and undergraduate thesis option, allowing students to build a foundation for an eventual M.S. thesis. The graduate program will build on the highly successful multidisciplinary robotics Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech. “We’re excited about this opportunity to further enhance and grow our world-class educational programs in robotics,” said Kemp, who has served on the robotics Ph.D. program’s leadership team since its inception in 2007.

A sampling of these courses include:

•        Interfacing Engineering and Rehabilitation, taught by Trumbower, engages both engineering and clinical students. They will learn equally from clinical experts about their target demographics and the issues they face and from engineering faculty about how robotics can address these challenges. Members from collaborating medical organizations and non-profit agencies will regularly visit the class to talk with students. Discussion points and group projects will be derived from real case studies using persons with physical challenges as technology consumers and consultants.

“In order for clinicians to play a more active role in the development, evaluation, and implementation of robotics technologies in rehabilitation, they must first more comfortably engage engineers who develop and test these technologies,” said Trumbower. “Mutually, in order for engineers to play a more active role in the development, evaluation, and implementation of rehabilitation technologies, they must first more comfortably engage clinicians who evaluate and treat patients. This course provides a novel learning approach for this type of collaborative interaction.”

•        A course on ethics, privacy, and regulations in medicine and biomedical robotics will be offered, where students learn about considerations that must be addressed when designing and deploying robotic systems for health. “While engineering students at Tech are required to take ethics courses, certain areas like privacy or statistical analysis have different nuances in the healthcare arena,” said Howard. “For instance, what does ‘good’ mean as a healthcare roboticist vs. a traditional roboticist? How do you manage privacy and share information from doctor to doctor, and is there a correlation to a robot in the doctor’s office doing the same thing with a robot in a patient’s home?”

•        Interdisciplinary research training will provide students with hands-on, healthcare experience during their first summer in the program. Matched with mentors in both engineering and healthcare, students will do one week of clinical rotations, where they will observe medical practices and learn about current problems in healthcare.

Students will then conduct eight weeks of research using robotics to address healthcare issues discovered during rotations. Clinical partners with which students may work include Emory Medical School, Shepherd Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory ALS Center, Atlanta Area Agency on Aging, and the Veterans Administration.

Additional components of the healthcare robotics degree programs are required communications training and availability of entrepreneurship activities for interested students. All students will receive communications training, so that they can interact effectively with different audiences. Examples include academic and professional communications; talking to patients or patient groups about their work; giving media interviews, writing press releases, and producing short videos about their work; and communicating with the general public. Trainees interested in entrepreneurship will be able to participate in a Georgia Tech student incubator during their second summer in the program, or they may intern at a medical startup company in the Atlanta area.

Working with engineering students to think about and design their technologies for the benefit of their target populations will be an exciting challenge, according to Howard. “Working in healthcare robotics will be a learning process, where there is no equation in the book that can be derived. It will require looking at a problem, working and talking with others, and developing a solution by being creative and thinking outside of the box,” said Howard. “This will be a different way of thinking for engineers, and when our students graduate, they will be exceptional because of that.” 

Sources for statistics: National Center for Education Statistics, Congressional Research Service/U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

]]> Jackie Nemeth 1 1444321370 2015-10-08 16:22:50 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University faculty members are uniting to train the next generation of engineering students in healthcare robotics technologies, so they can better understand the changing needs of patients and their caregivers and healthcare providers. 

 

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2015-10-09T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-09T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-09 00:00:00 Jackie Nemeth

School of Electrical and Computer Engineering

404-894-2906

jackie.nemeth@ece.gatech.edu

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457341 457451 457351 457361 457341 image <![CDATA[Ayanna Howard]]> image/png 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457451 image <![CDATA[Charlie Kemp]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457351 image <![CDATA[Lena Ting]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 457361 image <![CDATA[Randy Trumbower]]> image/jpeg 1449256347 2015-12-04 19:12:27 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22 <![CDATA[Profile]]> <![CDATA[Faculty Host Profile]]> <![CDATA[Lena Ting]]> <![CDATA[Randy Trumbower]]>
<![CDATA[Amplifying the Signals of Cancer]]> 28153 The best way to fight cancer is to discover it at an early stage, which improves treatment outcomes. Of course, that isn’t easy because cancer detection thresholds based on measuring biomarkers shed by small tumors are limited. 

But groundbreaking work by Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Gabe Kwong may improve the odds significantly. 

In a recently published research paper for PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States), Kwong and his colleagues explain their development of activity-based biomarkers for early cancer detection along with a mathematical framework to predict their use in humans.

Unlike traditional biomarkers, activity-based biomarkers rely on the catalytic activity of enzymes to amplify cancer-derived signals, which allows detection of small, earlier-stage tumors. Using a class of synthetic, activity-based biomarkers, the team has comprehensively explored how detection sensitivities depend on probe design, enzymatic activity and organ physiology, and how they may be fine-tuned to reveal the presence of small tumors in humans.

“We’ve designed a system which is composed of nanoparticles, and these nanoparticles do a very interesting job inside the body once we infuse them – they find the tumor cells and then amplify a signal,” says Kwong, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and a faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. 

“This amplified signal is not detected locally but actually ends up filtering in the urine,” says Kwong, lead author of the paper. “So when we inject trillions of nanoparticles, each of them is amplifying this tumor signal. Furthermore, because urine is concentrated and purified from blood, we have two modes of enriching the signal. One is through this amplification at the tumor site and the other is this enrichment in the urine.”

A challenge of using blood tests for early cancer detection is that it’s kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Tumors shed unique biomarkers (proteins, for example). Adult humans have on average five liters of blood. So there are tiny, early stage tumors (typically five millimeters to one centimeter in size) shedding biomarkers into a large pool of blood.

“And they don’t circulate in the blood forever. There’s a drainage system,” Kwong says. “Imagine trying to fill a bathtub with water without first plugging the drain. It’s a race, where these tumors are making these biomarkers, these biomolecules, in the blood, but the body is getting rid of them faster.”

But using the system Kwong and his team have devised, in test samples the researchers have been able to detect tumors as small as five millimeters in diameter, a size threshold that is difficult for medical imaging to achieve.  

The research is part of a collective body of work that Kwong, who came to Georgia Tech last year, started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). His co-authors of the paper (entitled “Mathematical framework for activity-based cancer biomarkers”), all affiliated with M.I.T., are Jaideep Dudani, Emmanuel Corrodeguas, Eric Mazumdar, Seyedeh Zekavat and Sangeeta Bhatia.

“It hasn’t been tested in humans yet, but this ability to amplify signals using nanoparticles is very promising,” says Kwong, who figures the system could be ready for clinical tests in humans in another three to four years. 

Ultimately, the goal is to perform a more specific kind of test, “that will allow us to differentiate flavors of cancer as well as their stage. That’s where we are headed”

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1444308657 2015-10-08 12:50:57 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news New system employs nanoparticles for improved early stage detection

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2015-10-08T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-08T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-08 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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457221 457221 image <![CDATA[Gabe Kwong]]> image/jpeg 1449256334 2015-12-04 19:12:14 1475895202 2016-10-08 02:53:22
<![CDATA[CellectCell Gets Phase II Funding]]> 28153 CellectCell, Inc., a company started by Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience researcher Andrés García, announced the receipt of Phase II funding from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA).

 

“We are very excited about this GRA Phase II funding that will allow us to 
expand the library of cells that we can purify using the uSHEAR technology,” said García, co-founder of CellectCell with former Petit Institute researcher Todd McDevitt, who left the Georgia Institute of Technology to join the Gladstone Institutes.

 

The company’s initial focus is the commercialization of a disposable cell culture cartridge for academic and commercial research. This product is developed from adhesion strength-based isolation techniques discovered by the Georgia Tech researchers and is exclusively licensed by CellectCell from the Georgia Tech Research Corporation. 

 

CellectCell will use the GRA Phase II funding to advance the technology through design & development into scale-up, manufacturing, and commercial launch.

 

“We are excited to be collaborating with GRA to take this breakthrough cell selection and isolation technology and transform it into products that will allow research laboratories and manufacturing companies to select for specific cell types with higher sensitivity and specificity than currently available isolation techniques,” stated Rebecca Marshall, president of CellectCell.  “Because the technology is based on the natural properties of cells and is label-free, the process does not adversely affect cell viability or phenotype. We believe CellectCell has the potential to revolutionize the way stem cells and their progeny are isolated for research, diagnostic and therapeutic applications.”

 

 The GRA Ventures Program has launched 150 new companies and created nearly 1,400 jobs.  GRA’s portfolio of companies has attracted more than $778 million in equity investment to date. 

 

“We are pleased to continue building a reputation for Georgia as a center of discovery and invention by investing in the commercialization of this new technology,” said H. Lee Herron, GRA’s vice president of commercialization. “We believe adhesion strength-based cellular selection is groundbreaking technology, and are encouraged to see it find a home in CellectCell, with an experienced team of entrepreneurs and scientists behind it.  This is an exciting step forward for Georgia Tech and the bioscience industry.”

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1444218500 2015-10-07 11:48:20 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news Company gets support for commercialization of novel cell isolation technology

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2015-10-07T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-07T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-07 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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296521 296521 image <![CDATA[Andrés García, PhD - Regents’ Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech]]> image/jpeg 1449244530 2015-12-04 15:55:30 1475894995 2016-10-08 02:49:55
<![CDATA[NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award Funds Pulmonary Fibrosis Research]]> 27303 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a $3.5 million Transformative Research Award to Thomas Barker, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The five-year grant will support research into new approaches for tracking and treating pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that claims 40,000 lives per year.

Pulmonary fibrosis is an incurable disease in which the uncontrolled growth of scar tissue severely damages the ability of the lungs to bring oxygen into the body. Researchers plan to hijack the cellular mechanisms that normally worsen the disease, causing them to instead produce a chemical compound that would reduce the cross-linking associated with the fibrosis.

The award is one of 13 Transformative Research Awards announced by the NIH on October 6. Each year, the exclusive NIH initiative funds a small number of “high-risk, high-reward” research proposals designed to advance innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research.

“Fibrosis is wound healing that just won’t quit,” explained Barker. “Cells continually repair the same tissue over and over again until you get this dense, biophysically restricted scar tissue. That scar tissue not only impairs the ability to bring in oxygen, but at the cellular level that increased stiffness also provides a dominant signal that continues to drive this aberrant process.“

Barker, whose lab studies how cells respond biochemically and biophysically to the microenvironment around them, wants to tap into the signaling that occurs between the cells and their environment to co-opt the cellular response to stiffness of the extracellular matrix. Instead of creating more scar, the cells would instead respond by releasing a protease to dissolve some of the crosslinks that create the stiffness.

“In the disease process, as more extracellular matrix is deposited and more cross links are created, the stiffness of the tissue increases,” Barker explained. “If we can have that stiffness inherently drive the production of proteases, which are enzymes that break down the extracellular matrix, then there’s the potential to create a feedback loop in which these enzymes would come in and cleave the unwanted matrix proteins. That would relieve some of the crosslinks and begin to soften the tissue.”

The researchers plan to use conventional gene therapy techniques to insert a mechanism into the cells that would activate only when the fibrotic process was occurring. When not needed, the mechanism would lie dormant, allowing it to be distributed broadly among both normal and abnormal lung cells. “It would be a self-limiting therapy that’s controlled locally at the cellular level,” Barker said.

While treatment is the ultimate goal, Barker also wants to develop a signaling mechanism that could be used to track progress of the disease. A small number of sentinel cells affected by the stiffening extracellular matrix would express a fluorescent protein, allowing clinicians to see where conditions are changing. Currently, there is no way to measure changing stiffness in the lungs of living organisms.

Barker doesn’t expect to attain all of the project goals within the grant period, but he does hope to build a foundation for research, which could have applications to other diseases such as cancer that also have biomechanical signaling components.

“The idea that we can target the biomechanics of a tissue as a tractable target for gene therapy has not been explored,” Barker said. “It is ripe for exploration at this time because the last decade or so has seen a flurry of research into how biomechanics drives disease and different cellular processes. Scientists have made some significant strides in understanding the mechanisms of how cells sense mechanics, how those things go awry, and how the environment can drive some significant biology.”

The proposal was developed in collaboration with MD/PhD student Dwight Chambers. Barker also plans to work with Associate Professors Melissa Kemp and Phil Santangelo from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and with a research team at the University of Michigan.

Under the High-Risk, High-Reward Research program supported by the NIH Common Fund, awards support exceptional investigators pursuing bold research projects that span the broad mission of the NIH, including developing methods for cells to synthesize their own drugs, using cell phones to identify and track disease-carrying mosquitoes in their natural habitats, stopping depression by monitoring and altering brain cell states, and exploring how socially learned behavior can be passed on biologically to future generations.

“This program has consistently produced research that revolutionized scientific fields by giving investigators the freedom to take risks and explore potentially groundbreaking concepts,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “We look forward to the remarkable advances in biomedical research the 2015 awardees will make.”

The NIH Common Fund encourages collaboration and supports a series of exceptionally high-impact, trans-NIH programs. Common Fund programs are designed to pursue major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single NIH Institute could tackle alone, but that the agency as a whole can address to make the biggest impact possible on the progress of medical research. Barker’s award will also be supported through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The Transformative Research Award, established in 2009, promotes cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches and is open to individuals and teams of investigators who propose research that could potentially create or challenge existing paradigms.

Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986)

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1444119026 2015-10-06 08:10:26 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a $3.5 million Transformative Research Award to Thomas Barker, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The five-year grant will support research into new approaches for tracking and treating pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that claims 40,000 lives per year.

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2015-10-06T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-06T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-06 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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455911 455921 455911 image <![CDATA[Tom Barker awarded $3.5 million from NIH]]> image/jpeg 1449256334 2015-12-04 19:12:14 1475895199 2016-10-08 02:53:19 455921 image <![CDATA[Tom Barker awarded $3.5 million from NIH -2]]> image/jpeg 1449256334 2015-12-04 19:12:14 1475895199 2016-10-08 02:53:19
<![CDATA[Predictive Model Could Help Guide Choices for Breast Cancer Therapies]]> 27303 Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.

Thanks to diagnostic tests, clinicians and patients can already know the type of breast cancer they’re up against, but one big question remains: How likely is it that the cancer will invade other parts of the body? Answering that question could help guide the choice of treatment options, from aggressive and difficult therapies to more conservative ones.

By studying chemical signals from specific cells that are involved in helping cancer invade other tissues in each woman’s body, researchers have developed a predictive model that could provide an invasiveness index for each patient.

“We want women to have more information to make a personal decision beyond the averages calculated for an entire population,” said Manu Platt, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We are using our systems biology tools and predictive medicine approaches to look at potential markers we could use to help us understand the risk each woman has. This would provide information for a more educated discussion of treatment options.”

The research, sponsored with funds from the Georgia Research Alliance and the Giglio family donation to the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was reported September 9 in the journal Scientific Reports. Beyond breast cancer, the technique could offer similar decision-making assistance for men with prostate cancer, where treatment also requires making difficult choices about the risk of metastasis.

Platt’s research team is examining chemical signals produced by the macrophages that can help aggressive tumors invade new tissues. Macrophages normally clean up foreign particles and harmful microorganisms in the body, but aggressive tumors can enlist macrophages in helping them metastasize. Tumor associated macrophages contribute significantly to tumor invasion, with cysteine cathepsin proteases – enzymes that break down proteins in the body – important contributors.

To develop their predictive index, Platt’s research team used variability in macrophage expression of four types of cathepsin, the cathepsin inhibitor cystatin C, and kinase activation levels. The model, which has been under development for two years, was produced by studying macrophages from a population of women who didn’t have breast cancer. Platt and colleagues Keon-Young Park and Gande Li co-cultured a standard breast cancer cell line (MCF-7) with macrophages produced from monocytes donated by these cancer-free women.

Next, they measured the level of invasiveness facilitated by macrophages from each individual donor, exposing the cancer cells and macrophages to a collagen gel designed to simulate breast tissue and measuring how many cells invaded it. While the breast is composed of many other tissues, collagen makes up the largest proportion and provided a good measure of how aggressively the cells would invade, Platt said.

Platt’s team correlated the level of invasion through the gel to the chemical signals being expressed by the macrophages. The researchers were surprised at the large amount of patient-to-patient variability in macrophage activity – variability that could account for the outcome differences in the patients receiving similar cancer treatments. The signaling levels and related invasion measurements were used to train a computational model developed by Platt’s team.

The researchers next obtained blood samples containing monocytes from nine patients being treated for breast cancer at DeKalb Medical Center, a major Atlanta-area hospital. They measured signals from these macrophages and used their model – which had been trained on macrophage signaling and resulting invasiveness – to predict which of the cancer patients would be expected to have more invasive types of cancer. They compared their predications to what the clinician – Dr. John Kennedy – provided as their initial diagnosis.

“Based on the cells we got from the clinic, the ones that had been predicted to have the greatest potential for invasion were the ones that had produced the most invasive form of breast cancer in the patients,” Platt said.

While the study could not account for possible differences in the length of time the cancers had been growing, they did correlate well with observations. In future research, Platt hopes to follow the women for five years to determine if the model’s predictions are related to cancer recurrence. He also plans to expand the model with additional macrophage data, and test it against additional blood samples.

“The more information you give the model, the closer you get to the prediction,” he said. “We think this is a very big start.”

The strength of this technique, Platt believes, is that it measures what’s happening at the level where cancer is metastasizing.

“We are measuring at the level of activity of these intracellular enzymes and the ultimate activity of the proteases they produce that are not only the biomarkers of the tumor, but also help the tumor grow,” he said. “Everything about us is different. Our genetics are different and our lifestyles are different, so clinicians have to make decisions in all that variability. All of those differences can be measured and captured in this output.”

Platt believes the technique could one day lead to a simple blood test that would provide information useful in making therapy recommendations. The test might also help determine which women should be monitored more closely to detect the beginnings of a cancer.

“Together, this establishes proof-of-principle that personalized information acquired from minimally invasive blood draws may provide useful information to inform oncologists and patients of invasive/metastatic risk, helping to make decisions regard radical mastectomy or milder, conservative treatments to save patients from hardship and surgical recovery,” he wrote in the paper.

CITATION: Keon-Young Park, Gande Li and Manu O. Platt, "Monocyte-derived macrophage assisted breasat cancer cell invasion as a personalized, predictive metric to score metastatic risk," (Scientific Reports 2015). http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep13855

Research News

Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia 30332-0181 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu) (404-894-6986).
Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1444054310 2015-10-05 14:11:50 1475896783 2016-10-08 03:19:43 0 0 news Biomedical engineers have demonstrated a proof-of-principle technique that could give women and their oncologists more personalized information to help them choose options for treating breast cancer.

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2015-10-05T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-05T00:00:00-04:00 2015-10-05 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

jtoon@gatech.edu

(404) 894-6986

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455541 455551 455541 image <![CDATA[Gels quantify cathepsin activity]]> image/jpeg 1449256334 2015-12-04 19:12:14 1475895199 2016-10-08 02:53:19 455551 image <![CDATA[Gels quantify cathepsin activity2]]> image/jpeg 1449256334 2015-12-04 19:12:14 1475895199 2016-10-08 02:53:19
<![CDATA[Addressing a Systems-Level Need]]> 28153 Systems biology is a collaborative, holistic approach to understanding how life is controlled by complex molecular networks, and is based on a foundational understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Living systems (such as single or multicellular organisms) contain thousands of parts that work in concert to sustain life. Comprehensive, versatile analysis of these parts is needed to understand biology at a systems level. The new Systems Mass Spectrometry core facility at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience seeks to address this need.

“It’s a smart and forward-thinking investment by Georgia Tech because it rightly forecasts the emerging importance of a systems-level understanding of cell biology and disease,” says Matt Torres, assistant professor in the School of Biology, who has spearheaded development of the Systems Mass Spectrometry core facility with Facundo Fernandez, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

With hopes of creating a new kind of research center, Fernandez says, “systems mass spectrometry is one of the main tools that enables systems biology. We can now generate terabytes of data, something we couldn’t have imagined 15 years ago. What I considered cutting edge back then is now ancient.”

Systems biology brings multiple disciplines together with biology to predict how systems change over time and under different conditions, creating the potential for new kinds of scientific exploration. The new core facility stands to benefit from new technologies, but also builds on Georgia Tech’s existing strengths in multiple fields of biological mass spectrometry.

“The difference is, we’re not looking at just a handful of molecules at once,” Fernandez says. “We know that organisms employ a collection of hundreds to thousands of proteins and metabolites, working and reacting with each other. Now we can look at those molecules at once and together.”

A new core facility focused on systems mass spectrometry, is also helping to bridge an important gap, according to Torres.

For years, emerging “omics” strategies and technologies (such as genomics, proteomics and metabolomics) have focused on analysis of specific classes of molecules (genes, proteins, metabolites), but have been developed in isolation from one another. 

Part of this, Torres says, is due to the rarity of finding both the instrumentation and expertise necessary to accomplish more complex omics level studies. Two of these strategies, proteomics and metabolomics, use mass spectrometry as their core type of instrumentation.

“One would think this should facilitate the marriage into a single ‘proteo-metabolomics’ strategy,” Torres says. 

But that’s rarely the case, partly because there are limits in understanding how to properly bridge multiple forms of omics-level data to provide meaningful biological information. With the advent of the new Systems Mass Spectrometry core facility, opening in October, “Georgia Tech is investing in the infrastructure, technology and expertise necessary to bridge the omics gap,” Torres says. 

The state-of-the-art core facility, providing both proteomics and metabolomics services, will offer new opportunities for research and educational communities inside and outside of Georgia Tech, “providing an environment in which the next generation of omics strategies can be developed and applied to better understand both fundamental and disease properties of cellular systems,” Torres says.

The Systems Mass Spectrometry core facility is administered by the Petit Institute but is housed in the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB) and managed by David Smalley, who will work with David Gaul, a research scientist in the Fernandez lab.

“They have the right expertise – it’s very difficult to find somebody with the right technical background,” says Fernandez. “It’s one thing to assemble the technology and a research center. To assemble the right people and make the center into something meaningful is something else altogether.”

For more information, contact David Smalley.

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1443617404 2015-09-30 12:50:04 1475896780 2016-10-08 03:19:40 0 0 news Systems Mass Spectrometry core facility opening in EBB 

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2015-09-30T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-30T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Start-Up Puts Farm Next to Table]]> 28153 Alex Weiss is an ardent advocate of the farm to table movement. He wants you to eat the freshest produce possible and to know where it came from. And he’s willing to do his part to see that it happens. 

Weiss, a recent graduate of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering is one half of an entrepreneurial team that created “replantable” (with a lower-case ‘r’) – a company that emerged from under the broad CREATE-X umbrella at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Together with Ruwan Subasinghe, a recent mechanical engineering graduate, Weiss took part in Startup Summer, a 12-week accelerator program (part of the CREATE-X suite of entrepreneurial training programs) for Georgia Tech students and recent graduates who want to launch startup companies. These companies are based on the students’ own inventions and prototypes, and the program teaches participants to understand potential customers and the market so they can address real needs.

The “nanoFarm” (the lower case ‘n’ also is by choice) actually is replantable’s latest incarnation after the team pursued a winding road of ideas, all based around a similar theme.

“Everything we’ve done has been about trying to get the freshest food to the consumer,” says Weiss, who met Subasinghe during their freshman year. This past February, Subasinghe contacted Weiss and asked if he wanted to do a start-up together.

“He’d gotten into hydroponics and was growing strawberries, and I had a backyard garden in Philadelphia, where I’m from. So we both come from a background of growing stuff,” says Weiss, who was a member of Petit Institute faculty member Wilbur Lam's lab. “The first thing we talked about was live shipping, which would fundamentally change the food production industry.”

It involved the shipping of plants in hydroponic containers, preventing spoilage without the costly energy expense of refrigeration, reducing food waste as well as methane and carbon dioxide emissions. The concept, ‘Living Local,’ earned the team $2,500 with a runner-up finish in the Ideas to Serve competition, March 27 at the Scheller College of Business. 

There was one significant challenge, though.

“We met with farmers and it would have been cost prohibitive for them,” Weiss says. “It didn’t make sense for them.”

Next they tried to remove the need for transportation altogether by growing produce on the roofs of grocery stores. They got a quick buy-in from Sevananda Market for their roof planting pallets. Weiss and Subasinghe got to be friends with the produce manager who told them, “I’ll take 40,” according to Weiss.

But then they started talking to professors in civil engineering and discovered that putting stuff on the roof was a big liability hurdle, and not within their realm of capability. What followed was a week or two of soul searching.

“We wondered what we were going to do,” Weiss says. “It was hell. But every startup I talked to has had this kind of week. It’s like, you know you’re going to get through it, but you don’t see any light until the light just hits you.”

Ultimately, it was a light-emitting diode, or LED, that hit them. They’d been focused on getting fresh food to consumers, and they finally asked themselves, Weiss says,  “why not let the consumer grow it? We were working our way down the chain.”

Their first nanoFarm container concept was six feet tall, a couple of feet wide, utilizing hydroponics and LED lighting. The current model of the nanoFarm cube is 18 inches tall, about 12 inches wide and deep, and really easy to use. In other words, you don’t need a green thumb. 

“We talked to more than 100 people who love fresh food, and their favorite part of growing was choosing what they wanted to grow, planting it, then harvesting it. In other words, not watering and weeding,” says Weiss, whose product requires the user to two basic things after sliding a sheet of seeds into the cube: fill it with water and close the door. Oh, then you’ve got to pick it before you eat it.

Weiss shows pictures of the produce he and Subasinghe have grown, indoors, out of the sunlight. Vivid greens and reds leap out of his smartphone, making the viewer hungry. The average apartment kitchen can easily accommodate several cubes.

Having graduated, Weiss and Subasinghe are now operating as the braintrust of replantable. They are engaged now in a beta test of their product and will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign. They want to be a success story on the path toward a sustainable and delicious lifestyle.

 For more information, visit the replantable website here.

 

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1443437149 2015-09-28 10:45:49 1475896780 2016-10-08 03:19:40 0 0 news Recent grads create product that makes it easy to grow your own produce

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2015-09-28T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-28T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-28 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Guldberg Named TERMIS Fellow]]> 28153 Petit Institute Executive Director Bob Guldberg recently was named an International Fellow of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (FTERM) at the TERMIS World Congress.

The honor was established as a way to recognize individuals who have shaped the global field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (TERMIS stands for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society).

“It’s a great honor to be selected as a Fellow of TERMIS,” says Guldberg, professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “I must say I felt a bit old when I realized I had attended many of the early meetings during the formative days of the society.”

TERMIS was created through the consolidation of several smaller societies, says Guldberg, who credits the organization’s founding fellows for their vision in aligning their interests, “to create TERMIS as a global organization.”

The TERMIS World Congress is held every three years. At each of these meetings, five or six new Fellows are selected. Guldberg received his honor at the World Congress held Sept. 8-11 in Boston.

It was the second consecutive World Congress in which someone from the Georgia Institute of Technology was so honored. Bob Nerem, founding director of the Petit Institute, became a Fellow at the 2012 event in Vienna, Austria.

“Probably the greatest benefit that TERMIS has provided to me, in addition to being an intellectual home for my research, is the huge number of people from around the world that have become friends and colleagues through the society,” Guldberg says. “For that I will always be grateful.”

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1443113083 2015-09-24 16:44:43 1475896776 2016-10-08 03:19:36 0 0 news Petit Institute executive director honored for leadership in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine

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2015-09-24T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-24T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-24 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Multitasking Moths]]> 27948 It’s difficult enough to see things in the dark, but what if you also had to hover in midair while tracking a flower moving in the wind?

That's the challenge the hummingbird-sized hawkmoth must overcome while feeding on the nectar of its favorite flowers.

Using high-speed infrared cameras and 3-D-printed robotic flowers, scientists have now learned how this insect juggles these complex sensing and control challenges — all while adjusting to changing light conditions. 

What the researchers have discovered could help the next generation of small flying robots operate efficiently under a broad range of lighting conditions. 

Read more about this fascinating study in the Research Horizons story, Multitasking Moths.

]]> Jennifer Tomasino 1 1442586040 2015-09-18 14:20:40 1475896773 2016-10-08 03:19:33 0 0 news 2015-09-18T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-18T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-18 00:00:00 Director of Research News
Phone: 404.894.6986

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<![CDATA[Three Researchers Join Petit Institute]]> 28153 The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience has added three new faculty members. Joining the growing roster of world-class, multidisciplinary researchers are Michael Borich, Muralidhar Padala and Simon Sponberg.

Borich joined Emory University’s School of Medicine in 2014 as an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine in the Division of Physical Therapy. He’s interested in understanding and harnessing the plastic capacity of the human nervous system in health and disease in order to improve rehabilitation outcomes for people with neurologic injury and disease.

An engineer by training, Padalla has been assistant professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Emory since 2010. He became an assistant professor in the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (a joint department of Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology) in 2014. His research focuses on the biomechanics and mechanobiology of heart valve disease and heart failure.

Sponberg, an assistant professor in the both the School of Physics and School of Applied Physiology, came to Georgia Tech in 2014. Part of an emerging interdisciplinary field called ‘neuromechanics,’ Sponberg is interested in how physics and physiology enable ambulatory animals to achieve stability and maneuverability. He’s also a faculty member of the new Quantitative Biosciences Ph.D. program at Georgia Tech.

The addition of Borich, Padala and Sponberg expands the Petit Institute community to 176 faculty members.

CONTACT: 

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1442831921 2015-09-21 10:38:41 1475896776 2016-10-08 03:19:36 0 0 news Borich, Padala and Sponberg join community of world-class investigators

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2015-09-21T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-21T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-21 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[A Better Understanding of Lymph Node Remodeling]]> 28153 Susan Thomas, a faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is at the forefront of research into the targeted delivery of drugs to battle cancer. 

Thomas and her lab team have designed lymphatic-seeking nanoparticles to promote anti-tumor immunity and hinder tumor growth, a strategy supported by a three-year grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 

But, before this form of immunotherapy can be deployed, Thomas and her team are gathering important intelligence about the enemy, to ultimately improve lymphatic targeting ability.

“One thing that’s not really understood is how lymph nodes in healthy individuals are different from those in someone with a disease. That information can critically impact our ability to target therapeutics,” says Thomas, who led a team of mostly undergraduate students in research that was recently published online in The FASEB Journal

“This is a first step toward a better understanding. But it’s not just what are the cellular differences or histological differences – the things that clinicians think about. We’re starting to define more the way engineers think of systems,” says Thomas, main author of the paper, entitled “Lymph node biophysical remodeling is associated with melanoma lymphatic drainage.”

Thomas describes the research as a basic analysis of how tumor lymphatic drainage affects the lymph nodes. 

“We detect a lot of tumors or cancers when the patient detects a stiff growth,” says Thomas, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, who recognizes that there are mechanical changes in the tumorous tissue, which make it different from healthy tissue.

“We wanted to see if the same kind of change is happening in the lymph node,” says Thomas, whose co-researchers on the project included one Ph.D. student (Nathan Rohner) and seven undergrads (Sara Tuell, Alex Warner, Blair Smith Younghu Hun, Abhinav Mohan and Manuela Sushinitha). “And what we found is that there actually are stiffening responses in the lymph nodes, and it was associated specifically with tumor lymphatic drainage.”

A better understanding of the biophysical changes associated with tumor lymphatic drainage will inform future studies and, ultimately, lead to better ways to diagnose and treat cancer patients.


CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1442225744 2015-09-14 10:15:44 1475896773 2016-10-08 03:19:33 0 0 news Undergrads drive new cancer-related research from Thomas lab 

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2015-09-14T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-14T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-14 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Small Wonders]]> 28153 Georgia Tech scientists and engineers, in collaboration with Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Marcus Autism Center, are tackling one of the biggest challenges in pediatric medicine — the lack of medical devices and technologies designed specifically for children.

Many medical devices used on children were designed for adults. And because the market for children’s medical devices is small, many companies shy away from building medical technologies for children.

Georgia Tech is helping to fill that gap in the market. From an app that allows parents to send pictures of their child’s potential ear infection to a doctor, to surgical tools tailored to a child’s physiology, the Institute is leading the push toward improving and saving children’s lives through technology.

Read more about the “Small Wonders” evolving in Georgia Tech labs in this article from Research Horizons.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1441972843 2015-09-11 12:00:43 1475896773 2016-10-08 03:19:33 0 0 news Georgia Tech and partner organizations improving the lives of children

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2015-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-11 00:00:00 449511 446811 449511 image <![CDATA[Small Wonders]]> image/jpeg 1449256264 2015-12-04 19:11:04 1475895192 2016-10-08 02:53:12 446811 image <![CDATA[Wilbur Lam and patient]]> image/jpeg 1449256246 2015-12-04 19:10:46 1512765459 2017-12-08 20:37:39 <![CDATA[Small Wonders]]>
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech Celebrates EBB Opening]]> 27918 In the race to save lives, researchers know that understanding and fighting diseases requires a new method of doing things.

Scientists from engineering, biology, chemistry, and computing won’t discover new vaccines and medical devices — or advance what we know about diseases — by working on their own. The next biomedical breakthroughs to provide accessible health care for billions of people worldwide will come from the collaboration between different laboratories and disciplines.

That core belief led to the creation of the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB), the newest building at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The site opened in May and a formal dedication ceremony was held today. 

EBB houses labs for research in chemical biology, cell and developmental biology, and systems biology. The building allows Georgia Tech to consolidate its biomedical research efforts in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infections, and other life-threatening conditions.

President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said the building symbolizes what Georgia Tech is all about — collaboration and innovation.

“The EBB will drive innovation and have an undeniable impact on biomedical science and human health,” Peterson said. “EBB brings together some of the world’s finest researchers in a collaborative environment, and these collaborations will result in incredible breakthroughs.”

The building provides nearly 219,000 square feet of multidisciplinary research space and enhances the Institute’s partnerships with Emory University Hospital and with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“Together, we are changing the lives of children,” said Donna Hyland, president and CEO of Children’s Healthcare. “The space within this building helps bring our new Pediatric Technology Center to life and gives researchers another place to combine expertise in clinical care, research, and technology to solve problems that will help make kids better today and healthier tomorrow.”

The building is located on 10th Street, at the north end of the existing biotechnology complex. Other buildings in the complex include: the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, the U.A. Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Building, the Ford Environmental Science and Technology Building, and the Molecular Science and Engineering Building.

More than 140 faculty and nearly 1,000 graduate students from 10 different academic units work in the labs and facilities there.

“EBB puts Georgia Tech at the forefront of biosciences and bioengineering research,” said M.G. Finn, professor and chair of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

The building’s unique design allows Georgia Tech researchers to expand their work, he said.

EBB contains “research neighborhoods” designed around a specific focus or topic. These neighborhoods bring together scientists, engineers, and researchers from different disciplines around common themes or areas of interest. They share laboratories, offices, and common spaces.

Stairs alternate on various floors, encouraging people to move within the neighborhoods and throughout the building and interact with one another. Small and informal meeting areas are located near the stairwells, to further encourage researchers to talk with one another.

“We will help, influence, and support one another and bring new insights in a way that can’t happen if a building is restricted to a particular department or discipline,” Finn said.

“Ultimately we are all working to fight disease and save lives,” he said. “EBB is designed to foster the research to do just that.”

EBB is the largest building investment in Georgia Tech history. The $113 million building was made possible because of a partnership between the Institute, the Georgia Tech Foundation, and the State of Georgia, Peterson said.

State appropriations provided $64 million for the project. Georgia Tech provided $15 million in Institute funds, and private funding raised another $34 million in commitments pledged over five years.

EBB will help drive Georgia’s economy, Peterson said.

“It will foster economic development through the formation of startup enterprises, the creation of high-skilled, high-paying jobs, and the commercialization of new devices, drugs, and technologies,” Peterson said.

]]> Laura Diamond 1 1441894487 2015-09-10 14:14:47 1475896773 2016-10-08 03:19:33 0 0 news Researchers in the Engineered Biosystems Building consolidate efforts to prevent and treat cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infections, and other life-threatening conditions.

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2015-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-11 00:00:00 Laura Diamond 
Georgia Tech Media Relations
404-894-6016

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<![CDATA[Moving a Lab]]> 27469 Tech’s latest interdisciplinary research facility, the Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB), is now open and illuminated on 10th Street. The past several months have been a flurry of activity as researchers and faculty members relocated into the new space and started breathing life into it.

But what exactly does it take to move a lab?

“You would think that you could just get a mover and ship everything and be done, and that hasn’t been the case,” said Erin Kirshtein, who manages research projects and grants for Associate Professor Thomas Barker’s Matrix Biology and Engineering Lab in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Every little section has its own little piece that needs multiple hands.”

Read more about what it takes to move the labs that produce some of the world's top research.

]]> Kristen Bailey 1 1441734638 2015-09-08 17:50:38 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news The summer of 2015 was a flurry of activity for those moving into the new Engineered Biosystems Building. But what exactly does it take to move a lab?

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2015-09-08T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-08T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-08 00:00:00 Kristen Bailey
Institute Communications

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<![CDATA[Deliver, but Not to the Liver]]> 27513 The potential of a gene-silencing technique called RNA interference has long enticed biotechnology researchers. It’s used routinely in the laboratory to shut down specific genes in cells. Still, the challenge of delivery has held back RNA-based drugs in treating human disease.

RNA is unstable and cumbersome, and just getting it into the body without having it break down is difficult. Once that hurdle is met, there is another: the vast majority of the drug is taken up by the liver. Many current RNA-based approaches turn this apparent bug into a strength, because they seek to treat liver diseases. 

But what if you need to deliver RNA somewhere besides the liver?

Biomedical engineer Hanjoong Jo’s lab at Emory/Georgia Tech, working with Katherine Ferrara’s group at UC Davis, has developed technology to broaden the liver-dominant properties of RNA-based drugs.

The results were recently published in ACS Nano. The researchers show they can selectively target an anti-microRNA agent to inflamed blood vessels in mice while avoiding other tissues.

“We have solved a major obstacle of using anti-miRNA as a therapeutic by being able to do a targeted delivery to only inflamed endothelial cells while all other tissues examined, including liver, lung, kidney, blood cells, spleen, etc. showed no detectable side-effects,” Jo says.

Research by Jo’s lab, published in 2013 in Nature Communications, had established that microRNA 712 was a master controller of inflammation in atherosclerosis.

In the Nature Communications paper, an antisense molecule that counteracts miRNA 712 can stop the effects of high fat diet and disturbed blood flow in the atherosclerosis model. It reaches the desired cells: endothelial cells, which line blood vessels. But the anti-miRNA has significant effects on the liver and blood cells at the same time.

To restrict delivery of an antisense molecule countering miRNA 712 to endothelial cells, the authors built nanoparticles with several layers. Inside was the payload: the anti-miRNA, packaged with a positively charged lipid. Around that is a neutral coating, decorated with a peptide that targets the inflammatory molecule vascular cell adhesion molecule 1. The same peptide has previously been tested as a potential cardiovascular imaging tool.

The resulting multi-layer package was delivered selectively to only the inflamed endothelial cells, the authors show in the ACS Nano paper. In the atherosclerosis mouse model, it was possible to use five times less than the “naked” untargeted version and still see beneficial effects.

The multi-layer packaging method could easily be adapted to other miRNAs, such as the human equivalent miR-205, in the context of treating atherosclerosis. However, using other targeting peptides, with the goal of reaching other tissues, would be a bigger stretch.

 

 

Hanjoong Jo is the associate chair and John and Jan Portman Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. 

 

Media Contacts:

Walter Rich
Communications Manager
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Quinn Eastman   
Research Communications
Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Emory University

 ]]> Walter Rich 1 1441188320 2015-09-02 10:05:20 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news Multi-layer nanoparticle packaging overcomes obstacle of using anti-miRNA as a therapeutic.


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2015-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-02 00:00:00 Walter Rich
Communications Manager
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

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<![CDATA[Blood Vessel Research Earns $8.9 Million NIH Grant]]> 27513 The dose makes the poison. Emory cardiovascular researcher Kathy Griendling, Ph.D., was one of the first scientists to show how reactive oxygen species, once thought to be poisonous byproducts of metabolism, are essential cellular signals needed for life.

She and a team of Emory and Georgia Tech researchers were awarded a five-year, $8.9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to better understand how reactive oxygen species and inflammation can be both necessary for blood vessels to function, but detrimental in excess. The team’s work will explore strategies for targeted intervention, possibly leading to new preventive approaches for conditions such as atherosclerosis and aortic aneurysms.

 “This award highlights the core strength we have built at Emory in understanding how vital signals such as ROS function in vascular biology,” says Griendling. “Our long-standing interest in this area is beginning to bear fruit in terms of translational approaches.” 

Griendling is professor and vice-chair of research and faculty development in the Department of Medicine within Emory University School of Medicine. The team includes Hanjoong Jo, Ph.D., John and Jan Portman professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University; W. Robert Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine and Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory; and Alejandra San Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine (cardiology) at Emory.

 “This award represents a long-standing collaboration between investigators in cardiology at Emory and biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory,” Jo says.

Using a well-developed model of rapid atherosclerosis induced by disturbed blood flow in mice, Jo’s laboratory will investigate a potential drug target: bone morphogenic protein receptor 2 or BMPR2. The BMPR2 gene has been connected in human studies with pulmonary hypertension.

Griendling and San Martin are investigating Nox enzymes, which produce reactive oxygen species, and the Nox partner protein Poldip2’s roles in aortic stiffening and smooth muscle metabolism and proliferation. Taylor is probing another potential drug target, the antioxidant enzyme catalase, which has been shown to modulate blood vessel stiffness and aneurysm formation.

CONTACT:

Walter Rich
Communications Manager
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology
wrich@gatech.edu

]]> Walter Rich 1 1441109533 2015-09-01 12:12:13 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news BME faculty Hanjoong Jo and Bob Taylor probe vascular research

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2015-08-31T00:00:00-04:00 2015-08-31T00:00:00-04:00 2015-08-31 00:00:00 Walter Rich

Communications Manager
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology

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443261 445871 443261 image <![CDATA[Hanjoong Jo, Ph.D. John and Jan Portman professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University]]> image/jpeg 1449256205 2015-12-04 19:10:05 1475895182 2016-10-08 02:53:02 445871 image <![CDATA[W. Robert Taylor, M.D., Ph.D. - Professor of Medicine, Director, Division of Cardiology, Emory Healthcare]]> image/png 1449256217 2015-12-04 19:10:17 1475895184 2016-10-08 02:53:04
<![CDATA[“Bacterial Litmus Test” Provides Inexpensive Measurement of Micronutrients]]> 27271 A bacterium engineered to produce different pigments in response to varying levels of a micronutrient in blood samples could give health officials an inexpensive way to detect nutritional deficiencies in resource-limited areas of the world. This “bacterial litmus test,” which currently measures levels of zinc, would require no electrical equipment and make results visible as simple color changes.

More than a billion people worldwide may be at risk for adequate zinc intake, but measuring zinc levels in blood samples currently requires sophisticated testing equipment not available in many affected areas. If field tests show the biosensor can successfully measure zinc levels, the researchers hope to extend the concept to other micronutrients, including vitamins.

“We think this is just enough technology to meet the needs,” said Mark Styczynski, an assistant professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “The information we can provide could one day help nutritional epidemiologists and non-governmental organizations determine the populations of people that may need interventions to address nutritional deficiencies.”

The proof-of-concept work was reported in the September issue of the journal Metabolic Engineering. The research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The biosensor is based on modified Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium that is frequently used in genetic engineering. E. coli has a transcriptional system that responds to the level of zinc in its environment, and the researchers have tuned it to trigger the production of purple, red and orange pigments. Genetic machinery for the production of those pigments was taken from other biological sources and introduced into the E. coli.

In practice, health professionals in the field would obtain blood samples from persons suspected of having a zinc deficiency. The blood samples would be spun on a simple mechanical device resembling an eggbeater to separate the plasma from the blood cells. The plasma would then be placed into a test tube or other container with a pellet containing the modified E. coli.

Once mixed with the plasma, the E. coli would multiply, producing the color corresponding to the level of zinc in the blood plasma. Purple would correspond to dangerously low levels, while red would indicate borderline levels, and orange normal levels. The color would be readily visible without any diagnostic or other electronic equipment.

“The process for the color change would take about 24 hours from when the plasma sample is added, though we are hoping to accelerate that,” said Styczynski.

The testing wouldn’t be done to identify individuals in need of treatment, but would be used to assess the nutritional needs of a larger population of people.

“Places where you are likely to encounter micronutrient deficiencies will typically be resource-poor countries, or perhaps locations suffering natural disasters,” Styczynski explained. “These deficiencies aren’t treated on an individual level, but are considered on a population level and used to treat a village or a region that may be affected. We could take samples from 50 or 100 people and be able to assess the nutritional status of an area.”

Because bacteria don’t have the same requirements for many vitamins relevant to human health, the researchers may have to change organisms when they develop tests for other micronutrients, like Vitamin A. Those tests will likely use a yeast organism which has also been extensively studied and into which sensing and pigment-producing genetic machinery can be introduced.

“Ultimately, we hope to be able to test for a whole suite of nutrients in a reasonably short period of time and at a relatively low cost because no equipment would be needed in the field,” Styczynski added.

As part of their research, Styczynski and graduate research assistants Daniel Watstein and Monica McNerney engineered pigment producing machinery into the E. coli. The red and orange colors, lycopene and beta-carotene, are produced by genes taken from Pantoea anantis, a plant pathogen. The purple color, violacein, came from a soil bacterium. Genes for producing the pigments were placed onto a plasmid and introduced into the bacterium.

The researchers used two zinc-sensing proteins within the E. coli and controlled the extent to which those proteins could turn the pigment producing genes on and off. This approach made the zinc-sensing proteins responsive to levels of zinc close to that expected to be found in blood plasma, and can be further used to allow them to turn on at arbitrary levels.

One of the challenges was to avoid producing amounts of pigment that might be toxic to the bacterium, while producing pigment quickly enough to be visible to the naked eye. And because the orange and red pigments are generated in the same metabolic pathway, the researchers needed to establish ways to produce only one or the other at a time – a challenge that their work shows can be feasibly addressed, though they are still working to fine-tune the implementation.

Styczynski believes this system is the first designed to measure blood micronutrients using bacteria without requiring diagnostic equipment. Other techniques have required specialized measurement equipment that is difficult to transport and maintain in the field.

“The general idea of bio-sensing is certainly out there, but we have taken the step of developing a system that doesn’t require equipment in the field,” he said. “We believe this will work well in low-resource areas.”

Among the next steps are development of techniques to freeze-dry the bacterium, and an assessment of the potential ecological impact of the modified bacterium. Styczynski hopes field trials can begin within the next two years.

“This is a convincing proof-of-principle, and we hope to begin the translational aspects of this system based on what we have already shown,” he added. “It’s a matter now of reducing this to practice for something that will ultimately be useful.”

This research was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under grant OPP1046289, the National Science Foundation under grant 1254382, and a National Institutes of Health training grant T32-EB006343. The content of this news release is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the supporting agencies.

CITATION: Daniel M. Watstein, Monica P. McNerney and Mark P. Styczynski, “Precise metabolic engineering of carotenoid biosynthesis in Escherichia coli towards a low-cost biosensor.” (Metabolic Engineering, 2015). http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ymben.2015.06.007

]]> Brad Dixon 1 1441217386 2015-09-02 18:09:46 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news A bacterium engineered to produce different pigments in response to varying levels of a micronutrient in blood samples could give health officials an inexpensive way to detect nutritional deficiencies in resource-limited areas of the world. 

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2015-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-02 00:00:00 John Toon (jtoon@gatech.edu), 404-894-6986

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<![CDATA[Georgia Tech Announces New Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences]]> 28153 The Georgia Institute of Technology announces a new doctoral program that brings the physical, mathematical, and biological sciences together in one Ph.D. The Quantitative Biosciences Graduate Program (QBioS) is now accepting applications from students who want to enter a rapidly emerging field working at the leading edge of research that spans biological scales from molecules to organisms to ecosystems.

The mission of the program is to educate students and advance research in quantitative biosciences, enabling the discovery of scientific principles underlying the dynamics, structure, and function of living systems.

“This combination is what is needed from the next generation of scientists if we are to understand principles of living systems and, in turn, tackle global-scale challenges,” said QBioS Director Joshua Weitz, associate professor in the School of Biology, courtesy associate professor in the School of Physics, and a member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. 

Broadly, QBioS is targeted to two kinds of students: those trained in the physical, mathematical, and computational sciences who have interest in the biosciences and those with experience in the biosciences who have skills in quantitative modeling.

“We want all of the QBioS students to develop a strong modeling core and an impassioned understanding for how living systems function,” Weitz said. “QBioS is the kind of training program that serves the increasingly quantitative nature of the biosciences and will be exemplified by the high-quality students who enter this program. QBioS faculty are already engaged in interface research and ready to serve as mentors.”

The QBioS founding consortium includes more than 40 faculty members from seven schools in the College of Sciences. The diversity of faculty interests is evidenced by their research accomplishments in a range of focus areas including molecular and cellular biosciences, the chemistry of biological systems, physiology and behavior, evolutionary biology, ecology and Earth systems, and the physics of living systems.

Graduates of the QBioS program will be prepared for fulfilling careers in academia, government, and industry. Students will have had immersive research experiences in the biosciences, yet also possess the deep technical skills necessary to confront foundational and applied problems, according to Weitz.

Students will combine classroom learning with research experiences. The flexible program will include a foundations course in quantitative biosciences, rigorous and personalized quantitative training, research seminars and interactions with faculty, and rotations in computational and/or experimental groups, culminating in a capstone thesis. 

Learn more about the program at www.qbios.gatech.edu

About the Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, also known as Georgia Tech, is one of the nation’s leading research universities, providing a focused, technologically based education to more than 21,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Georgia Tech has many nationally recognized programs, all top-ranked by peers and publications alike, and is ranked in the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News and World Report. It offers degrees through the Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech has more than 100 centers focused on interdisciplinary research that consistently contribute vital research and innovation to American government, industry, and business.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1441748372 2015-09-08 21:39:32 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news The mission of the program is to educate students and advance research in quantitative biosciences, enabling the discovery of scientific principles underlying the dynamics, structure, and function of living systems.

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2015-09-08T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-08T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-08 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Petit Scholar Inspired by Neuroscience]]> 28153 Ellen Pikus, a 2015 Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar, inherited an interest in medicine from her parents, who immigrated to the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when hostility and violence toward Russian Jews living in Latvia increased. They’ve enjoyed rewarding health care careers in the Atlanta area – her mom is a nurse, her dad a nurse anesthetist.

 

But her interest in neuroscience was inspired by the late Oliver Sacks, neurologist and best-selling author. “I read his collection of case studies in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and was astonished by the story of a woman who completely lost her sense of proprioception.”

 

Proprioception is the automatic, unconscious sense of our body’s position, or positions. The story, “The Disembodied Lady,” caused Pikus to start reading up on different neuromuscular disorders. And when she enrolled at Georgia State University, her interest manifested in a five-year program that will result in a master’s degree in neuroscience.

 

“Neuroscience as a whole is fascinating to me because it is such a relatively new field and there is so much that is still unknown,” says Pikus, a third-year student whose degree will come from Georgia State, but who spends at least 10 hours a week at the Georgia Institute of Technology doing research in the lab of Petit Institute faculty member Minoru Shinohara, associate professor in the School of Applied Physiology.

 

“There is so much potential to discover new things,” says Pikus, who is doing her part in that regard.  She was engaged in research at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when she received an email that went out to all honor students, about the Petit Scholar program. “My project at the CDC was ending, and I wanted another research project, so I decided to apply.”

 

In Shinohara’s lab, she’s been given autonomy to write her own experiments as part of a project entitled “Sensorimotor Control During Physiological Sympathetic Activation.” Ultimately, her goal is to pursue a dual MD-Ph.D. degree, which would combine her interest in providing care with a love of research.

 

She spent about 14 hours a week on the Georgia Tech campus spring semester, about 10 hours a week now, most of the time working with healthy human subjects, testing muscle movement, gathering and analyzing data.

 

The Petit Scholar experience, she says, “has given me more research competence. Now I’m doing my own projects, given raw materials and making something out of it. I feel capable now of going out and doing my own research, creating my own projects.”

 

This semester is tougher than ever as Pikus puts both sides of her brain through intellectual calisthenics, with classes in organic chemistry, medical neuro-anatomy, chemistry lab and a class in Spanish culture. She says her fluency in Russian and English is helping her grasp Spanish, which is her minor. But her future is in neuromuscular research, and it’ll be here quickly – her current work will be presented at a conference of the Society of Instrument and Control Engineers (SICE) this December in Japan.

 

“Dr. Shinohara will be presenting the research but I am listed as a co-author, which is very exciting,” says Pikus, who expects to have her data collection finished by the end of spring 2016, with hopes for publication next year. It will be after her stint as a Petit Scholar, “but I am planning to continue in the lab until I’ve finished what I’ve started.”

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1441359200 2015-09-04 09:33:20 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news Georgia State student Ellen Pikus pursuing research interests at Georgia Tech

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2015-09-04T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-04T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-04 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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<![CDATA[Capstone Champs Score in National Challenge]]> 28153 The hits keep coming for OculoStaple, a medical device company that began as a capstone design project at the Georgia Institute of Technology, based in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME).

Comprised of three recent BME graduates – former Petit Undergraduate Research Scholar, Mohamad Ali Najia, with Jackie Borinski and Drew Padilla – OculoStaple took second place in the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) DEBUT Challenge. The contest is open to teams of undergraduate students from across the country who are working on innovative solutions to unmet health and clinical problems.

The OculoStaple is a novel surgical clamp designed to replace current surgical techniques to treat ptosis (drooping eyelids). The clamp features custom designed bioabsorbable staples and is driven by a standard surgical scalpel. The surgeon is able to quickly and safely resect the muscle that raises the eyelid while simultaneously sealing the incision with the absorbable staples, transforming ptosis repair surgery into a rapid, office-based procedure, improving cosmetic outcomes while establishing a safer surgical paradigm. This could potentially reduce operating time by 73 percent with an estimated cost savings of $4,000 to $6,000 per procedure.

With its second-place finish in this national contest, the OculoStaple team earns $15,000 and will be honored at the Biomedical Engineering Society Conference in Tampa, Florida, on October 9.

It’s just the latest success in a rapid string of honors for OculoStaple. The team won Georgia Tech’s campus-wide Capstone Design competition in December, took second place in Tech’s InVenture Prize competition, and was awarded an early-stage medical device grant from the Atlanta Clinical Translational Science Institute (ACTSI).

The nascent company’s co-founders have all moved on in their different careers, but remain committed to the continuing development and growth of OculoStaple.

Najia, OculoStaple’s CEO and a December 2014 BME graduate, is now pursuing a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Borinski, the team’s vice president for quality and reliability, also graduated in December 2014 from the Coulter Department (a joint endeavor of Emory University and Georgia Tech), and is now working with Bard Medical. Padilla, a 2015 BME graduate, now working with the Barry-Wehmiller Design Group, is OculoStape’s VP of manufacturing.

NIBIB, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has a mission to improve health by leading the development and accelerating the application of biomedical technologies.

 

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1441268306 2015-09-03 08:18:26 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news Former Petit Scholar helms fledgling medical device company, OculoStaple

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2015-09-03T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-03T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-03 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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444151 444151 image <![CDATA[Ravi and Mohamad]]> image/jpeg 1449256205 2015-12-04 19:10:05 1475895182 2016-10-08 02:53:02
<![CDATA[Kim Grant Targets Atherosclerosis]]> 28153 What does atherosclerosis have in common with John Dillinger? It’s the “public enemy number one” appellation. Atherosclerosis, or hardening and narrowing of the arteries, is usually the cause of heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease, collectively known as cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer in the United States. 

Just as the FBI spent a lot of time and effort to stop Dillinger in the 1930s, so have researchers and health care providers in battling atherosclerosis. The major difference, of course, is that Dillinger went down while atherosclerosis rages on. 

One of the main challenges is the administration of drugs to treat diseases – they are limited by the inability to accurately transport sufficient doses to target sites without side effects. YongTae “Tony” Kim, faculty member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is working to turn the tables on cardiovascular disease, and he recently received an American Heart Association (AHA) National Scientist Development Grant to help him in the effort to treat atherosclerosis.

“Atherosclerosis is a time sensitive disease, and once you have it, it’s hard to stop it,” says Kim, assistant professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our goal is to engineer a new nanometer scale material that can deliver genetic codes effectively to treat unhealthy blood cells in atherosclerotic plaques.”

These engineered delivery vehicles will mimic the natural HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol) nanoparticles present in human blood. The engineered vehicles will not only contain imaging agents to help visualize plaque accumulation, but also biological molecules to enable the targeting of diseased cells for the delivery of genetic material that will improve their function, alleviating the effects of atherosclerosis.

“We plan to determine if our engineered HDL vehicles provide an improved treatment option for atherosclerosis,” says Kim, who plans to use cutting-edge microfluidic dynamics technology to synthesize the proposed nanocarriers, or vehicles, “which is highly reproducible through the continuous synthesis process in microfluidics,” he adds.

Therapeutic performance of the engineered HDL vehicles will be evaluated on a microchip device that can mimic the structure and function of human microscale blood vessels in atherosclerotic plaques, allowing for detailed study of vehicle-cell interaction while also allowing for continuous monitoring of target cell function. The microchip model will allow for collection of data elucidating drug action that will be further validated with a sample model of atherosclerosis in close collaboration with Hanjoong Jo, a professor in the Coulter Department.

“This project will have several outcomes with the potential to impact treatment of cardiovascular disease,” Kim says. For one thing, it will produce a new therapeutic platform capable of treating unhealthy blood vessel cells with minimal side effects. It also promotes the development of a novel, versatile platform for the study of microvasculature diseases.

“These new technologies will contribute to the development of a novel therapeutic and diagnostic paradigm for the study and treatment of atherosclerosis,” says Kim, whose grant is for $308,000 over four years. 

The objective of the AHA’s Scientist Development Grant is to support talented beginning researchers like Kim in their progress toward becoming an independent investigator, supporting research related to cardiovascular disease. And Kim’s research may have broader applications, such as screening drugs that target other organs such, as the brain, for the treatment of tumors and Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re heading in that direction,” says Kim.

CONTACT:

Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1441197870 2015-09-02 12:44:30 1475896769 2016-10-08 03:19:29 0 0 news Petit Institute researcher working on new ways to battle deadly disease

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2015-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2015-09-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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443841 443831 443841 image <![CDATA[Clogged artery]]> image/jpeg 1449256205 2015-12-04 19:10:05 1475895182 2016-10-08 02:53:02 443831 image <![CDATA[Tony Kim]]> image/jpeg 1449256205 2015-12-04 19:10:05 1475895182 2016-10-08 02:53:02