<![CDATA[InQuBATE Training Program Integrates Modeling and Data Science for Bioscience Ph.D. Students]]> 27446 A new five-year, $1.27 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will help transform the study of quantitative- and data-intensive biosciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The grant will create the Integrative and Quantitative Biosciences Accelerated Training Environment (InQuBATE) Predoctoral Training Program at Georgia Tech. InQuBATE is designed to train a new generation of biomedical researchers and thought leaders to harness the data revolution.

“We want to improve and enhance the training of students to focus on biological questions while leveraging modern tools, and in some cases developing new tools, to address foundational challenges at scales from molecules to systems,” said Joshua Weitz, professor and Tom and Marie Patton Chair in the School of Biological Sciences. Weitz is co-leading the program with Peng Qiu, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Biology is undergoing a transformation, according to Weitz and Qiu, requiring a new educational paradigm that integrates quantitative approaches like computational modeling and data analytics into the experimental study of living systems.

“Our intention is to develop a training environment that instills a quantitative, data-driven mindset, integrating quantitative and data science methods into all aspects of the life science training pipeline,” added Weitz, founding director of Tech’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences (QBioS).

The roots of InQuBATE go back to the fall of 2016, shortly after QBioS was launched. Weitz saw an opportunity to augment what he was teaching in his cornerstone course, Foundations of Quantitative Biosciences, in which students model living systems from the molecular level up through cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems. In doing so, students “got a brief introduction to implementing high-dimensional data analytics, visual analytics, clustering, and modern machine learning methods. But we couldn’t cover allthose topics in detail,” Weitz said.

So, he reached out to Qiu, who was teaching data analytic methods in his Machine Learning in Biosciences course: “Instead of us developing that class, we started strongly encouraging QBioS students to take Peng’s class,” Weitz said.

“For me, this was a great opportunity to work with students from the biology side who had real interests in learning data mining and machine learning, as well as students from the engineering side,” said Qiu, principal investigator in the Machine Learning and Bioinformatics Lab in Coulter BME. “We could see that it was a great learning environment and the QBioS students really excelled in the class. That gave us confidence. Now we’re building this [InQuBATE] training program, and hope it will foster even greater cross pollination.”

The training program is designed to do exactly that, bringing together students and faculty from three Georgia Tech colleges: computing, engineering, and sciences. That combination of expertise is reflected in the leadership team. In addition to principal investigators Weitz (College of Sciences) and Qiu (College of Engineering), the faculty leadership team includes Elizabeth Cherry (School of Computational Science and Engineering, College of Computing), Eva Dyer (Coulter BME, College of Engineering and Emory School of Medicine), and Marvin Whiteley (School of Biological Sciences, College of Sciences).

The InQuBATE program will ultimately support 15 Ph.D. students over five years. The first cohort — prioritizing second-year Ph.D. students — will be selected in August. Next spring, the program will begin soliciting applications from first-year Ph.D. students.

“The program will extend the breadth of student training without adding time to the Ph.D.,” Weitz said. “For students on the engineering or computing side, InQuBATE will augment their living systems research experience. For students on the living systems side, the program will augment their training in modeling and data analytics.”

Weitz, Qiu, and their collaborators also are developing a series of semester-long and short-form (a week or less) courses that will be available to other graduate students, in addition to the InQuBATE cohorts.

“We intend to make programmatic offerings available to a broader community,” Weitz said. “In the long term, we hope InQuBATE takes on a central role in shaping the culture of integrative approaches in the study of living systems at Georgia Tech.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1625770446 2021-07-08 18:54:06 1708028886 2024-02-15 20:28:06 0 0 news The NIH-funded program is designed to train a new generation of biomedical researchers and thought leaders to harness the data revolution.

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2021-07-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-08 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Communications

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

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648644 648645 648644 image <![CDATA[Peng Qiu & Joshua Weitz]]> image/jpeg 1625769462 2021-07-08 18:37:42 1625769462 2021-07-08 18:37:42 648645 image <![CDATA[Marvin Whiteley, Eva Dyer, Elizabeth Cherry]]> image/jpeg 1625769915 2021-07-08 18:45:15 1625769915 2021-07-08 18:45:15 <![CDATA[Integrative and Quantitative Biosciences Accelerated Training Environment]]> <![CDATA[Joshua Weitz]]> <![CDATA[Peng Qiu]]> <![CDATA[Elizabeth Cherry]]> <![CDATA[Eva Dyer]]> <![CDATA[Marvin Whiteley]]>
<![CDATA[Temperate Glimpse Into a Warming World]]> 28153 For the past six years, multidisciplinary researchers from across the world have been probing northern Minnesota peat bogs in an unprecedented, long-range study of climate change supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. They set out to answer complex questions, including one big one – will future warming somehow release 10,000 years of accumulated carbon from peatlands that store a large portion of earth’s terrestrial carbon?

So the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) partnered with the USDA Forest Service to develop a one-of-its-kind field lab in the Marcel Experimental Forest, where below and above ground heating elements are gradually warming the bog in greenhouse-like enclosures big enough to include trees. The enclosures are roofless so that rain and snow can get in.

It’s called the SPRUCE (Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments) experiment, and it was designed as a window into what would happen to peat bogs in a warmer world. A recent study, headed by Georgia Institute of Technology microbiologist Joel Kostka and published June 14 in the journal PNAS, provides a sobering outlook.

“The real concern and one of the major conclusions of this paper is that the ecosystem we’re studying is becoming more methanogenic,” said Kostka, professor and associate chair of research in the School of Biological Sciences, who holds a joint appointment in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and focuses on microbial ecology. “In other words, the warmed bog is enhancing the rate of methane production faster than that for carbon dioxide. This is what we think is going to happen in a warming world, based on our results.”

 

Testy Little Process

Methanogens are microbes that produce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that traps up to 30 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Warming the peatland, the researchers found, basically creates a methane production line.

“This occurs because the plant community changes in response to warmer temperatures – mosses decrease and vascular plants increase,” said the paper’s lead author, Rachel Wilson, a researcher with Florida State University’s Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, where she works in the lab of professor Jeff Chanton, co-author and co-principal investigator of the study.

The process forms a complete cycle: Vascular plants – shrubs and grass-like plants – produce more simple sugars, which are broken down by fermentative bacteria, and the breakdown products then fuel methane-producing microbes use to produce more methane.

While peatlands comprise just 3 percent of the Earth’s landmass, they store about one-third of the planet’s soil carbon. The thinking goes, as global temperatures rise, microbes could break into the carbon bank and the resulting decomposition of the ancient, combustible plant biomass would lead to increased levels of carbon dioxide and methane being released into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.

“Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide,” said Wilson. “Warming the climate stimulates methane production, which will contribute to more warming in a positive feedback loop.”

It’s a scenario that Chanton called, “a critical ecosystem shift. Peat soils that have been stable for thousands of years are giving up the ghost, so to speak. It’s a testy little process.”

 

Delayed Response

That unpleasant outcome is being delayed somewhat by the extreme conditions found in many peat bogs around the world, including at the SPRUCE experiment site.

“Although most peatlands are in northern regions undergoing some of the most rapid warming on the planet, we’re talking about generally cold, acidic soils where there’s no oxygen,” Kostka noted. “Methanogens grow really slowly under these extreme conditions. We do see their activity increasing with warming, but they’re not yet growing that fast.”

He has a good idea of what could happen, though. Several years ago, Kostka took soil samples from the Minnesota site and tested them in his lab at Georgia Tech, exaggerating the temperature to a much greater degree than would be possible in a large-scale experiment like SPRUCE.

Raising the temperature by 20 degrees Celsius, about twice the temperature range used in the field experiment, “we saw huge increases in methane and large changes in the microbes that break down soil carbon into greenhouse gases,” he said.

It's a sped-up version of what they’re seeing in the field where the research team, Kostka explained, “and it is just beginning to scratch the surface of the changes we’re seeing in this ecosystem.”

 

Next Chapter

The SPRUCE site experiment involves two kinds of treatment, warming and also elevated carbon dioxide. The warming treatment started in 2014. All of the data sets for the PNAS paper are from 2016. The elevated carbon dioxide treatment began in the final days of data collection, so it wasn’t particularly relevant for this study. “Going forward, we’re thinking the effects of elevated carbon dioxide will be one potential future story to tell,” Kostka said. “This is a long-term experiment and many of these large scale climate change field experiments do not observe substantial changes to microbial communities until 10 years after they start.”

Ultimately, SPRUCE experimental activity is designed and intended to develop a quantitative mechanistic understanding of carbon cycling processes, according to Paul Hanson, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientist leading the long-range project as principal investigator.

“SPRUCE provides experimental insights for a broad range of plausible future warming conditions for an established peatland ecosystem, combined with or without elevated carbon dioxide,” Hanson said.

So far, the evidence is pointing to a grim possibility: Warming enhances the production of carbon substrates from plants, stimulating microbial activity and greenhouse gas production, possibly leading to amplified climate-peatland feedbacks. Think, gasoline on a fire.

“That would be the worst case scenario,” Kostka said. “We don’t really know yet how plants and microbes will exchange carbon and nutrients in a warmer world. Will that carbon be locked up by the plants and stored in the soil? Will it be respired by microbes and released as a gas?

 We are just beginning to see major changes in the microbes and plants at the SPRUCE peatland.  Although the first few years of the experiment indicate that a lot more methane will be released to the atmosphere, we will be looking to see if these changes are sustained over the long term.”

 

CITATIONS:  Rachel M. Wilson, Malak M. Tfaily, Max Kolton, Eric Johnston, Caitlin Petro, Cassandra A. Zalman, Paul J. Hanson, Heino M. Heyman, Jennifer E. Kyle, David W. Hoyt, Elizabeth K. Eder, Samuel O. Purvine, Randy K. Kolka, Stephen D. Sebestyen, Natalie A. Griffiths, Christopher W. Schadt, Jason K. Keller, Scott D. Bridgham, and Jeffrey P. Chanton, and Joel E. Kostka.  “Soil metabolome response to whole ecosystem warming at the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments experiment” (PNAS, June 2021) https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2004192118

AERIAL PHOTO: Hanson, P.J., M.B. Krassovski, and L.A. Hook. 2020. SPRUCE S1 Bog and SPRUCE Experiment Aerial Photographs. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TES SFA, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.A. https://doi.org/10.3334/CDIAC/spruce.012 (UAV image number 0050 collected on October 4, 2020).

 

RELATED LINKS:

“Soil metabolome response to whole ecosystem warming at the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments experiment” 

Joel Kostka – Microbial Ecology

SPRUCE Experiment

“Shaking a Sleeping Bog Monster” (Research Horizons)

NSF Supports Research on the Microbes in Peat Moss

ScienceMatters Podcast: Digging Up Climate Clues in Peat Moss

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1623698548 2021-06-14 19:22:28 1708028803 2024-02-15 20:26:43 0 0 news SPRUCE experiment study shows elevated levels of greenhouse gases emerging from carbon-rich peatlands

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2021-06-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-14 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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648105 648106 648105 image <![CDATA[Aerial SPRUCE]]> image/jpeg 1623697776 2021-06-14 19:09:36 1623697776 2021-06-14 19:09:36 648106 image <![CDATA[SPRUCE - Joel Kostka]]> image/jpeg 1623698456 2021-06-14 19:20:56 1623698507 2021-06-14 19:21:47
<![CDATA[Susan Margulies Appointed to Lead NSF Engineering Directorate]]> 27446 When the call to service came, Susan Margulies just couldn’t say no. Which should be no surprise to anyone who has worked with her during her time as professor and chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.

Margulies will step down as chair in August to answer that call — as head of the Directorate of Engineering at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). She is the first biomedical engineer to lead the directorate, which supports fundamental research, enhances the nation’s innovation through a range of initiatives, and is a driving force behind the training and development of the United States’ engineering workforce. Margulies appointment at the NSF begins in mid-August.

“Susan’s NSF appointment will impact the nation, and I congratulate her on this high honor,” said Vikas P. Sukhatme, dean of the Emory School of Medicine and Woodruff Professor. “Her leadership at Coulter BME over the last four years has been transformative. I have enjoyed working closely with her and respect the high standards she has set for all our missions.”

Margulies has been chair of Coulter BME since August 2017, overseeing a unique collaboration between a leading public engineering school and a highly respected private medical school that graduates more women and underrepresented students than any other biomedical engineering program in the nation. She is the first woman to chair a basic science department in the Emory School of Medicine and the second woman chair in the history of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering.

Though she’s stepping down as chair of the Coulter Department, Margulies will remain a member of the Emory and Georgia Tech faculties.

“I congratulate Susan on this incredible honor and opportunity to serve our nation at the National Science Foundation," said Raheem Beyah, dean and Southern Company Chair of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering. “She has served as a pioneer while leading BME, diligently working to increase access and diversity, while also strengthening our cross-university collaboration with a sincere commitment to research excellence. I look forward to continuing the College’s partnership with the NSF as Susan and the Foundation expand its engineering goals and initiatives.”

As chair, Margulies worked to building a deeper sense of community in Coulter BME, including increasing shared governance with faculty, staff, and students and convening a 50-member committee charged with developing and implementing programs to boost the Department’s community, diversity, and inclusion. Margulies helped raise $41 million in philanthropic gifts to support the Department; led development of a new strategic plan for Coulter BME to increase impact, enhance engagement, and enrich community; and provided leadership to campus-wide strategic planning efforts at both Emory and Georgia Tech.

“The opportunity to serve the NSF resonates with my values — catalyzing impact through innovation, rigor, partnership, and inclusion. It’s an irresistible invitation, and it has to be to pull me away from my Coulter BME family,” Margulies said. “I’m so proud to have worked alongside this unmatched group of students, staff, and faculty in our shared drive to improve health and well-being.”

Building on initiatives she developed at the University of Pennsylvania, Margulies prioritized career development for faculty members and Ph.D. graduates during her years leading Coulter BME. She added dedicated staff to help doctoral students prepare for increasingly popular career paths outside of academia. The Department increased the diversity of Ph.D. students and improved faculty diversity at all ranks during her tenure. Margulies oversaw hiring of 20 new faculty members and launched formalized mentoring for early career professors, including creating a new associate chair position dedicated to faculty development.

Margulies also introduced a new leadership position, executive director of learning and training, to formalize the integration of pioneering teaching methods developed through federal and foundation grants. These initiatives infuse elements of story-driven learning across the curriculum and build inclusive environments in required courses and research labs.

Margulies’ popular weekly office hours with the chair were a year-round forum for students to share their ideas and consult with her one-on-one on all kinds of topics. Those weekly hours became one of her favorite parts of the job.

“Our students inspire me, and these conversations emboldened students to create their unique pathways to integrate who they are with their studies in biomedical engineering — to become who they want to be,” she said.

Much as she has in the Coulter Department and throughout her career, Margulies said, she plans to forge partnerships in her new role across industry, foundations, academia, and around the world to help NSF address some of the most pressing challenges in science and engineering.

"Susan Margulies' extensive experience and expertise is a valuable addition to the National Science Foundation's work to advance the frontiers of science and engineering research,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Her strong leadership combined with her deep knowledge of research translation will help accelerate our nation's progress to be at the vanguard of discovery and innovation. I am looking forward to her insights and perspectives.”

Margulies is a renowned scholar in pediatric traumatic brain injury and lung injury associated with mechanical ventilators, where she has worked to open avenues for prevention, intervention, and treatment. Her career has been marked by interdisciplinary research and education, thanks in part to her training in mechanical and aerospace engineering, bioengineering, and physiology and biophysics. She is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

She has conducted more than $35 million in research with funding from the NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and industry sources. Her research group has trained dozens of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students who’ve gone on to careers in consulting, federal agencies, industry, academia, and startups. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the Biomedical Engineering Society, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Interim leadership for the Department will be announced soon, along with more details on a search to find the next permanent chair of Coulter BME.

UPDATE JULY 21: Machelle Pardue has been named interim chair of the Coulter Department, starting Aug. 16.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1625159452 2021-07-01 17:10:52 1626881796 2021-07-21 15:36:36 0 0 news Margulies has been chair of Coulter BME since August 2017 and will be the first biomedical engineer to lead the directorate.

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2021-07-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-07-01 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

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648488 648488 image <![CDATA[Susan Margulies 2020 (vertical)]]> image/jpeg 1625087327 2021-06-30 21:08:47 1625087327 2021-06-30 21:08:47 <![CDATA[NSF selects Susan S. Margulies to head the Engineering Directorate]]> <![CDATA[National Science Foundation Directorate of Engineering]]> <![CDATA[Susan Margulies]]>
<![CDATA[From BME Grad Student to Venture Capitalist]]> 28153 As a naturally inquisitive person, Melissa Lokugamage has satisfied her diverse interests with a steady diet of new experiences.

A native of Sri Lanka who moved to Kansas City, Missouri, with her family as a young girl, she grew up playing the piano and violin, and danced in a local ballet company, shaping an abiding appreciation of the arts and culture.

Lokugamage discovered a love of science while an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, which she satisfied with a degree in bioengineering. Perhaps more significantly, she said, “I also found a passion for community outreach, activism, and mentorship.”

And now that she’s earned a Ph.D. from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Lokugamage is ready for the next new experience on her polymathic journey. She’ll make the transition this summer from graduate researcher in a university lab to venture capital associate for Massachusetts-based Alloy Therapeutics.

“As a graduate researcher, I was taught to think critically about data,” she said. “This thinking can help me evaluate and identify promising new technology. Joining Alloy will allow me to apply my deep understanding of drug delivery to new biotech company development.”

Atypical Path

Her Ph.D. advisor James Dahlman is confident in what Lokugamage brings to the table, even though going into venture capital straight from a research Ph.D. isn’t a typical path.

“I’m not surprised Melissa was able to do it,” said Dahlman, assistant professor in the Coulter Department. “She can see around corners, so to speak, meaning she is great at identifying large scale trends before others. At the same time, she can evaluate the nitty gritty details of the science.”

That attention to the details, the kind of investigative skills developed over years in a lab, will allow Lokugamage, “to predict whether a company’s scientific foundation is sturdy enough to survive the valley of death between early stage science and the clinic,” Dahlman added. “I can’t wait to see what world-changing technologies she helps develop at Alloy.”

With her colleagues in Dahlman’s lab, Lokugamage’s Ph.D. research focused on RNA drug delivery. Now she wants to expand on that.

“While I enjoyed my time as a scientist and researcher, I was ready to use my understanding of drug delivery and medicine in a new way,” Lokugamage said.

She didn’t really have a career in mind when she entered Missouri, where Lokugamage also earned a minor in women’s and gender studies that nurtured her interest in service and community.

“It started when I took a course on women’s health and history,” she said. “The subject was interesting, the students were thoughtful, and it felt deeply personal as a woman of color. I continued to fill my schedule with courses like this. I learned the importance of intersectionality and the role it plays in my life and my career. From there, I started joining service organizations.”

Scientific Journey

Meanwhile, an influential professor provided Lokugamage with the tools to constructively pose important scientific questions, treating her as if she already was a grad student. Early and often, he sent her to speak at conferences. He encouraged her to apply for a summer internship at NASA, where she participated in the space agency’s Space Life Science Training Program. At the Ames Research Center in California, she was as a member of the BioSentinel Team, working on development of a biosensor to monitor the long-term effects of radiation on DNA.

She worked in an RNA-focused lab at Missouri, exploring the theory that RNA was the precursor molecule to DNA in the origin of life — and falling hard for the biomolecule. As she considered grad schools, Coulter BME was interesting because, while she’d been studying RNA in a more exploratory manner, “the Dahlman lab was applying RNA therapies to treat diseases. This felt like a way for me to continue working in the RNA space but grow as well,” she said.

Looking back on it, joining Dahlman’s research group was almost like a ground-floor opportunity — he’d only been on the Georgia Tech campus a year at the time, “and they were building a novel barcoding platform from the ground up,” she said. “It was really exciting. Dr. Dahlman provided the necessary support and guidance I needed to thrive during my Ph.D. The mistakes I made and the insight I gained in that type of environment were invaluable.”

Along the way, she developed a deep expertise in drug delivery, according to Dahlman.

“Melissa is a rising star, and that expertise will be critical as clinicians work with emerging companies to develop new gene therapies for patients,” he said.

Another new interest, another new experience, and Lokugamage is ready for it.

“The space of venture capital and investing are very new to me,” she said. “My biggest goal is to learn as much as possible. This new role is my chance to absorb as much information as possible, provide my assistance to a new team, and create new tech.”

 

Related Links

James Dahlman Lab

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2021-06-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-30T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

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<![CDATA[Andrés García Receives Distinguished Professor Award]]> 28506 Vision. Collaboration. Innovation. The qualities for which Georgia Tech has become so well-known were embodied in people like Bob Nerem, founding director of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB) from 1995 to 2009, Parker H. Petit Distinguished Chair for Engineering in Medicine, and Institute professor emeritus until his death in March 2020.

In 1997 Nerem recruited Andrés García and his wife, Michelle LaPlaca, to join the pioneering IBB program at Tech after they completed their work as postdoctoral fellows at the University of Pennsylvania — his in cell and molecular biology, hers in neurotrauma.

In 1998 when García and LaPlaca joined Tech, IBB launched its National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center in Tissue Engineering with Emory University, making it a strategic community for García to join to start his research program in an emerging field. Now as executive director of IBB and a Regents Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, García is continuing Nerem’s legacy of vision, collaboration, and innovation in everything he does. In recognition of his work, he is the 2021 recipient of the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award, the highest honor given to a Georgia Tech professor. The award is presented to a professor who has made significant, long-term contributions to teaching, research, and public service.

Known as a global pioneer in developing biomaterials systems for translational applications in regenerative medicine, García holds more than a dozen U.S. patents. Discoveries include the development of hydrogels for protein and cell delivery in regenerative medicine, engineering biofunctional materials to improve islet survival, and the design of infection-fighting materials. His research focuses on creating an engineered class of materials that can be used for applications to transplant a graft without immune-suppressive drugs. Human studies are planned to start next year. Researchers in his lab are developing new ways to treat Type 1 diabetes, eventually working with adult stem cells to reprogram them into insulin-producing cells. Future applications include addressing kidney failure and other diseases.

Creating Opportunities for ‘Collisions’

García is enthusiastic about his research, as well as all of the collaborative research in IBB. “IBB is a fantastic community of faculty, trainees, and staff who come together in making discoveries and developing the technologies in bioengineering and bioscience that will change the world,” he said. His goal is that IBB will continue to expand research and integrative opportunities to have a major economic impact, creating an environment to translate research into commercial products and therapies. “With IBB we want to provide opportunities for ‘collisions,’ unexpected interactions that lead to the discoveries. It was Bob Nerem’s vision to drive that sort of collaboration,” he said.

García shared an example of one such collision: “As part of a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), I was required to present unpublished research progress at a meeting with other researchers from throughout the country. After I made my presentation that morning, a JDRF director announced that for the next three-year cycle of funding we would need to collaborate with someone in the room on research. We went to lunch, and as I was building my sandwich, an immunologist introduced himself to me, complimented me on my presentation, and asked me if I thought I could develop a biomaterial to deliver the particular protein he was working with. You never ask an engineer if they think they can do something. They’ll find a way. I said I could, and we started working together.”

An elected member of both the National Academy of Inventors and the National Academy of Engineering, García has established three startup companies in the past seven years. He has received numerous awards for his teaching and research and has published more than 230 peer-reviewed papers in prestigious journals.

Mentoring Students

García has supervised 15 postdoctoral researchers and advised/co-advised 37 Ph.D. students. He is known for his long-term commitment to his trainees, as well as mentoring students outside of his laboratory and classroom. While he has not taught for the past three years because of his responsibilities as IBB executive director, he still mentors students in his lab.

“I take my responsibility as a mentor and supervisor seriously. It is important to have one-to-one interactions,” García said. “I take a practical approach and feel it is critical to explain why learning a topic is important, sharing practical applications, and offering experiential hands-on learning. I have had very supportive and engaged mentors and would like to pass that on to others.”

Background

A native of Puerto Rico, García originally came to the states to study at Cornell University. He was very interested in the emerging field of biomedical engineering, but his father, an industrial engineer, advised him to major in another engineering discipline as a backup in case the biomedical field didn’t develop as anticipated. García took his father’s advice, earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and also taking biology and bioengineering classes.

During his senior year García participated in a project to design a structure to support fractured legs for horses. He worked to optimize the way a “boot” attached to the bone so that it wouldn’t fracture again. He became interested in research, and his professors recommended that he go to graduate school. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. in bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. García was the first person in his immediate family to earn a doctoral degree.

García and his family have embraced all things Georgia Tech. He and LaPlaca have two sons, Rafael, a Tech mechanical engineering (ME 2018) graduate working at GTRI, and Andrés, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at Tech. They hold season basketball and football tickets. One of their dogs is named Buzz.

García said he was deeply honored, humbled, and shocked when Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera called and told him he had been selected for this year’s Distinguished Professor Award. “The award is special to me because it reflects the great contributions my friends, family, and peers have made in my life to get me to this point. I am grateful for my trainees, my collaborators, and colleagues, and for the support that Georgia Tech has provided in giving me the tools to succeed. Georgia Tech is the best,” García said.

Quotes From Colleagues and Former Students

“Professor García has been an integral part of growth of the international reputation of our bioengineering program and the Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. Having seen the sustained impact that he has had on students from K-12 (Project Engages) through graduate students, he is a remarkable educator who I feel is well deserving of this award.”

Sam Graham
Eugene C. Gwaltney Jr. School Chair in Mechanical Engineering
Georgia Tech

 

“He remains on my short list of speakers because I resonate so strongly with his approach — very deep technical skills, outstanding problem definition, and tremendous colleague in service and collegiality. He is also a terrific mentor, and his former lab members are stars. He cares about doing great science and teaching people what he learned. Andrés García is a gem at Georgia Tech, and as an alum I hope you can keep him there — he is doing some of the best biology on campus and is a superb attractor of the best students from MIT.”

Linda G. Griffith
S.E.T.I. Professor of Mechanical and Biological Engineering
Director, MIT Center for Gynepathology Research
Chair, MIT Biological Engineering Undergraduate Programs Committee

 

“The lab around Professor García performs research at a unique broadness and depth. His remarkable combination of professional and personal skills is the key for his success and makes him a highly estimated collaboration partner for other scientists across disciplines and continents. He is the most invited American scientist at plenary lectures in European conferences on biomaterials. This is not only due to the high quality of his work, but also to his ability as a communicator and active discussion partner, his openness to address new topics in collaboration, and his passion for science and education that truly inspires and motivates young researchers.”

Aránzazu del Campo
Director INM-Leibniz Institute for New Materials
Professor, Materials Synthesis, Saarland University

 

“The five years that I spent in Andrés’ lab were transformative for me, and the influence of that experience is difficult to put into words. Andrés taught me many things — how to be a scientist; how to develop creative and impactful ideas; how to execute on those ideas; how to write; how to present, etc. But more important than all the technical aspects of what I learned from Andrés, I learned from him who I wanted to be. Most of my professional life, and much of my personal life, is modeled after what I have learned from watching Andrés as a professor, colleague, friend, father, and husband.”

Charles Gersbach
Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Director, Center for Biomolecular and Tissue Engineering
Director, Center for Advanced Genomic Technologies
Duke University

]]> Patricia Futrell 1 1624295807 2021-06-21 17:16:47 1624998697 2021-06-29 20:31:37 0 0 news Andrés García, executive director of IBB and a Regents Professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, is the 2021 recipient of the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award. It is the highest honor given to a Georgia Tech professor.

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2021-06-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-21 00:00:00 Patti Futrell, Faculty Communications Program Manager

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648265 648264 648265 image <![CDATA[Andrés García]]> image/jpeg 1624296598 2021-06-21 17:29:58 1624296654 2021-06-21 17:30:54 648264 image <![CDATA[Andrés García]]> image/jpeg 1624296172 2021-06-21 17:22:52 1624301482 2021-06-21 18:51:22
<![CDATA[Modeling Finds Relaxing Covid-19 Safety Protocols During Vaccination Period Risky]]> 35403 A new mathematical simulation has concluded that the continued practice of mask wearing and social distancing during ongoing vaccinations could help stem a potential surge in Covid-19 cases, particularly as more infectious variants emerge.

The study was conducted collaboratively by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of North Carolina (UNC), and North Carolina State University (NCSU) and the findings published in the research journal JAMA Network Open. The study methods were based on a mathematical simulation originally developed at Georgia Tech. 

The study evaluated how many Covid-19 cases could be avoided in the Tar Heel State if more people get vaccinated and continue to follow mask and physical distancing guidelines. As of June 3, North Carolina has had 1 million reported cases of Covid-19 and more than 13,000 recorded deaths.

“The main takeaway from the paper is that while the increasing vaccine coverage in the U.S. has a positive impact, we are not really there yet. We still need to follow preventive measures such as mask wearing,” said contributing author Pinar Keskinocak, the William W. George Chair and Professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech and co-founder and director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems.

The caution is well founded when the researchers account for viral mutations, including the variant currently dominant in the United States that was initially identified in the UK and was associated with the surge in Michigan. There, as recently as May 2, the state averaged nearly 3,500 cases a day, according to a June 2 story in Bridge Michigan.

According to one scenario from the simulation, which was populated with data from the state of North Carolina, if 75% of the population gets fully vaccinated but continues to wear masks and socially distance,  there is a sustained decline down to very few new Covid-19 cases over a six-month period.  But, if only 25% of the population gets fully vaccinated and does not adhere to these non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), there could be a steady increase in daily Covid-19 cases, peaking around 8,000 before there is another decline.

Keskinocak points to the Georgia Covid-19 Vaccination Dashboard that tracks county-level differences in vaccination rates based on race as further evidence of the need for caution.

“Our dashboard shows that there has been high variability in the level of vaccination in different geographic regions and communities,” she said. “So even if we say over half of U.S. adults are vaccinated, it’s not uniform across the entire country. This further raises concerns about quickly lifting the NPIs.”

Julie Swann, department head, North Carolina State University’s Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and long-time research collaborator with Keskinocak, concurs. “Current variants are more infectious, and there are still locations with less than 30% of the population vaccinated.”

Swann adds that ongoing spread “endangers people now. It also increases the chance of a future mutation that could increase the risk even to people who are vaccinated.” 
Swann and Keskinocak are two of three researchers who co-founded Georgia Tech’s Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems in 2007, the year they developed a comprehensive, agent-based simulation model for pandemic flu, which has since been at the core of their modeling efforts for Covid-19. Over the years the two industrial engineers have collaborated closely to advance the model and make results available to decision makers as new pandemics emerged.   

“Julie and I have been working on infectious disease modeling for over a decade now. We had developed this agent-based model for pandemic flu and then when Covid-19 hit, Georgia Tech adapted that model to Covid-19 and shared it with Julie’s team at NC State who then modified the model to test additional scenarios and calibrated it with North Carolina data,” Keskinocak said.

“I am grateful that Pinar and I had spent such a long time trying to understand pandemics and improving the science behind them,” Swann added. “If we had not invested that time, we would not be able to have such a fast turnaround and the high participation level that we have this year.”

According to Keskinocak, the simulation model is extremely detailed – in essence, it recreated demographics of the population down to the state’s household size, and even individuals’ workflow, to give a clear picture of how people move from one geographic area to another. 

 “The model is flexible and can change based on the research question being asked, including the current research question, ‘What is the impact of lifting NPIs in increasing vaccine coverage?’”

Swann credited the close partnership with public health partners in Georgia and North Carolina, as well as their work under a grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, with the speed of developing models to test interventions during the pandemic. 

“It’s really key because sometimes we get additional ideas or research questions from the stakeholders with whom we interact,” Swann said.

Both researchers emphasized the critical role students played in advancing these models under tight deadlines while juggling coursework. Between them they estimate more than two dozen graduate students across the partnering institutions have been engaged in the Covid-19 modeling work since the pandemic began. The two also were integral in establishing a professional education HHSCM certificate program.

 # # #

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> Carly Ralston 1 1624906619 2021-06-28 18:56:59 1624985043 2021-06-29 16:44:03 0 0 news The study evaluated how many Covid-19 cases could be avoided in North Carolina if more people get vaccinated and continue to follow mask and physical distancing guidelines. As of June 3, North Carolina has had 1 million reported cases of Covid-19 and more than 13,000 recorded deaths. The study found that while increasing vaccine coverage in the U.S. has had a positive impact, people still need to follow preventive measures such as mask wearing.

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2021-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-25 00:00:00 Tracey Reeves
Research News
(404) 660-2929

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648391 648391 image <![CDATA[Researchers Pinar Keskinocak and Julie Swann]]> image/png 1624656300 2021-06-25 21:25:00 1624702300 2021-06-26 10:11:40
<![CDATA[Simple Robots, Smart Algorithms: Meet the BOBbots]]> 34528 Anyone with children knows that while controlling one child can be hard, controlling many at once can be nearly impossible. Getting swarms of robots to work collectively can be equally challenging, unless researchers carefully choreograph their interactions — like planes in formation — using increasingly sophisticated components and algorithms. But what can be reliably accomplished when the robots on hand are simple, inconsistent, and lack sophisticated programming for coordinated behavior?

A team of researchers led by Dana Randall, ADVANCE Professor of Computing and Daniel Goldman, Dunn Family Professor of Physics, sought to show that even the simplest of robots can still accomplish tasks well beyond the capabilities of one, or even a few, of them. The goal of accomplishing these tasks with what the team dubbed "dumb robots" (essentially mobile granular particles) exceeded their expectations, and the researchers report being able to remove all sensors, communication, memory and computation — and instead accomplishing a set of tasks through leveraging the robots' physical characteristics, a trait that the team terms "task embodiment."

The team's simple BOBbots, or "behaving, organizing, buzzing bots" were named for granular physics pioneer Bob Behringer," explains Randall. "Their cylindrical chassis have vibrating brushes underneath and loose magnets on their periphery, causing them to spend more time at locations with more neighbors." The experimental platform was supplemented by precise computer simulations led by Georgia Tech physics student Shengkai Li, as a way to study aspects of the system inconvenient to study in the lab.

Despite the simplicity of the BOBbots, the researchers discovered that, as the robots move and bump into each other, "compact aggregates form that are capable of collectively clearing debris that is too heavy for one alone to move," according to Goldman. "While most people build increasingly complex and expensive robots to guarantee coordination, we wanted to see what complex tasks could be accomplished with very simple robots."

Their work, as reported April 23, 2021 in the journal Science Advances, was inspired by a theoretical model of particles moving around on a chessboard. A theoretical abstraction known as a self-organizing particle system was developed to rigorously study a mathematical model of the BOBbots. Using ideas from probability theory, statistical physics and stochastic algorithms, the researchers were able to prove that the theoretical model undergoes a phase change as the magnetic interactions increase — abruptly changing from dispersed to aggregating in large, compact clusters, similar to phase changes we see in common everyday systems, like water and ice.

"The rigorous analysis not only showed us how to build the BOBbots, but also revealed an inherent robustness of our algorithm that allowed some of the robots to be faulty or unpredictable," notes Randall, who also serves as a professor of computer science and adjunct professor of mathematics at Georgia Tech.

 

The collaboration is based on experiments and simulations also designed by Bahnisikha Dutta, Ram Avinery and Enes Aydin from Georgia Tech, as well as on theoretical work by Andrea Richa and Joshua Daymude from Arizona State University, and Sarah Cannon from Claremont McKenna College, who is a recent Georgia Tech graduate.

This work is part of a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) funded by the Army Research Office (ARO) to study the foundations of emergent computation and collective intelligence.

Funding: This work was supported by the Department of Defense under MURI award no. W911NF-19-1-0233 and by NSF awards DMS-1803325 (S.C.); CCF-1422603, CCF-1637393, and CCF-1733680 (A.W.R.); CCF-1637031 and CCF-1733812 (D.R. and D.I.G.); and CCF-1526900 (D.R.).

This story was first published on EurekAlert! by Georgia Tech. 

]]> jhunt7 1 1619721183 2021-04-29 18:33:03 1624893513 2021-06-28 15:18:33 0 0 news Inspired by a theoretical model of particles moving around on a chessboard, new robot swarm research led by Georgia Tech shows that, as magnetic interactions increase, dispersed “dumb robots” can abruptly gather in large, compact clusters to accomplish complex tasks. Researchers report that these “BOBbots” (behaving, organizing, buzzing bots) are also capable of collectively clearing debris that is too heavy for one alone to move, thanks to a robust algorithm.

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2021-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-29T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-29 00:00:00 Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communicaitons
College of Sciences
Georgia Institute of Technology

Tracey A. Reeves
Associate Vice President for Research and Academic Communications
Institute Communications
Georgia Institute of Technology

 

]]>
647117 647113 647116 647115 647114 647118 647117 image <![CDATA[A collection of "BOBbots" in motion (Credit: Shengkai Li, Georgia Tech)]]> image/jpeg 1620059861 2021-05-03 16:37:41 1620059861 2021-05-03 16:37:41 647113 image <![CDATA[When sensors, communication, memory and computation are removed from a group of simple robots, certain sets of complex tasks can still be accomplished by leveraging the robots' physical characteristics (Credit: Shengkai Li, Georgia Tech) ]]> image/jpeg 1620059371 2021-05-03 16:29:31 1620059371 2021-05-03 16:29:31 647116 image <![CDATA[Shengkai Li, a graduate student in physics at Georgia Tech, with two BOBbots (Credit: Shengkai Li)]]> image/jpeg 1620059725 2021-05-03 16:35:25 1620059925 2021-05-03 16:38:45 647115 image <![CDATA[Dana Randall, Daniel Goldman, and Bahnisikha Dutta work together on creating magnetic robots. This photo was taken in 2019 at Georgia Tech as part of a previous research study (Credit: Allison Carter, Georgia Tech)]]> image/jpeg 1620059565 2021-05-03 16:32:45 1620059565 2021-05-03 16:32:45 647114 image <![CDATA[Bahnisikha Dutta, a graduate student at Georgia Tech, is part of an interdisciplinary research team that creates and studies magnetic robots (Credit: Allison Carter, Georgia Tech)]]> image/jpeg 1620059504 2021-05-03 16:31:44 1620059504 2021-05-03 16:31:44 647118 image <![CDATA[Sarah Cannon, Georgia Tech alumna and assistant professor in the Mathematics Department of Mathematical Sciences at Claremont McKenna College, with Dana Randall (Credit: Georgia Tech)]]> image/jpeg 1620060846 2021-05-03 16:54:06 1620060846 2021-05-03 16:54:06 <![CDATA[EurekAlert!: Simple Robots, Smart Algorithms ]]>
<![CDATA[Georgia Covid-19 Vaccine Dashboard Breaks Down Vaccination Trends by Race at County Level]]> 34528 The U.S. continues to see Covid-19 vaccinations gradually increasing nationwide, with nearly 66% of all adults now having at least one vaccine dose according to CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, yet disparities have been noted in vaccination rates across races and geographic areas. A new dashboard shows differences in vaccination rates by race across Georgia’s counties.

The Georgia COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard displays vaccination rates by race and county, and the differences between white and black vaccination rates, for the entire population and for the 65+ age group. The dashboard also has an interactive map as well as an interactive table, which allow users to compare and rank counties by vaccination rates, social vulnerability index, and other indicators of equity.

As of June 3, the dashboard indicated that vaccination rates among white residents are higher than those of Black residents in all large metro counties as well as around 70% of all Georgia counties. 

“There is a lot variability in different regions of the state, so we wanted to take a closer look from an equity perspective,” said Pinar Keskinocak, the William W. George Chair and Professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech and co-founder and director of the Center for Health and Humanitarian Systems (CHHS), an interdisciplinary research center at Georgia Tech.

The Georgia Tech team, including Ph.D. students Akane Fujimoto and Tyler Perini, was able to set up the dashboard, working closely with partners at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). They shared early demos of the dashboard with both DPH and the Georgia Covid-19 Health Equity Council.

Robert Breiman, professor of global health, environmental health, and infectious diseases at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, considers the dashboard critical to the job facing the public health community both in targeting areas and population segments in the state with low vaccine coverage rates and understanding broader trends.

“The data contained within the vaccine equity dashboard are immensely important for Georgia. While figures like 70% to achieve herd immunity are often quoted, they are only meaningful if applied locally,” Breiman said. “Even if herd immunity targets are achieved nationally overall, where there are communities that have far lower coverage rates, the potential for virus transmission will persist. This dashboard will help to focus context-specific messaging programs and immunization campaigns so that we can close the doors on this pandemic.”

Georgia Tech’s vaccination dashboard results come as a new CDC MMWR report released at the end of May shows vaccination coverage was lower among adults living in counties with the highest social vulnerability. According to the CDC, disparities in county-level vaccination coverage by social vulnerability have increased as vaccine eligibility has expanded, especially in large suburban and nonmetropolitan counties.

Vaccination coverage among adults was lower among those living in counties with lower socioeconomic status and with higher percentages of households with children, single parents, and persons with disabilities.

According to CHHS Research Director Dima Nazzal, Georgia Tech’s dashboard shows high vaccination rates across both racial groups in some counties, and low rates in those below the poverty level, compared with the national average. Some counties currently have higher vaccination rates among white residents, including some of the large metro counties, while in a few counties the vaccination rate is higher among Black residents. The researchers acknowledge the multifaceted outreach efforts of DPH and local health departments to increase vaccination rates across the state and hope that the dashboard will support these efforts.

The research team is updating the dashboard as new data becomes available and finalizing a manuscript summarizing the key findings. They also are actively collecting data from other states to integrate into the dashboard.

 

***

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.

The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> jhunt7 1 1624646755 2021-06-25 18:45:55 1624886056 2021-06-28 13:14:16 0 0 news A new Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for the state of Georgia shows vaccination rates among white residents are higher than those of Black residents in all large metro counties, as well as in around 70% of all Georgia counties.

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2021-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-25 00:00:00 Research News Media Relations:
Anne Wainscott-Sargent (404-435-5784)
Tracey Reeves (404-660-2929)

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648382 648383 648382 image <![CDATA[The research team behind the Georgia COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard]]> image/jpeg 1624646895 2021-06-25 18:48:15 1624646895 2021-06-25 18:48:15 648383 image <![CDATA[Screen shot of the Georgia COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard]]> image/jpeg 1624646956 2021-06-25 18:49:16 1624646956 2021-06-25 18:49:16
<![CDATA[Faces of Research - Meet Andrés García]]> 27561 Meet Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB). 

IBB is one of Georgia Tech's 11 interdisciplinary research institutes within the Georgia Tech Research enterprise.

What is your field of expertise and why did you choose it?

My field of expertise is biomaterials, regenerative medicine, and mechanobiology.  When I was 11 years old, my plan was to be a professional basketball player. However, I developed a condition in my right leg where the growth plate in the hip bone slips resulting in biomechanical misalignment, pain, and limping. I had three stainless steel pins implanted in my hip to fuse my growth plate and spent ten weeks on crutches. The following year, the same thing happened in my left leg and I underwent the same surgery. Although these procedures were successful, the surgeon used the wrong type of pin. My bone grew around the pin threads and could not be removed, and now are permanently in me. Stainless steel slowly corrodes in the body and will cause damage long term. The positive outcome is that the biomechanical issues were fixed, and I have led a normal life, playing basketball, backpacking with my sons, and running (I do a 5K run three times a week). The negative is that I have stainless steel implants corroding in my body. This experience got me extremely interested in biomaterials and medicine. I did not want to practice medicine, I wanted to be part of making the devices and therapies to treat diseases and conditions like mine.

What makes the way in which IBB enables campus research unique?

IBB is awesome! We bring together a dynamic and diverse community of researchers that are making discoveries and engineered technologies that will revolutionize the world. Our state-of-the-art core facilities provide our researchers with resources to do unique and special projects. I am also immensely proud of the supportive community, entrepreneurial and innovation spirit, and can-do attitude.

What couldn’t have happened without IBB?                                                       

People make IBB special. Together with the exceptional faculty, trainees, staff and the tremendous support and resources from the administration, colleges, and units allow IBB to make huge contributions. I think that IBB has been instrumental in our two NSF-funded Engineering Research Centers (GTEC, CMaT), many NIH research and training grants, high impact publications, and IP and spin outs.

What impact is IBB research having on the world?                                                 

Our research provides fundamental insights into the biological world and invents and engineers new technologies that will revolutionize healthcare and the environment to have positive socioeconomic impact. Furthermore, our faculty, graduates, and trainees are leaders and role models actively engaged in improving the human condition.

Learn more about IBB.

]]> Angela Ayers 1 1623439697 2021-06-11 19:28:17 1623721989 2021-06-15 01:53:09 0 0 news 2021-06-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-11 00:00:00 648114 648114 image <![CDATA[Andres Garcia]]> image/png 1623721939 2021-06-15 01:52:19 1623721939 2021-06-15 01:52:19
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Seed Grants Awarded to Two Interdisciplinary Teams]]> 35403 Two interdisciplinary research teams have been awarded 2021 Petit Institute Seed Grants.

The program annually selects sets of researchers from the Petit Institute as co-principal investigators, providing early-stage funding opportunities that serve as a catalyst for bio-related breakthroughs.

The teams and their projects are:

Shu Jia (assistant professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University) and Alberto Stolfi (assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences) are working on a project called, “Super-Resolution Scanning Micros- copy for Studying Neuronal Cell Biology in vivo,” a new collaboration linking novel biological discovery and imaging technology. This project will transform existing imaging infrastructure, laying a critical intellectual foundation for broader science, engineering, and technology advances. 

Costas Arvanitis (assistant professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University) and Liang Han (assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences) submitted a project called, “Ultrasonic actuation of mechanosensitive ion channels.” This interdisciplinary team will explore new ways to balance and control sound and vibration and study how it interacts with cell membrane proteins. Their long-term goal is to advance research in the field of neurosciences through the discovery of new tools for noninvasive, focal, and at depth manipulation of brain activity.

The Petit Institute Seed Grants provide year-one funding of $50,000 with equivalent year-two funding contingent on submission of an NIH R21/R01 or similar collaborative grant proposal within 12 to 24 months of the year-one start date (July 1, 2021).

]]> Carly Ralston 1 1623164943 2021-06-08 15:09:03 1623176147 2021-06-08 18:15:47 0 0 news 2021-06-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-08 00:00:00 647978 647979 647978 image <![CDATA[Liang Han and Costas Arvanitis]]> image/jpeg 1623164532 2021-06-08 15:02:12 1623164532 2021-06-08 15:02:12 647979 image <![CDATA[Shu Jia and Alberto Stolfi]]> image/jpeg 1623164678 2021-06-08 15:04:38 1623164678 2021-06-08 15:04:38
<![CDATA[A Breakthrough in the Physics of Blood Clotting ]]> 35692 Heart attacks and strokes – the leading causes of death in human beings – are fundamentally blood clots of the heart and brain. Better understanding how the blood-clotting process works and how to accelerate or slow down clotting, depending on the medical need, could save lives. 

New research by Georgia Tech and Emory University published in the journal Biomaterials sheds new light on the mechanics and physics of blood clotting through modeling the dynamics at play during a still poorly understood phase of blood clotting called clot contraction.

“Blood clotting is actually a physics-based phenomenon that must occur to stem bleeding after an injury,” said Wilbur A. Lam, W. Paul Bowers Research Chair, in the Department of Pediatrics and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology. “The biology is known. The biochemistry is known. But how this ultimately translates into physics is an untapped area.”

And that’s a problem, argues Lam and his research colleagues, since blood clotting is ultimately about “how good of a seal can the body make on this damaged blood vessel to stop bleeding, or when this goes wrong, how does the body accidentally make clots in our heart vessels or in our brain?”

How Blood Clotting Works

The workhorses to stem bleeding are platelets – tiny 2-micrometer cells in the blood in charge of making the initial plug, said Lam. The clot that forms is called fibrin, which acts as a glue scaffold that the platelets attach to and pull against. Blood clot contraction arises when these platelets interact with this fibrin scaffold. To demonstrate the contraction, the researchers embedded a three-millimeter-sized Jell-O mold of a LEGO figure with millions of platelets and fibrin to recreate a simplified version of a blood clot.

“What we don't know is ‘How does that work?' ‘What's the timing of it so all these cells work together -- do they all pull at the same time?’ Those are the fundamental questions that we worked together to answer,” Lam said.

Lam’s Lab collaborated with Georgia Tech’s Complex Fluids Modeling and Simulation Group headed by Alexander Alexeev, professor and Anderer Faculty Fellow in The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, to create a computational model of a contracting clot. The model incorporates fibrin fibers forming a three-dimensional network and distributed platelets that can extend filopodia, or the tentacle-like structures that extend from cells so they can attach to specific surfaces, to pull the nearby fibers. 

Model Shows Platelets Dramatically Reducing Clot Volume 

When the researchers simulated a clot where a large group of platelets was activated at the same time, the tiny cells could only reach nearby fibrins because the platelets can extend filopodia that are rather short, less than 6 micrometers. “But in a trauma, some platelets contract first. They shrink the clot so the other platelets will see more fibrins nearby, and it effectively increases the clot force,” Alexeev explained. Just due to the asynchronous platelet activity, the force enhancement can be as high as 70% leading to an 90% decrease of the clot volume. 

“The simulations showed that the platelets work best when they’re not in total sync with each other,” said Lam. “These platelets are actually pulling at different times and by doing that they’re increasing the efficiency (of the clot).”

This phenomenon, dubbed by the team, asynchronous mechanical amplification, is most pronounced “when we have the right concentration of the platelets corresponding to that of healthy patients,” Alexeev said.

Research Could Lead to Better Ways to Treat Clotting, Bleeding Issues

The findings could open medical options for people with clotting issues, said Lam, who treats young patients with blood disorders as a pediatric hematologist in the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. 

“If we know why this happens, then we have a whole new potential avenue of treatments for diseases of blood clotting,” he said, emphasizing that heart attacks and strokes occur when this biophysical process goes wrong. 

Lam explained that fine tuning this contraction process to make it faster or more robust could help patients who are bleeding from a car accident, or in the case of a heart attack, make the clotting less intense and slow it down.  “Understanding the physics of this clot contraction could potentially lead to new ways to both treat bleeding problems and clotting problems.”

Alexeev added that their research also could lead to new biomaterials such as a new type of Band-Aid that could help augment the clotting process.

First author and Georgia Tech PhD candidate Yueyi Sun says the coolest aspect of this research was the simplicity of the model and the fact that the simulations allowed her and the team to understand how the platelets work together to contract the fibrin clot as they would in the body.

“When we started to include the heterogeneous activation suddenly it gave us the correct volume contraction,” she said. “Allowing the platelets to have some time delay so one can use what the previous ones did as a better starting point was really neat to see. I think our model can potentially be used to provide guidelines for designing novel active biological and synthetic materials.” 

Sun agreed with her research colleagues that this phenomenon might occur in other aspects of nature. For example, multiple asynchronous actuators can fold a large net more effectively to enhance packaging efficiency without the need of incorporating additional actuators.

“It theoretically could be an engineered principle,” said Lam. “For a wound to shrink more, maybe we don't have the chemical reactions occur at the same time – maybe we have different chemical reactions occur at different times. You gain better efficiency and contraction when one allows half or all of the platelets to do the work together.”

Building on the research, Sun hopes to examine more closely how a single platelet force converts or is transmitted to the clot force, and how much force is needed to hold two sides of a graph together from a thickness and width standpoint. Sun also intends to include red blood cells in their model since red blood cells account for 40% of all blood and play a role in defining the clot size. “If your red blood cells are too easily trapped in your clot, then you are more likely to have a large clot, which causes a thrombosis issue,” she explained.

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR Awards 1809566 and CAREER 1255288) and the National Institutes of Health (Awards R35HL145000, R21EB026591, and R01HL155330).  

CITATION: Y. Sun, et.al., “Platelet heterogeneity enhances blood clot volumetric contraction: An example of asynchrono-mechanical amplification.” (Biomaterials 274, 120828, 2021)  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120828

***
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1623088322 2021-06-07 17:52:02 1623160394 2021-06-08 13:53:14 0 0 news During trauma, certain platelets (tiny 2-micrometer cells in the blood in charge of making the initial plug) contract first. They shrink the clot so the other platelets will see more fibrins nearby, effectively increasing the clot force. The simulations showed that the platelets work best when they’re not in total sync with each other. The platelets pull at different times -- increasing the efficiency of the clot.
 

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2021-06-07T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-07T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-07 00:00:00 Research News

Anne Wainscott-Sargent 

(404-435-5784) 
 
Tracey Reeves 
(404-660-2929) 
tracey.reeves@gatech.edu
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647946 647947 647946 image <![CDATA[Yueyi Sun]]> image/jpeg 1623085479 2021-06-07 17:04:39 1623085479 2021-06-07 17:04:39 647947 image <![CDATA[Blood clotting modeling researchers]]> image/jpeg 1623085554 2021-06-07 17:05:54 1623085554 2021-06-07 17:05:54
<![CDATA[Coulter BME Appoints Five New Distinguished Faculty Fellows]]> 28153 Five faculty members have received fellowships this spring from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The three-year distinguished fellowships offer discretionary funding that allows faculty members to explore new areas of research, support students, purchase key equipment, or cultivate new industry and research relationships, and conduct pilot studies.

The new faculty fellows are:

“Each of these fellowships recognizes the ongoing and outstanding impactful contributions of these faculty members to Coulter BME — and the biomedical engineering profession, writ large,” said Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “They are national and international leaders, scholars, and mentors.”

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1622700874 2021-06-03 06:14:34 1623101641 2021-06-07 21:34:01 0 0 news 2021-06-03T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-03T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-03 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

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647902 647902 image <![CDATA[BME Faculty Fellows]]> image/jpeg 1622700648 2021-06-03 06:10:48 1626384555 2021-07-15 21:29:15 <![CDATA[Jaydev Desai]]> <![CDATA[Gabe Kwong]]> <![CDATA[Manu Platt]]> <![CDATA[Peng Qiu]]> <![CDATA[May Dongmei Wang]]>
<![CDATA[Seed Grants Fund Foundational Work on Diseases Disproportionately Affecting Black Americans]]> 28153 A year from now, four Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering faculty members will have new tools to help understand diseases that disproportionately affect Black Americans.

Those tools will be animal models specifically designed to replicate risk factors prevalent among people with African ancestry or to mimic social determinants of health experienced by Black Americans. The work is made possible by a seed grant program developed by Coulter BME faculty members Edward Botchwey and Johnna Temenoff that has awarded $25,000 to each of the four projects.

The grants are the product of conversations over the last year about ways that Coulter BME — and the broader campus community, for that matter — could harness the commitment to address structural racism that crystallized after the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and others in 2020.

“What I personally hope is one of the outcomes of this is that we all in BME, and the broader bioscience community at Georgia Tech, can realize that we have something to contribute to solving the problems of healthcare disparities, and that it is something that's important not just for the Black and underrepresented minority community but it's important for all of us,” said Botchwey, associate professor in the Department.

The projects cover a wide range of health problems, from traumatic brain injury to alopecia and breast cancer to glaucoma. Botchwey said that range demonstrates the different ways researchers in the Department can make a real difference in addressing disparate outcomes.

“Some may be more obvious — say, in glaucoma, where you’re addressing a disease whose prevalence has a known and disparate impact on the African American community,” he said. “Others might be in an area, like traumatic brain injury, that maybe the impact is not statistically as disparate as in some other injuries and diseases, but there may be really important underlying pathological mechanisms in place that have to be understood in order to provide better care and outcomes for African Americans and other underrepresented minorities.”

The seed-grant model is designed to address a gap that faculty members often face as they consider applying for federal research grants: they need preliminary data to show agency reviewers.

“Our faculty members helped us identify that we might not even have the models yet to generate the preliminary data,” said Susan Margulies, Wallace H. Coulter Chair of the Department. “The important piece of this is really about providing seed funds with the goal of using it over the next 12 months to develop these models, verify them, and, ideally, gather a little bit of preliminary data so that our teams can subsequently pursue federal grants.”

Botchwey added: “Part of our motivation, in fact, was that, through the success of this seed grant and the dialogue that we're having here at Georgia Tech, we could really spur extramural funding agencies into action to put a much larger set of resources in place to address the healthcare disparities in the U.S. Through our seed grants, we can really show how those types of investments can pay off.”

The four funded projects propose developing new models for:

Glaucoma – C. Ross Ethier: The incidence of glaucoma — the most common cause of blindness — is four to six times greater for people of African ancestry than in other racial groups, and African Americans develop the disease earlier and have more severe cases than white Americans. This project will capitalize on a recent discovery of a gene associated with glaucoma in those of African ancestry but not in white or Asian populations. Collaborators include Michael Anderson, University of Iowa, and Michael Hauser, Duke University.

Breast Cancer – Karmella Haynes: Triple negative basal-like breast cancer affects pre-menopausal African American women disproportionately, and this highly metastatic cancer is the most prevalent type of breast cancer for obese Black women. The relationship between obesity and cancer remains unclear, particularly because social factors like income and access to healthcare and quality food are often related to obesity and can impact cancer survival. This project will develop a model to untangle those complications. Co-investigator: Curtis Henry, Pediatrics, Emory University.

Traumatic Brain Injury – Michelle LaPlaca: African Americans with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are more likely to have complications, greater disabilities, and less rehabilitation services. They also are more likely to die from the injury than white patients. This project will work to understand how chronic stressors present for some underrepresented groups influence poor outcomes for TBI patients. This kind of lasting, unpredictable, mild stress can lead to disruption of normal physiological processes and exaggerated responses to disease, but it has not been applied to animal models of TBI. Co-investigator: Levi Wood, Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech.

Alopecia Areata – Cheng Zhu: Alopecia areata, complete or partial hair loss on parts of the body that normally have hair, is more common in women of African descent that white women over the course of their lives. The disease is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in the world, but it manifests very differently for patients, so it is difficult to study and treat. What’s more, many studies have lacked enough Black participants. This project will work to understand the mechanisms that lead to alopecia areata and open new avenues of research to develop more targeted treatments. Co-investigator: Loren Krueger, Dermatology, Emory University

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1622551883 2021-06-01 12:51:23 1623100518 2021-06-07 21:15:18 0 0 news Four BME faculty developing new tools to bridge the research gap

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2021-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-01 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

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647844 647844 image <![CDATA[Stethoscope]]> image/jpeg 1622551392 2021-06-01 12:43:12 1622551392 2021-06-01 12:43:12 <![CDATA[Edward Botchwey]]> <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier]]> <![CDATA[Karmella Haynes]]> <![CDATA[Michelle LaPlaca]]> <![CDATA[Cheng Zhu]]>
<![CDATA[How An Elephant’s Trunk Manipulates Air to Eat and Drink]]> 27561 New research from the Georgia Institute of Technology finds that elephants dilate their nostrils in order to create more space in their trunks, allowing them to store up to 5.5 liters of water. They can also suck up three liters per second — a speed 30 times faster than a human sneeze (150 meters per second/330 mph).

The Georgia Tech College of Engineering study sought to better understand the physics of how elephants use their trunks to move and manipulate air, water, food and other objects. They also sought to learn if the mechanics could inspire the creation of more efficient robots that use air motion to hold and move things.

While octopus use jets of water to move and archer fish shoot water above the surface to catch insects, the Georgia Tech researchers found that elephants are the only animals able to use suction on land and underwater.

The paper, “Suction feeding by elephants,” is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“An elephant eats about 400 pounds of food a day, but very little is known about how they use their trunks to pick up lightweight food and water for 18 hours, every day,” said Georgia Tech mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Andrew Schulz, who led the study. “It turns out their trunks act like suitcases, capable of expanding when necessary.”

Schulz and the Georgia Tech team worked with veterinarians at Zoo Atlanta, studying elephants as they ate various foods. For large rutabaga cubes, for example, the animal grabbed and collected them. It sucked up smaller cubes and made a loud vacuuming sound, or the sound of a person slurping noodles, before transferring the vegetables to its mouth.

To learn more about suction, the researchers gave elephants a tortilla chip and measured the applied force. Sometimes the animal pressed down on the chip and breathed in, suspending the chip on the tip of trunk without breaking it. It was similar to a person inhaling a piece of paper onto their mouth. Other times the elephant applied suction from a distance, drawing the chip to the edge of its trunk.

“An elephant uses its trunk like a Swiss Army Knife,” said David Hu, Schulz’s advisor and a professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “It can detect scents and grab things. Other times it blows objects away like a leaf blower or sniffs them in like a vacuum.”

By watching elephants inhale liquid from an aquarium, the team was able to time the durations and measure volume. In just 1.5 seconds, the trunk sucked up 3.7 liters, the equivalent of 20 toilets flushing simultaneously.

An ultrasonic probe was used to take trunk wall measurements and see how the trunk’s inner muscles work. By contracting those muscles, the animal dilates its nostrils up to 30 percent. This decreases the thickness of the walls and expands nasal volume by 64 percent.

“At first it didn’t make sense: an elephant’s nasal passage is relatively small and it was inhaling more water than it should,” said Schulz. “It wasn’t until we saw the ultrasonographic images and watched the nostrils expand that we realized how they did it. Air makes the walls open, and the animal can store far more water than we originally estimated.”

Based on the pressures applied, Schulz and the team suggest that elephants inhale at speeds that are comparable to Japan’s 300-mph bullet trains.

Schulz said these unique characteristics have applications in soft robotics and conservation efforts.

“By investigating the mechanics and physics behind trunk muscle movements, we can apply the physical mechanisms — combinations of suction and grasping — to find new ways to build robots,” Schulz said. “In the meantime, the African elephant is now listed as endangered because of poaching and loss of habitat. Its trunk makes it a unique species to study. By learning more about them, we can learn how to better conserve elephants in the wild.”

The work was supported by the US Army Research Laboratory and the US Army Research Office 294 Mechanical Sciences Division, Complex Dynamics and Systems Program, under contract number 295 W911NF-12-R-0011. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the sponsoring agency.

]]> Angela Ayers 1 1622732221 2021-06-03 14:57:01 1622735759 2021-06-03 15:55:59 0 0 news 2021-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-01 00:00:00 Jason Maderer
Director of Communications
College of Engineering

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647916 647921 647922 647916 image <![CDATA[Andrew Schulz]]> image/jpeg 1622733848 2021-06-03 15:24:08 1622733848 2021-06-03 15:24:08 647921 image <![CDATA[An elephant grabbing apples underwater]]> image/jpeg 1622735570 2021-06-03 15:52:50 1622735653 2021-06-03 15:54:13 647922 image <![CDATA[An elephant picks up a tortilla chip]]> image/jpeg 1622735616 2021-06-03 15:53:36 1622735616 2021-06-03 15:53:36
<![CDATA[BME Grad Students Veronica Montgomery and Elisa Nieves receive Tau Beta Pi Fellowships]]> 28153 Two women from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University are among the 28 engineering students receiving Tau Beta Pi Fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Veronica Montgomery and Elisa Nieves each receive cash stipends of $10,000 as part of the engineering honor society’s newest class of fellows, whose selection is based on academic performance, campus leadership and service, and the promise of future contributions in their fields.

“I was an officer in my Tau Beta Pi chapter as an undergrad, and it was a fabulous experience,” said Montgomery, who studied biological engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before entering Coulter BME in 2016. “It is such a great honor now to receive the fellowship as a grad student.”

Always an analytical thinker with a creative mindset, she entered college intent on making, “a clear and obvious impact on society. That led me to biomedical engineering.”

Her undergraduate research in a large drug delivery lab inspired her to pursue that route as a Ph.D. student. Montgomery – born and raised in Dallas, Texas – admitted the climate difference between Boston and Atlanta played a part in her decision to come to Coulter BME.

“I was excited to move to a warmer state,” she said, adding pragmatically, “but I decided to come to Georgia Tech and Emory because it’s such a great program, with several labs working on drug delivery research. I knew I’d have a lot of great options when joining a lab.”

She joined the lab of Mark Prausnitz who, in addition to being the J. Erskine Love Jr. Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is director of the Center for Drug Design, Development and Delivery – CD4 – at Georgia Tech.

“I was very lucky that Dr. Prausnitz gave me a thesis project perfectly suited to my interests,” said Montgomery, whose research is focused on engineering the skin microbiome for drug delivery. “I have a lot of intellectual freedom to explore the fields that I’m most interested in, and it’s been a great opportunity to prepare for my career.”

With plans to graduate in the summer of 2022, Montgomery is intent on doing similar research in the biotech industry with an emphasis on health care and disease prevention. But she’s also planning to use the community-focused skillsets she developed while at Tech.

“There are a lot of science outreach opportunities here, and participating in that has been significant for me because I have realized how important and fun science communication is,” she said. “Science communication and science outreach have become a major interest of mine, and I’d like to continue working on that in the future, either as a part of my job or as a side interest.”

Outreach also has been one of the key drivers for Nieves, but so has her life experience. She grew up surrounded by medical professionals in Naples, Florida – her parents are a phlebotomist and a physician’s assistant.

“Hearing their stories from work first sparked my interest in the medical field,” said Nieves, who studied biomedical engineering as an undergraduate at the University of Florida. “I love how interdisciplinary this field is. It’s constantly challenging me to learn new material and apply that knowledge for creative solutions.”

While at UF, she had the opportunity to present her research on tissue scaffolds at two national conferences for minority students as well as the Biomedical Engineering Society’s Annual Meeting. She also worked as a trainee in a program designed to support minority students interested in pursuing a Ph.D.

“These experiences were very influential on my decision to apply for graduate school and motivated me to apply for the Georgia Tech Summer Undergraduate Research Experience,” said Nieves, who studied in the Coulter BME lab of Assistant Professor Vahid Serpooshan, work that advanced 3D bioprinting techniques and inspired her to return to Tech for her graduate studies.

But it was Tau Beta Pi’s emphasis on community service that really caught her attention as an undergrad.

“I wanted to inspire the next generation of engineers and become a role model to females and underrepresented minorities interested in STEM careers,” said Nieves, who held several officer posts at the UF chapter, where she coordinated outreach events and facilitated creation of instructional videos aimed to increase the retention rate of first-year engineering students.

But nothing could have prepared her for the past year.

“It’s not how I expected to finish my bachelor’s degree and start my graduate program,” said Nieves, a nod to the challenging circumstances of a global pandemic during a time of critical transition.

“That being said, I am unbelievably grateful for the resilience of my new department and university,” she added. “Georgia Tech has stepped up during a time of crisis and provided an incredible amount of support for its students.”

In her own case, Nieves said that a number of faculty have been staunch advocates, including Coulter BME’s Serpooshan and Manu Platt, and her current principal investigator, Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “They’ve helped me achieve several awards and fellowships during my short time at Georgia Tech,” she said.

But sometimes it’s the basic things in the day-to-day work of science that matter most. She remembered a few weeks after joining the García lab.

“I was able to pick up a pipette for the first time in six months,” she said. “And by the end of my first semester, I had a new set of wet lab skills and confidence in my ability to learn from my experiments and make a plan to move forward.”

In addition to Montgomery and Nieves, a third Georgia Tech graduate student – Abraham Atte, Aerospace Engineering – also earned a fellowship from Tau Beta Pi, which has initiated more than 615,000 members since it was founded in 1885 at Lehigh University. The fellowship program has awarded more than 1,736 fellowships and more than $8 million since the program began in 1929.

 

LINKS

Tau Beta Pi: The Engineering Honor Society

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1622666970 2021-06-02 20:49:30 1622701310 2021-06-03 06:21:50 0 0 news Engineering Honor Society introduces 88th class of graduate fellows

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2021-06-02T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-02T00:00:00-04:00 2021-06-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

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647904 647904 image <![CDATA[Tau Beta Pi Fellows]]> image/jpeg 1622701184 2021-06-03 06:19:44 1622701264 2021-06-03 06:21:04
<![CDATA[Devika Singh is 2021's Top Bioinformatics Ph.D. Student]]> 34434 This story first appeared in the Georgia Tech Bioinformatics News Center.

The Bioinformatics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program is proud to announce Devika Singh as our winner for the inaugural “Mark Borodovsky Prize in the College of Sciences” for the Top Bioinformatics PhD student, 2021.  The Borodovsky Prize is intended to recognize outstanding academic merit at Georgia Tech.

Devika works with professor Soojin Yi, in the Comparative Genomics and Epigenomics Lab at Georgia Tech.  Devika completed both her bachelor’s (Biology) degree and her master’s (Bioinformatics) degrees at Georgia Tech.  She worked for one year at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before returning to Georgia Tech to pursue her doctoral studies in 2017. 

Devika’s doctoral work integrates large “-omics” datasets to study broad questions around the organization and evolution of non-coding regulatory regions, particularly enhancers, in the human genome. This work includes investigating the underlying architecture of enhancer-gene regulatory networks utilizing multi-tissue, whole-genome chromatin state maps (Results published in MBE). Indicative of the breadth of research in the Yi lab, Devika also worked on projects which analyzed DNA methylation signatures in non-human primates and non-model organisms. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the Australia Museum, she generated and explored the first tissue- and sex-inclusive, whole-genome “DNA methylome atlas” for the modern koala.

So far in her studies, Devika has published eight papers, including five first-author papers.  In addition, Devika gave a poster presentation at a CDC conference in 2017.  She also received a travel award to present her work at the Allied Genetics Conference earlier this year. Although the meeting was canceled at the last minute due to the pandemic, the fact that Devika was granted a travel award and invited for a presentation speaks for the strength of her work.

Yi notes, “Devika and I have several projects in the pipeline, and I expect she will have at least two additional papers as the lead author from her PhD studies. She is one of the best students I have worked with during my 16 years as a faculty member at Georgia Tech.”

The Borodovsky Prize nominations were reviewed by an interdisciplinary committee of faculty members, including Joe Lachance (College of Sciences), Peng Qiu (College of Engineering), and Xiuwei Zhang (College of Computing).  According to the committee, “Devika Singh exhibited an impressive ability to both analyze complex bioinformatics datasets and frame her research within a larger biological context.  Despite the pandemic, she was able to publish three high-profile first author papers in 2021.  Topics covered in these papers ranged from the evolution of regulatory DNA in humans to epigenetics in koalas.”

Congratulations to Devika!

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1621533189 2021-05-20 17:53:09 1622559204 2021-06-01 14:53:24 0 0 news The winner of the first Mark Borodovsky Prize in the College of Sciences is Bioinformatics Ph.D. student Devika Singh, who also completed her B.S. and M.S. at Georgia Tech. The award honors the top student in the Bioinformatics Interdiscipinary Graduate Program at Georgia Tech.

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2021-05-20T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-20T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-20 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

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647646 647646 image <![CDATA[Devika Singh]]> image/jpeg 1621533481 2021-05-20 17:58:01 1621533924 2021-05-20 18:05:24 <![CDATA[Borodovsky-Boguslavsky's Gift: Georgia Tech Couple Funds Prize for Bioinformatics]]> <![CDATA[Methylation Matters: Exploring Evolution and Effects on Human Brain Health]]> <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Bioinformatics Interdisciplinary Graduate Program]]>
<![CDATA[ASPIRE-ing to Find Fast Solutions to the Opioid Health Crisis ]]> 34434 Researchers are already hard at work trying to find fast scientific solutions to the national opioid public health crisis, which the Department of Health and Human Services says was responsible for two out of three drug overdose deaths in 2018. 

Two School of Biological Sciences researchers have joined the effort to find answers to the crisis. Jeffrey Skolnick, Regents’ Professor, Mary and Maisie Gibson Chair, and GRA Eminent Scholar in Computational Systems Biology; and Hongyi Zhou, Senior Research Scientist in the school, are on a team that recently captured top honors in a recent National Institutes of Health-sponsored competition to find novel, outside-the-box approaches to the opioid problem. 

Their plan, “Development of a Comprehensive Integrated Platform for Translational Innovation in Pain, Opioid Abuse Disorder and Overdose” — which will use artificial intelligence, data and molecular analysis, cloud computing, and predictive algorithms in the search for new drugs — was one of five winning applications in a November 2020 competition. The results were announced April 26.

Skolnick and Zhou have now won two stages of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) ASPIRE Challenge, part of the NIH’s HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) program. (ASPIRE stands for A Specialized Platform for Innovative Research Exploration.

Skolnick’s group includes Andre Ghetti with ANABIOS Corporation, and Nicole Jung with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. 

“We’re extremely grateful,” Skolnick says. “We’re very excited about this. The problem of opioid addiction and chronic pain is a real plague in America and for most of the world, and there aren’t a lot of real, good answers, so this is motivating us to get people to think of novel solutions. We really appreciate the chance to put this team together.”

Rapidly translating scientific advances into immediate help for patients

NCATS defines translational science as “the process of turning observations in the laboratory, clinic, and community, into interventions that improve the health of individuals and the public — from diagnostics and therapeutics, to medical procedures and behavioral changes.” 

The 2018 NCATS ASPIRE Challenge involved design competition in four component areas: integrated chemistry database, electronic synthetic chemistry portal; predictive algorithms, and biological assays (strength/potency tests.) Skolnick and Zhou were also part of a winning team in that stage.

Skolnick calls his group’s predictive algorithms “our unfair competitive advantage” — data programs that can predict in advance the probability of a drug’s success. “In principle you could screen every molecule under the sun if you had infinite resources. You could test everything, but that’s very expensive and time-consuming. We can go through this list and prioritize them and say, this one has an 80 percent probability it will work.”

Skolnick’s group added Ghetti and June for the 2020 ASPIRE Reduction-to-Practice Challenge. “The goal of this Challenge is to combine the best solutions and develop a working platform that integrates the four component areas. The Reduction-to-Practice Challenge consists of three stages: planning; prototype development and milestone delivery; and prototype delivery, independent validation, and testing,” notes the NCATS website.

Skolnick says his team’s application is designed to be accessed digitally as part of a cloud service. It will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to investigate molecules that could be turned into new drugs, as well as explore undiscovered uses for existing drugs. 

“Andre’s company is going to do the testing of the molecules, and Nicole Jung will organize all the data and store it so we can have a platform that is used not just by us, but by the (scientific) community,” Skolnick explains. “We’re looking for novel mechanisms for drugs that relieve pain and treat addiction. The goal is to do this at high throughput, rather than one at a time. This is really designed to test the ideas at scale. You can get it to people a lot quicker.”

Skolnick hopes to have a robust working platform built within a year. Given the extent of the opioid crisis in the U.S. alone, the faster new non-addictive pain management drugs can be found and tested, the better, he adds.

“The need is critical. It’s one of these horrible societal problems that really require novel solutions, which means you want to understand all the mechanisms of pain, but do we understand the gears you want to turn to alleviate it?”

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1622128463 2021-05-27 15:14:23 1622559166 2021-06-01 14:52:46 0 0 news School of Biological Sciences’ Jeffrey Skolnick and Hongyi Zhou are part of an award-winning NIH effort to create innovative, AI-powered platforms for discovering new pain management drugs — and identify immediate solutions.

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2021-05-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-27 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

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647811 647785 647811 image <![CDATA[(Credit: CDC)]]> image/jpeg 1622208995 2021-05-28 13:36:35 1622208995 2021-05-28 13:36:35 647785 image <![CDATA[Hongyi Zhou and Jeffrey Skolnick (Photo School of Biological Sciences) ]]> image/png 1622128722 2021-05-27 15:18:42 1622128722 2021-05-27 15:18:42 <![CDATA[Origin of Life’s Handedness and Protein Biochemistry]]> <![CDATA[7 Georgia Tech Faculty Members Receive Regents Recognition]]> <![CDATA[Jeffrey Skolnick: 2018 Sigma Xi Sustained Research Award]]>
<![CDATA[Busting Clots and Clearing Up A Chemical Mystery ]]> 28153 In a fortuitous case of mistaken chemical identity, a team of Georgia Tech bioengineers has discovered a promising new way to treat dangerous blood clots without the potentially harmful side effects of other clot-busting drugs.

“It was a happy accident,” said David Ku, Regents’ professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “This is something we’ve been working on for the past four years, and we’re still sort of scratching our heads.”

Ku and his collaborators explain their “happy accident” in the open access journal PLOS One with their recently published paper, “Lysis of arterial thrombi by perfusion of N,N’-Diacetyl-L-cystine (DiNAC).”

Their research is driven by the need for a better thrombolytic agent – a safer, more efficient treatment for breaking down clots in the immediate wake of a catastrophic event. When a clot develops in an artery – arterial thrombosis – it can stop the flow of blood to major organs, often leading to a stroke or heart attack. Depending on how it is formed, the clot can be composed of either primarily platelets and von Willebrand Factor (VWF, a glycoprotein that helps with platelet adhesion), or polymerized fibrin. 

The current clinical standard drug for treating a stroke is an intravenously delivered tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, still the only FDA approved thrombolytic agent in the United States. It does a fine job breaking down, or lysing, fibrin-rich coagulation clots, but is not the most efficacious treatment for ischemic strokes caused by VWF-platelet rich clots.  tPA also is known to cause bleeding complications, which can deter clinical use.

“These two types of clots are composed of different things – coagulation clots, and platelet clots,” noted Ku, the corresponding author of the paper. Dongjune Kim, a PhD student in Ku’s lab, is the lead author. Susan Shea, a former PhD student in Ku’s lab, is a co-author.

“Platelet clots are about 10 times stronger than coagulation clots,” Ku added. “They hold together under arterial high blood pressure conditions. If you have a coagulation clot, tPA dissolves it under the right conditions. But the clots that cause strokes and heart attacks are not coagulation clots. They’re made out of platelets.”

He explained that VWF is strikingly similar to mucins – the stuff you cough up when you have too much junk in your lungs. Furthermore, researchers reasoned, they might be able to bust up a VWF clot using N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, a medication used to thin mucus in conditions such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. Would NAC, a supplement form of the naturally occurring amino acid cysteine, do the same thing to a VWF-platelet clot?

Coincidentally, Ku’s team and a group in France were onto the same idea at the same time. While the Georgia Tech researchers conducted their experiments in a lab using glass tubes instead of arteries, the other team used mice. The results were dramatic. In both cases, the compound dissolved the clot quickly. But when a third group of researchers from Belgium tried to reproduce the results, they had no luck.

“At that point, we were all wondering, ‘what gives?’ So, we tried again,” said Ku, who was disappointed to find that the compound didn’t work. “We were dumfounded. No one could get it to work again.”

Shea, who presented her work at a conference, graduated from Tech and moved on. She is now junior faculty at the University of Washington in St. Louis.

Kim said he tried to reproduce Shea’s work, “because it was interesting and important. But I couldn’t make NAC work.” He was using fresh NAC samples from the lab’s freezer. But then he found the old NAC sample that Shea had used the first time, when the clot dissolved. Curious, Kim tried that sample of the compound and it worked. So, they took the two different batches – the fresh NAC solutions and the old sample – to a chemistry lab for testing.

“We gave them samples without telling them which is which – a blind test,” Kim said.

Turns out, it wasn’t NAC that initially dissolved the clots. It was DiNAC, a disulfide dimer of NAC, a compound that has been studied for its anti-atherosclerotic effects. NAC, Ku explained, can spontaneously convert to DiNAC over time, under the right temperature conditions. So, his team acquired more DiNAC and tested it, and it worked repeatedly.

“We think the French research group probably used some old NAC that was actually DiNAC, which is why their experiment worked, too,” said Ku. “No one could reproduce the results initially because we were all using fresh NAC when we did the study again. But the DiNAC works really well.”

Video footage of the Ku lab’s experiment shows the introduction of DiNAC in a glass tube clearing up clotted pig’s blood (which is very similar to human blood) in 10 minutes or less. And they’re still not sure why.

“DiNAC hasn’t been studied much as a thrombolytic agent, so we don’t know the mechanism behind it yet,” Kim said. “I was focusing on the efficacy of DiNAC. But the mechanism will definitely be an interesting future study.”

Currently, the lab is testing the compound which, unlike tPA does not cause bleeding complications, in studies with mice. Their next paper will cover this, and Ku is hopeful.

“Right now, we’re just putting this out there and saying DiNAC works,” Ku said. “This was serendipitous. I wish we had the whole answer, so we’re hoping the research community will help us find out. Although, I do think we’re getting close to a working hypothesis.”

Citation: This research was funded through the Larry P. Huang Chair in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

                                                                           ***

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.

The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion dollars in research annually for government, industry, and society.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1617211564 2021-03-31 17:26:04 1622208272 2021-05-28 13:24:32 0 0 news Georgia Tech researchers discover promising new treatment for dangerous thrombosis.

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2021-03-31T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-31T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-31 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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645958 645959 645986 645958 image <![CDATA[Shea and Ku]]> image/jpeg 1617211159 2021-03-31 17:19:19 1617211159 2021-03-31 17:19:19 645959 image <![CDATA[Dongjune Kim]]> image/jpeg 1617211248 2021-03-31 17:20:48 1617211248 2021-03-31 17:20:48 645986 image <![CDATA[Busting Clots and Clearing Up A Chemical Mystery]]> image/png 1617221759 2021-03-31 20:15:59 1617221759 2021-03-31 20:15:59
<![CDATA[Study Shows Brain’s Internal Replay Goes Awry in Alzheimer’s]]> 28153 When you try to remember the name of an acquaintance, the replay that happens in your brain is a bit like the replay of the touchdown on TV.

The slow-motion TV replay shows how the receiver made a difficult catch and still managed to keep his toes inbounds. It’s instant replay for instant effect.

In a healthy brain, as you scratch your head and try to place the face, your neurons fire in the same order as when you first met this person, reactivating familiar neural patterns that happen during a behavior, connecting the dots, and helping you conjure the right name and store the whole experience for later recall.

It’s extended replay for extended effect. A new study from a team of Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University researchers shows that defects in this replay activity is indicative of brain disease, a discovery that could lead to better screening or diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s disease.

Led by principal investigator Annabelle Singer, the team got the April 2021 cover story in the journal Cell Reports with research that links defective replay with synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, the team measured these two things for the first time in vivo in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s, “in awake mice, during behavior,” said Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and corresponding author of the paper.

“We know that synapses are important for neural activity: those connections are how neurons talk to each other. But we hadn’t really put deficits in replay — neural activity essential for memory — and synaptic dysfunction together before,” Singer said. “Synapse dysfunction is one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s, and it happens long before cells are lost to the disease. It predicts cognitive decline.”

According to lead author of the paper, Stephanie Prince, a grad student in Singer’s lab, “we used an established method for measuring the extracellular electrophysiological data.” Basically, electrodes are used to measure electrical activity coming from adjacent neurons, in this case, in mice that were fully awake and navigating virtual reality tasks.

Information in a healthy brain is passed from cell to cell via trillions of synapses with high precision. Part of the synapses’ job also involves the targeted inhibition of neural activity — a way of regulating information sharing. A neural activity like replay requires the coordinated work of many neurons at once, and synapses, Singer said, “are part of what gives you this precise timing of replay, organizing cells to fire together in short time windows.”

When looking over the data, “we found that the replay was basically missing, and the inhibitory synapses were weakened,” Singer said. “Synaptic dysfunction and replay dysfunction are conceptually different, but related because they co-occur. That suggests a synaptic cause that underlies deficits in network activity for memory, such as replay. So this work makes a connection between synaptic and neural activity deficits in Alzheimer’s for the first time.”

Their discoveries could lead to new screening or diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s, perhaps based on technology Singer’s lab has been working on for the past few years. The technology uses flickering lights and pulses of sound (delivered through a visor and headphones) to stimulate gamma waves, cutting down on amyloid beta proteins, which are an early hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Gamma waves are associated with high-level cognitive functions, like perception and memory.

Singer expects to soon publish the findings of the first human feasibility study using her flicker treatment. She reported promising results from the trial last fall at the American Neurological Association annual meeting. Now her lab is studying how to use the non-invasive technology to address synaptic issues.

“We’re working right now on developing therapeutic options to rescue these dysfunctions in synapses and replay,” she said. “We’re seeing some intriguing results, but we’ve got more work to do.”

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant No. R01-NS109226, the Lane Family, and the Wright Family. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agency.

Links

“Alzheimer’s pathology causes impaired inhibitory connections and reactivation of spatial codes during spatial navigation”

Singer Lab

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1619034977 2021-04-21 19:56:17 1622207262 2021-05-28 13:07:42 0 0 news New research from BME’s Annabelle Singer links synaptic dysfunction with neural activity essential to memory

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2021-04-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-21 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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646725 646724 646725 image <![CDATA[Cell Reports Cover]]> image/jpeg 1619030867 2021-04-21 18:47:47 1619038153 2021-04-21 20:49:13 646724 image <![CDATA[Prince and Singer]]> image/jpeg 1619030672 2021-04-21 18:44:32 1619030672 2021-04-21 18:44:32
<![CDATA[Itch Insight: Skin Itch Mechanisms Differ on Hairless Versus Hairy Skin]]> 34528 This story first appeared in Georgia Tech Research Horizons.

Chronic skin itching drives more people to the dermatologist than any other condition. In fact, the latest science literature finds that 7% of U.S. adults, and between 10 and 20% of people in developed countries, suffer from dermatitis, a common skin inflammatory condition that causes itching. 

“Itch is a significant clinical problem, often caused by underlying medical conditions in the skin, liver, or kidney. Due to our limited understanding of itch mechanisms, we don’t have effective treatment for the majority of patients,” said Liang Han, an assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Biological Sciences who is also a researcher in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

Until recently, neuroscientists considered the mechanisms of skin itch the same. But Han and her research team recently uncovered differences in itch in non-hairy versus hairy areas of the skin, opening new areas for research. Their research, published April 13 in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), could open new, more effective treatments for patients suffering from persistent skin itching.

Itch Origins More Than Skin Deep

According to researchers, there are two different types of stimuli from the nervous system that trigger the itch sensation through sensory nerves in the skin: chemical and mechanical. In their study, Han and her team identified a specific neuron population that controls itching in ‘glabrous’ skin -- the smoother, tougher skin that’s found on the palms of hands and feet soles. 

Itching in those areas poses greater difficulty for sufferers and is surprisingly common. In the U.S., there are an estimated 200,000 cases a year of dyshidrosis, a skin condition causing itchy blisters to develop only on the palm and soles. Another chronic skin condition, palmoplantar pustulosis (a type of psoriasis that causes inflamed, scaly skin and intense itch on the palms and soles), affects as many as 1.6 million people in the U.S. each year.

“That’s actually one of the most debilitating places (to get an itch),” said first author Haley R. Steele, a graduate student in the School of Biological Sciences. “If your hands are itchy, it’s hard to grasp things, and if it’s your feet, it can be hard to walk. If there’s an itch on your arm, you can still type. You’ll be distracted, but you’ll be OK. But if it’s your hands and feet, it’s harder to do everyday things.”

Ability to Block, Activate Itch-causing Neurons in Lab Mice

Since many biological mechanisms underlying itch — such as receptors and nerve pathways — are similar in mice and people, most itch studies rely on mice testing. Using mice in their lab, Georgia Tech researchers were able to activate or block these neurons.  

The research shows, for the first time, “the actual neurons that send itch are different populations. Neurons that are in hairy skin that do not sense itch in glabrous skins are one population, and another senses itch in glabrous skins.”

Why has an explanation so far eluded science? “I think one reason is because most of the people in the field kind of assumed it was the same mechanism that’s controlling the sensation. It’s technically challenging. It’s more difficult than working on hairy skin,” Han said.

To overcome this technical hurdle, the team used a new investigative procedure, or assay, modeled after human allergic contact dermatitis, Steele said.

The previous method would have involved injecting itch-causing chemicals into mice skin, but most of a mouse’s skin is covered with hair. The team had to focus on the smooth glabrous skin on tiny mice hands and feet. Using genetically modified mice also helped identify the right sensory neurons responsible for glabrous skin itches. 

“We activated a particular set of neurons that causes itch, and we saw that biting behavior again modeled,” said Steele, referring to how mice usually deal with itchy skin.  

One set of study mice was given a chemical to specifically kill an entire line of neurons. Focusing on three previously known neuron mechanisms related to itch sensation found in hairy skin, they found that two of the neurons, MrgprA3+ and MrgprD+, did not play important roles in non-hairy skin itch, but the third neuron, MrgprC11+, did. Removing it reduced both acute and chronic itching in the soles and palms of test mice.

Potential to Drive New Treatments for Chronic Itch

Han’s team hopes that the research leads to treatments that will turn off those itch-inducing neurons, perhaps by blocking them in human skin.

“To date, most treatments for skin itch do not discriminate between hairy and glabrous skin except for potential medication potency due to the increased skin thickness in glabrous skin,” observed Ron Feldman, assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology in the Emory University School of Medicine. Georgia Tech’s findings “provide a rationale for developing therapies targeting chronic itching of the hands and feet that, if left untreated, can greatly affect patient quality of life,” he concluded.

What’s next for Han and her team? “We would like to investigate how these neurons transmit information to the spinal cord and brain,” said Han, who also wants to investigate the mechanisms of chronic itch conditions that mainly affect glabrous skin such as cholestatic itch, or itch due to reduced or blocked bile flow often seen in liver and biliary system diseases.

“I joined this lab because I love working with Liang Han,” added Steele, who selected glabrous skin itch research for her Ph.D. “because it was the most technically challenging and had the greatest potential for being really interesting and significant to the field.”

This work was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NS087088 and HL141269) and the Pfizer Aspire Dermatology Award to Liang Han.  

CITATION: H. Steele, et al., “MrgprC11+ sensory neurons mediate glabrous skin itch.” (PNAS, 2021)  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2022874118

###

The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. 

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society. 

Additional Media Contact: Tracey Reeves (tracey.reeves@gatech.edu)

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> jhunt7 1 1621618331 2021-05-21 17:32:11 1621958720 2021-05-25 16:05:20 0 0 news In their study, the researchers identified a specific neuron population that controls itching in ‘glabrous’ skin -- the smoother, tougher skin that’s found on the palms of hands and feet soles. Itching in those areas poses greater difficulty for sufferers and is surprisingly common.

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2021-05-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-21T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-21 00:00:00 Anne Wainscott-Sargent
Research News
(404.435.5784)

 

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647659 647660 647659 image <![CDATA[Itchy Skin Researchers]]> image/jpeg 1621605576 2021-05-21 13:59:36 1621605576 2021-05-21 13:59:36 647660 image <![CDATA[Itchy Skin Lab Closeup]]> image/jpeg 1621605896 2021-05-21 14:04:56 1621605896 2021-05-21 14:04:56 <![CDATA[Scratching Out New Clues on the Sources of Certain Itch Sensations]]> <![CDATA[An Itch You Can’t Scratch: Researchers Find Itch Receptors in the Throats of Mice]]> <![CDATA[Petit Institute Expands Its Ranks by 23, Including Liang Han, Britney Schmidt, Amanda Stockton ]]>
<![CDATA[Targeting Radiation Resistance: Why Some Tumors Are So Stubborn]]> 28153 Radiation therapy has been — and will be — a cornerstone of cancer treatment for good reason: It works.

Mostly.

Currently, more than half of cancer patients receive radiation as part of their treatment. But 20 percent of them, give or take, will find that they need different options because their tumors are resistant to radiation therapy. It’s a bad place to be: They may still face the potential side effects without the therapeutic benefit, and they’ve lost precious time.

What if clinicians had a way to predict and possibly improve radiosensitivity for individual patients? A team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University is working on something with that ultimate goal in mind.

“There still isn’t a great understanding of why some tumors don’t respond well to radiation, and it’s a significant hurdle to the long-term survival of many patients,” noted Joshua Lewis, who sought answers to the radiation resistance question while a graduate student in the lab of Melissa Kemp in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Together, they’ve taken steps to begin to understand the underlying metabolism and build a tool to predict whether specific tumors will be one of the stubborn ones that doesn’t respond. In back-to-back papers, with Lewis as lead author, Kemp said they created a new pipeline, “in which you can automatically take data, plug it into our whole cell modeling of metabolism, and actually predict the way certain tumors of various cancer types, from various patients, are going to respond.”

She added: “This is the first example of really asking, with respect to radiation resistance, why there are differences that manifest themselves in tumor metabolism.”

In January, they published the first study with collaborators from Wake Forest and Indiana University in the journal Cell Systems. The newest research appears this month in Nature Communications. Lewis based the studies on his Ph.D. thesis, “Genome-Scale Modeling of Redox Metabolism and Therapeutic Response in Radiation-Resistant Tumors,” which he defended a year ago.

Shortly after Lewis began grad school, Wake Forest researcher Cristina Furdui approached the Kemp lab with the radiation resistance problem, “asking us to apply our expertise in systems biology,” he said. “It’s a more holistic approach than working with individual molecules or proteins, taking into account many different factors and their interactions, seeing if that leads to a particular response to radiation therapy.”

Lewis used a well-established type of cellular modeling called “flux balance analysis,” in which, “you try to model the entire metabolism of a cell — all the different chemical reactions. We model them using different biochemical equations.” The researchers then plug those equations into a computer. Within seconds, they can accurately analyze about 13,000 different metabolic reactions.

“We came up with our own approach for making more accurate flux balance analysis models by integrating multiple different types of omics data,” said Lewis, now pursuing his medical degree in the Emory MD/PhDProgram. “Omics” measure characteristics of molecules like genes, proteins, or metabolites, which comprise the cells of an organism.

By integrating genomics, transcriptomics, and metabolomics data, the researchers could model redox metabolism – the process of oxidation and reduction reactions, or the loss and gain of electrons – in cancer cells, “and use that to accurately predict how certain tumors react to radiation therapy,” said Lewis, who mined data from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA).

“We looked for metabolic enzymes or metabolic targets where, if you tweaked them, it could affect a tumor’s radiosensitivity,” Lewis said. “So, imagine if you’re giving a patient radiation therapy, and you could also give them a chemotherapeutic at the same time that inhibits the action of a particular enzyme to make a tumor more sensitive to radiation.”

That is, essentially, the first paper. In the second — written only by Lewis and Kemp — the researchers integrated machine learning with genome-scale metabolic modeling, “to see if we can better predict what sort of biological features are associated with a patient’s response to radiation.”

One main challenge for the researchers in either paper, Lewis said, was in the datasets they used from TCGA. They had good genomics and transcriptomics data, but their metabolomics data was incomplete. The computational models they developed for the Cell Systems paper helped fill in the blanks, making metabolomic predictions. They fed the data from those models into a machine learning model to better identify biomarkers of radiation resistance.

“We can think clinically of a patient giving a blood sample, and from that blood you’re able to measure the levels of different metabolites and determine if the patient would be a good candidate for radiation therapy, or whether we should go ahead and think of other therapies,” Lewis said.

That speaks directly to what Lewis is training for now in his M.D. program. He wants to be a pathologist and better understand how patients respond to different therapies.

“I’d like to help bridge the gap between research and the clinic,” he said.

He’s off to a good start, and it’s exciting for Kemp.

“Josh’s computational platform turns easy-to-acquire data into a model representation of hard-to-acquire attributes, like metabolic fluxes and metabolite changes, that are otherwise very challenging to measure with the scale it takes to cover many different patients,” she said.

 

This research was supported by a National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute fellowship (F30 CA224968), an NIH/NCI U01 grant (CA215848), and the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center (NIH/NCI P30 CA12197).

CITATIONS: Joshua Lewis, Tom E. Forsha, David A. Boothman, Cristina Furdui, Melissa Kemp, “Personalized Genome-Scale Metabolic Models Identify Targets of Redox Metabolism in Radiation-Resistant Tumors ” (Cell Systems, 2021)

Joshua Lewis, Melissa Kemp, “Integration of machine learning and genome-scale metabolic modeling identifies multi-omics biomarkers for radiation resistance” (Nature Communications, 2021).

 

Related Links:

“Personalized Genome-Scale Metabolic Models Identify Targets of Redox Metabolism in Radiation-Resistant Tumors ” (Cell Systems, 2021)

“Integration of machine learning and genome-scale metabolic modeling identifies multi-omics biomarkers for radiation resistance” (Nature Communications, 2021).

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1620758284 2021-05-11 18:38:04 1621956794 2021-05-25 15:33:14 0 0 news Kemp lab uses genome-scale modeling to understand tumor metabolism and predict tumors’ responses to radiation therapy

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2021-05-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-11T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-11 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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<![CDATA[Did Earth’s Early Rise in Oxygen Support The Evolution of Multicellular Life — or Suppress It? ]]> 34434 Scientists have long thought that there was a direct connection between the rise in atmospheric oxygen, which started with the Great Oxygenation Event 2.5 billion years ago, and the rise of large, complex multicellular organisms. 

That theory, the “Oxygen Control Hypothesis,” suggests that the size of these early multicellular organisms was limited by the depth to which oxygen could diffuse into their bodies. The hypothesis makes a simple prediction that has been highly influential within both evolutionary biology and geosciences: Greater atmospheric oxygen should always increase the size to which multicellular organisms can grow. 

It’s a hypothesis that’s proven difficult to test in a lab. Yet a team of Georgia Tech researchers found a way — using directed evolution, synthetic biology, and mathematical modeling — all brought to bear on a simple multicellular lifeform called a ‘snowflake yeast’. The results? Significant new information on the correlations between oxygenation of the early Earth and the rise of large multicellular organisms — and it’s all about exactly how much Owas available to some of our earliest multicellular ancestors. 

“The positive effect of oxygen on the evolution of multicellularity is entirely dose-dependent — our planet's first oxygenation would have strongly constrained, not promoted, the evolution of multicellular life,” explains G. Ozan Bozdag, research scientist in the School of Biological Sciences and the study’s lead author. “The positive effect of oxygen on multicellular size may only be realized when it reaches high levels.”

“Oxygen suppression of macroscopic multicellularity” is published in the May 14, 2021 edition of the journal Nature CommunicationsBozdag’s co-authors on the paper include Georgia Tech researchers Will Ratcliff, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences; Chris Reinhard, associate professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesRozenn Pineau, Ph.D. student in the School of Biological Sciences and the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Quantitative Biosciences (QBioS); along with Eric Libby, assistant professor at Umea University in Sweden and the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico.

Directing yeast to evolve in record time 

“We show that the effect of oxygen is more complex than previously imagined. The early rise in global oxygen should in fact strongly constrain the evolution of macroscopic multicellularity, rather than selecting for larger and more complex organisms,” notes Ratcliff. 

“People have long believed that the oxygenation of Earth's surface was helpful — some going so far as to say it is a precondition — for the evolution of large, complex multicellular organisms,” he adds. “But nobody has ever tested this directly, because we haven't had a model system that is both able to undergo lots of generations of evolution quickly, and able to grow over the full range of oxygen conditions,” from anaerobic conditions up to modern levels.  

The researchers were able to do that, however, with snowflake yeast, simple multicellular organisms capable of rapid evolutionary change. By varying their growth environment, they evolved snowflake yeast for over 800 generations in the lab with selection for larger size. 

The results surprised Bozdag. “I was astonished to see that multicellular yeast doubled their size very rapidly when they could not use oxygen, while populations that evolved in the moderately oxygenated environment showed no size increase at all,” he says. “This effect is robust — even over much longer timescales.” 

Size — and oxygen levels — matter for multicellular growth 

In the team’s research, “large size easily evolved either when our yeast had no oxygen or plenty of it, but not when oxygen was present at low levels,” Ratcliff says. “We did a lot more work to show that this is actually a totally predictable and understandable outcome of the fact that oxygen, when limiting, acts as a resource — if cells can access it, they get a big metabolic benefit. When oxygen is scarce, it can't diffuse very far into organisms, so there is an evolutionary incentive for multicellular organisms to be small — allowing most of their cells access to oxygen — a constraint that is not there when oxygen simply isn't present, or when there's enough of it around to diffuse more deeply into tissues.”

Ratcliff says not only does his group’s work challenge the Oxygen Control Hypothesis, it also helps science understand why so little apparent evolutionary innovation was happening in the world of multicellular organisms in the billion years after the Great Oxygenation Event. Ratcliff explains that geologists call this period the “Boring Billion” in Earth’s history — also known as the Dullest Time in Earth's History, and Earth's Middle Ages — a period when oxygen was present in the atmosphere, but at low levels, and multicellular organisms stayed relatively small and simple.

Bozdag adds another insight into the unique nature of the study. “Previous work examined the interplay between oxygen and multicellular size mainly through the physical principles of gas diffusion,” he says. “While that reasoning is essential, we also need an inclusive consideration of principles of Darwinian evolution when studying the origin of complex multicellular life on our planet.” Finally being able to advance organisms through many generations of evolution helped the researchers accomplish just that, Bozdag adds.

This work was supported by National Science Foundation grant no. DEB-1845363 to W.C.R, NSF grant no. IOS-1656549 to W.C.R., NSF grant no. IOS-1656849 to E.L., and a Packard Foundation Fellowship for Science and Engineering to W.C.R. C.T.R. and W.C.R. acknowledge funding from the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1620671409 2021-05-10 18:30:09 1621956658 2021-05-25 15:30:58 0 0 news Despite a long-held hypothesis that oxygen determined the size of large, complex multicellular organisms during the early Earth, researchers have found the early rise in global oxygen, should have, “in fact strongly constrain[ed] the evolution of macroscopic multicellularity, rather than selecting for larger and more complex organisms.”

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2021-05-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-14 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

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647326 647324 647353 647354 647326 image <![CDATA[Artist rendering of early Earth (Photo credit: NASA)]]> image/jpeg 1620673125 2021-05-10 18:58:45 1621619796 2021-05-21 17:56:36 647324 image <![CDATA[ G. Ozan Bozdag, Georgia Tech research scientist and the study’s lead author (Photo credit: Georgia Tech) ]]> image/jpeg 1620671676 2021-05-10 18:34:36 1621619772 2021-05-21 17:56:12 647353 image <![CDATA[Will Ratcliff (Photo credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech) ]]> image/jpeg 1620753300 2021-05-11 17:15:00 1621619829 2021-05-21 17:57:09 647354 image <![CDATA[Chris Reinhard (Photo credit: Ben Brumfield, Georgia Tech)]]> image/png 1620753362 2021-05-11 17:16:02 1621619817 2021-05-21 17:56:57 <![CDATA[Harnessing the Power of Evolution]]> <![CDATA[Coffee Leads to Collaboration]]> <![CDATA[Specialized Cells or Multicellular Multitaskers? New Study Reshapes Early Economics and Ecology Behind Evolutionary Division of ]]> <![CDATA[NASA Exobiology Grant to Chris Reinhard]]> <![CDATA[Laughing Gas May Have Helped Warm Early Earth and Given Breath to Life]]> <![CDATA[Exploring Oceans on Earth and Beyond: Reinhard Looks to the Skies and Seas]]> <![CDATA[Sigma Xi Recognizes Reinhard with Sigma Xi 2020 Young Faculty Award; Three Sciences Students with Research Honors]]>
<![CDATA[Zhu Lab Explains the Inhibitory Role of World’s Most Famous Molecule]]> 28153 A so-called “checkpoint” protein found on the immune system’s all-important T cells called PD-1 might be the most famous molecule on the planet. It was an anti-PD-1 drug, along with radiation therapy, that disintegrated former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s brain tumors in 2015.

Under normal conditions, PD-1 serves an important role as an off-switch, preventing well-intentioned T cells from running amok and attacking normal, healthy cells by mistake. It does this by binding with a protein called PD-L1, found on some normal and some cancer cells. This interaction basically signals the T cell to leave the other cell alone. Unfortunately, sometimes the other cell is cancer, which then goes unbothered because PD-1 told the T cell to stand down.

The immunotherapy drug used to treat President Carter, Keytruda, is a checkpoint inhibitor. It inhibited PD-1, freeing the T cells to do their job and destroy the brain tumor. Since then, research into the molecule has expanded and PD-1 blockade continues its evolution as a promising treatment against solid tumors. The Japanese scientist who discovered the protein in 1992, Tasuku Honjo, won the Nobel Prize in 2018.

“It has become a very hot molecule,” said Cheng Zhu, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Tech. “But only a minor fraction of cancer patients — about one third of the melanoma patients who have been treated with the blockade therapy — are responsive, indicating an incomplete understanding of how PD-1 works.”

Zhu and his colleagues are particularly interested in explaining how PD-1 inhibits T-cell activity, and they unravel one part of the mystery in a new paper in Nature Communications. Using technology Zhu developed decades ago that measures the biochemistry on live cell membranes, the researchers discovered that PD-1 disrupts the recruitment of CD8, a protein co-receptor that partners in T cell signaling and activation.

“The results of our study identify a PD-1 inhibitory mechanism that disrupts cooperative molecular interactions and prevents CD8 from augmenting antigen recognition,” Zhu said. “This explains the molecule’s potent inhibitory function regarding T cell activation and also explains its value as a target for clinical intervention.”

The lead author on the paper is Kaitao Li, a research scientist in Zhu’s Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Lab, who focused on PD-1 for his Ph.D. dissertation in 2016. Li’s interest in the molecule has only grown through his friendship with Rafi Ahmed’s lab at Emory. Ahmed is a co-author of the new Nature Communications paper.

“I was taking an immunology class at Emory in 2010, and it was the first time I came across the PD-1 molecule,” Li recalled. “A friend of mine was a grad student in Rafi’s lab, and eventually, I became very inspired by their work.”

Ahmed’s lab identified PD-1 as a major mediator of T cell dysfunction during chronic infection, work that ultimately translated into human clinical studies of blockade therapy. Meanwhile, the Zhu lab had been focusing mainly on the basic science of on T cell activation and T cell receptors – TCR, a protein complex used by T cells for recognizing invading antigens.

“What excites me most is that [this study] reinforces and extends the work that Dr. Zhu did 10 years ago on the sequence of events leading up to T cell activation, but now it brings PD-1 into the story, revealing how PD-1 dampens T cell activation,” explained Simon Davis, paper co-author, whose immunology lab at the University of Oxford has studied PD-1 and other proteins for about 20 years. “We had proposed a long time ago that the activation sequence is dictated by the relative strengths of protein interactions involves, but Dr. Zhu’s lab was able to tease all this apart.”

While Zhu’s lab is rich in basic science, there is a translational aspect to this work. A biotech company that spun out Davis’ work is interested in Zhu’s discoveries, particularly the series of interactions among all of these critical molecules engaged in the immune response, Davis said.

And it’s bound to get more interesting going forward. Zhu and Li, who collaborated on PD-1 research for a paper in 2017, said they are planning two more studies focusing on the notable molecule, now the target of a hopeful treatment regimen that still has plenty of room for improvement.

“There has certainly been some clinical success even though we don’t fully understand the mechanism behind it,” Zhu said. “But there is still a long way to go because two thirds of the patients are not responding successfully. Why? We have another study planned to try to answer that question.”

 

This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants U01CA214354, R01CA243486, and U01CA250040 (to C.Z. and R.A.).

CITATIONS: Kaitao Li, Zhou Yuan, Jintian Lyu, Eunseon Ahn, Simon J. Davis, Rafi Ahmet, Cheng Zhu, “PD-1 suppresses TCR-CD8 cooperativity during T-cell antigen recognition” (Nature Communications, May 2021)

Related Links:

PD-1 suppresses TCR-CD8 cooperativity during T-cell antigen recognition” (Nature Communications, May 2021)

Cellular and Molecular Biomechanics Laboratory

Jimmy Carter’s Cancer Immunotherapy Story

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1621373875 2021-05-18 21:37:55 1621956568 2021-05-25 15:29:28 0 0 news New research teases apart the mechanisms behind the checkpoint protein PD-1

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2021-05-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-18T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-18 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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647578 647581 647578 image <![CDATA[Zhu Lab Tech]]> image/jpeg 1621373088 2021-05-18 21:24:48 1621373088 2021-05-18 21:24:48 647581 image <![CDATA[Cheng and Kaitao]]> image/jpeg 1621373514 2021-05-18 21:31:54 1621373514 2021-05-18 21:31:54
<![CDATA[Early Feasibility Study Shows Flickering Lights and Sound Could Be New Weapon Against Alzheimer’s]]> 28153 For the past few years, Annabelle Singer and her collaborators have been using flickering lights and sound to treat mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, and they’ve seen some dramatic results.

Now they have results from the first human feasibility study of the flicker treatment, and they’re promising.

“We looked at safety, tolerance, and adherence, and several different biological outcomes, and the results were excellent — better than we expected,” said Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

Singer shared preliminary results of the feasibility study in October at the American Neurological Association annual meeting. Now she is a corresponding author with Emory neurology researcher James Lah of a paper outlining their findings in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.

The flicker treatment stimulates gamma waves, manipulating neural activity, recruiting the brain’s immune system, and clearing pathogens — in short, waging a successful fight against a progressive disease that still has no cure.

Previous research already had shown that sensory areas in the human brain will entrain to flickering stimuli for seconds to hours. But this was the first time Singer and her team were able to test gamma sensory stimulation over an extended period of time.

The study included 10 patients with Alzheimer’s-associated mild cognitive impairment, which required them to wear an experimental visor and headphones that exposed one group to light and sound at 40 hertz for an hour a day over eight weeks, and another group for four weeks after a delayed start.

“We were able to tune the devices to a level of light and sound that was not only tolerable, but it also successfully provoked an underlying brain response,” Lah said.

As they hoped and expected, Singer said, “there was widespread entrainment.” That is, brain activity – in this case, gamma waves – synchronized to the external stimulation.

Gamma waves are associated with high-level cognitive functions, like perception and memory. Disruptions to these waves have been found in various neurological disorders, not just Alzheimer’s.

The human feasibility study showed that the gamma flicker treatment was safe and tolerable. And perhaps most surprising, patients followed the full treatment schedule.

“Adherence was one of our major concerns,” Singer said. “When we sent the device home with the participants, would they use it? Would they use it for a couple of days, and that would be it? We were pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case.”

Adherence rates hovered around 90 percent, with no severe adverse effects reported during the study or the 10-month open label extension (some patients even volunteered to continue being monitored and assessed after the study, though this data wasn’t part of the published research).

Some participants reported mild discomfort that could have been flicker related — dizziness, ringing in the ears, and headaches. But overall, Singer said, the device’s safety profile was excellent. She also reported some positive biological outcomes.

“We looked at default mode network connectivity, which is basically how different brain regions that are particularly active during wakeful rest and memory, interact with each other,” Singer said. “There are deficits in this network in Alzheimer’s, but after eight weeks [of treatment], we found strengthening in that connectivity.” This may indicate stronger interactions and therefore better communication between these regions.

In previous animal studies, the 40Hz of flicker stimulated mouse gamma waves, significantly reducing some Alzheimer’s pathogenic hallmarks and recruited microglia to the cause – these are the primary immune cells in the brain. But in the human study, there were no clear changes in the presence of pathogens amyloid beta or p-Tau.

However, as with the mouse studies, “we are getting immune engagement in humans,” Singer said. The flicker treatment sparked the activity of cytokines, proteins used in cell signaling — a sign that flicker had engaged the brain’s immune system.

“That is something we want to see, because microglia do things like clear out pathogens. Some people think that part of what’s going wrong in Alzheimer’s is a failure of this clearance mechanism,” Singer said.

She and Lah have wondered if a longer human trial would make a difference — would there be reduced amyloid activity, for example.

“So far, this is very preliminary, and we’re nowhere close to drawing conclusions about the clinical benefit of this treatment,” Lah said. “But we now have some very good arguments for a larger, longer study with more people.”

 

The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health (grant No. R01-NS109226-01S1), by the Packard Foundation, the Friends and Alumni of Georgia Tech, the Lane Family, the Wright Family, and Cognito Therapeutics. Any findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the researchers and not necessarily of the sponsors.

Competing interests: Annabelle Singer owns shares in Cognito Therapeutics, which funded the human study at Emory Brain Health Center. Cognito aims to develop gamma stimulation-related products. These conflicts are managed by Georgia Tech’s Office of Research Integrity Assurance.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1621871343 2021-05-24 15:49:03 1621879521 2021-05-24 18:05:21 0 0 news Safety, tolerance, adherence get high scores in first human trial

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2021-05-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-05-24 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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647695 647695 image <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer]]> image/jpeg 1621871010 2021-05-24 15:43:30 1621871010 2021-05-24 15:43:30 <![CDATA[“A feasibility trial of gamma sensory flicker for patients with prodromal Alzheimer's disease"]]> <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer]]> <![CDATA[James Lah]]>
<![CDATA[Man of Research, Man of the People]]> 28153 Bob Nerem often said, “research, like life, is a people business,” and he spent most of his 56-year academic career proving the point. Nerem would enthusiastically strike up a conversation with the undergrad or the fellow bioengineer or the restaurant waiter, asking questions, connecting on a personal level. An internationally-renowned pioneer in bioengineering and biomedical research and education, Nerem’s most memorable trait was probably his sincere affability.

“Bob always had time to talk to anyone, always had a kind word, a funny story or witty remark – he positively influenced thousands in our community by showing that he genuinely cared about everyone,” said Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, remembering Nerem, the founding director of the Petit Institute who died Friday, March 6, at 82.

García called Nerem a mentor to many, at Georgia Tech and in the broader bioengineering community.

“He impacted my career more than anyone else, as a role model and a friend,” García said. “He showed me how to be successful while celebrating others at the same time.”

He seemed to know everyone and everything about the world he inhabited, noted Ross Ethier, professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech.

“There wasn’t a promising postdoc, a potential junior recruit, or a senior hire who was not known to Bob,” said Ethier. “He was at the center of a vast network of leaders who shaped the field of biomedical engineering by identifying and promoting the very best talent. Bob was immensely helpful to me personally. We will probably never know how many people he mentored over his career, but I’m sure it was in the thousands, a true testament to his impact and tireless work for the broader community.”

It usually didn’t matter if a new hire was part of the research enterprise or a supporting player – for years, fresh employees at the Petit Institute would receive a copy of Nerem’s “Rules of Life: The Planet Earth School” (often from Nerem himself). These were 15 maxims (listed in full after this story) he’d gathered, some very familiar, some conjured by Nerem from piecemeal sources, or his own imagination. He wrote them all down after his students banded together and told him to preserve, “those various rules you keep on spouting off,” Nerem told his audience upon receiving the prestigious National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Founder’s Award in 2008.

Nerem spent the last 33 years at Georgia Tech, including 15 years (1995 to 2009) as the founding director of the Petit Institute. He began his career at Ohio State University (where he earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 1964) in the Department of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering. But before long, he was focusing on the effects of launch vibrations on astronaut physiology, “which opened the window on a whole new world, that of biology and medicine,” Nerem told his NAE audience.

Though he continued teaching aerospace engineering, he started applying his engineering knowledge to studying blood flow and its role in disease processes – his entry into the world of interdisciplinary research and biomedical engineering. Eventually he delved into cell biology, molecular biology, tissue engineering, and stem cell technology.

“Bob was, in many ways, one of the fathers of tissue engineering,” noted Barbara Boyan, dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Boyan met Nerem when he was at the University of Houston, where he chaired the Department of Mechanical Engineering following his stint at Ohio State, and Boyan was at Rice University. After moving to Georgia Tech in 1987, Nerem recruited Boyan, who became his deputy director in GTEC (the Georgia Tech/Emory Center for the Engineering of Living Tissues), where she saw, “firsthand, his incredible generosity. He freely gave of his ideas and support to anyone who was willing to work hard,” Boyan said, adding, “Most of us attempting to use stem cells to generate tissues to repair and regenerate defects owe Bob for setting the stage.”

Bob Guldberg, who followed Nerem and preceded García as director of the Petit Institute, acknowledged, “Bob is recognized as one of the key leaders who created the bioengineering field, but I think he valued his impact on people more. I’ve lost count of the people who have a story about something Bob did or said or taught them that changed the course of their career, and I’m no exception.”

“He was an amazing mentor and friend to me at every stage of my career, and it was my great honor to follow in his huge footsteps,” added Guldberg, now executive director of the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact at the University of Oregon.

There are researchers all over the world who have been influenced in some way by Nerem. When he left Georgia Tech to join the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, Todd McDevitt said it was difficult to say goodbye to his friend and mentor, but he left well prepared and schooled in the Nerem way.

“Bob viewed it as his responsibility to create opportunities for others to advance their professional development and acquire leadership skills, often before you thought you were ready,” said McDevitt, one of the nation’s leading stem cell researchers. “I try to emulate Bob's approach of creating opportunities for my trainees without telling them what to do so as to cultivate their self-confidence.”

As part of the core group of bioengineering/biomedical engineering forerunners at Georgia Tech (along with Ajit Yoganathan, Don Giddens, and others), Nerem established an interdisciplinary culture at the Petit Institute that Guldberg said, “taught us all how to tackle grand challenges in life sciences and human health.”

Nerem was the leading figure from the bio-community in the creation of what became known as the Petit Institute, working nimbly with faculty colleagues and university administration to develop a sustainable interdisciplinary bioengineering/bioscience research enterprise.

“Bob was one of the first faculty members I met when I came to Georgia Tech, and I liked him from the start,” said former Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough, who arrived on campus in 1994. “He was a leader in helping us develop the Georgia Tech-Emory biomedical engineering program, and was the key to our winning GTEC from the National Science Foundation. “I always felt lucky to have known him and call him my friend.”

Mike Johns, who arrived at Emory University to lead the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, was already familiar with Nerem and said he was the go-to guy when discussions began for a new biomedical engineering department that would link public Georgia Tech and private Emory. “I’ll never forget the day we were riding the escalator together at the Atlanta airport and started talking about BME,” recalled Johns. “Bob was so enthusiastic, and he was the key at Georgia Tech to making it happen.”

Twenty years later, the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University is a rare public education-private education entity, and is ranked among the top BME departments in the nation.

Working with a leadership team that included Yoganathan and Giddens, Nerem became what García called, “the architect of the bioengineering and bioscience community at Georgia Tech. Bob’s vision and leadership established formal relationships between Georgia Tech and the Emory University School of Medicine in the fledgling bioengineering space.”

Nerem’s vision, leadership, and influence extended beyond the lab or the campus. He co-founded the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) as well as the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS), and was a powerful voice in the bioengineering section of the National Academy of Engineering (which elected him as a member in 1988). Additionally, said Boyan, “he championed women and underrepresented minority faculty and students for leadership positions whenever and wherever he could.”

His interest in leveling the field for everyone resulted in creation of the program that Nerem was proudest of later in his career – Project ENGAGES. Established in 2013 at Georgia Tech and headquartered at the Petit Institute, ENGAGES (which stands for Engaging New Generations at Georgia Tech through Engineering and Science) is a high school education program for underrepresented minority students.

High school students from partner schools in Atlanta are immersed, year-round, into university lab environment to work on research projects and participate in enrichment programs. Nerem co-founded the program with Manu Platt, associate professor in the Coulter Department and a Petit Institute researcher, who said of Nerem, “he sees his mission and his job as making young people’s dreams come true, whether they were cognizant of their dreams or not.”

So far, more than 130 Project ENGAGES students have completed the program and moved onto some of the best universities in the nation.

“There aren’t enough words to explain the direct impact Bob has made on the next generation students through Project ENGAGES,” said Petit Institute Education Outreach Manager Lakeita Servance, who is the day-to-day director of Project ENGAGES. “He forever changed the trajectory of these students’ lives. His legacy will continue to live on through Project ENGAGES.”

Nerem retired as director of the Petit Institute in 2009, when Guldberg (who Nerem had recruited to Tech years earlier) took on the role. But this wasn’t your typical retirement. Nerem was still a fixture at the Petit Institute, coming into his office on the first-floor faculty wing. His desk was a cityscape of paper piles and books, and it was typical to see him at his desk, across from a visiting student or faculty member. And if you didn’t go to see Nerem, he would come find you. He was a frequent guest in staff offices at the Petit Institute, stopping by with a fresh cup of coffee (in which the coffee-cream ratio was about 50-50).

This was his comfort zone, the institute, his happy place, and he was a familiar presence in its familiar halls. Nerem was proud of the Petit Institute building, and its open design fostering collaboration, the 24-foot-high ‘Cell Wall’ mural by artist Karen Stoutsenberger, paneled images that bring to life the structural makeup of the bio-molecular world. He always considered the atrium and its coffee shop, its inviting tables and couches, “such an important element of this place and who we are.”

“The design of this building has fostered the interactive, collaborative culture and sense of community we wanted,” Nerem once said, looking around at the human buzz in the atrium on a busy weekday. “Look at this. What did I tell you? Research is a people business.”

With the responsibilities of full-time management behind him, Nerem, who had been known alternatively as “Uncle Bob” and “Big Bad Bob” by his colleagues, had settled permanently into the former role, though he remained an outspoken advocate for regenerative medicine, sending strong messages to elected leadership. In his years, he became a national voice for research integrity (co-authoring a proposal in the high-impact journal Nature in February 2019, calling for the creation of a U.S. advisory board for research integrity).

After retiring as director, he held the Parker H. Petit Distinguished Chair for Engineering in Medicine and Institute Professor Emeritus, staying active at Georgia Tech, traveling the country and the world, participating in various leadership roles on different boards and councils, attending meetings and conferences as an invited guest or speaker, often accompanied by his wife Marilyn.

He had multiple extracurricular affiliations around the world, virtually all of them related to advancing bio-research or education in some fashion or another. Nerem was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Council of Arterioscleroris, the American Heart Association, the American Physical Society, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1988, he served on its council from 1998 to 2004. He was also elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Scientists, and recognized on an international level, as an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the United Kingdom, and was a member, honorary or otherwise, of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Japan Society for Medical and Biological Engineering, and Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences.

For many years, Nerem and his wife presided over the Regenerative Medicine Workshop at Hilton Head in South Carolina, an annual spring gathering of some of the world’s leading researchers – and an excuse for Nerem to connect with them on a personal level, because families were always encouraged to attend. The goal was for the investigators to roll up their sleeves and talk shop, and grad students to network, while families enjoyed the island, and evenings were spent building friendships. At Hilton Head, for two decades, the Nerem’s cultivated an atmosphere that fostered many lasting professional and personal relationships.

And the awards and honors came. But two in particular really stood out for Nerem. One of them, the Nerem International Travel Award (appropriate because, as McDevitt said, "traveling is his favorite pastime."). The idea, Nerem said, “is to get the student out of his or her familiar surroundings, to really experience research in another lab, another setting, sharing their work while learning techniques from other experts in other parts of the world.”

In other words, it was all about making connections.

Then last year the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) introduced the Robert M. Nerem Education and Mentorship Medal, an annual award. Ethier led the effort at ASME’s Bioengineering Division. The medal was first awarded in 2019, to a longtime friend of Nerem’s, Roger Kamm, professor of biological and mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And like almost everyone else who ever knew Bob Nerem, it’s Rule No. 6 on Nerem’s list that stood out most: People will remember not what you said, but only how you made them feel; strive to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Bob epitomized the traits to strive for as educators and mentors,” said Kamm. “Bob had the unique ability to connect with everyone he met, because he was genuinely interested in each individual as a person. He led us, inspired us, mentored us, and most of all, was a dear friend and role model.”

Bob Nerem, who lived in Stone Mountain, is survived by Marilyn, his wife of more than 40 years; his children, Steven Nerem and Nancy Nerem Black; Marilyn’s children, Christy Maser and Carol Wilcox; and multiple grandchildren. A celebration of his life is being planned for the near future.

“Bob’s love of family and friends was infectious,” said García, professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “And another thing I always admired about Bob is, he did it his way. In rising to the top, he made sure that everyone rose with him.”

 

Bob Nerem’s Rules of Life

  1. There are no such things as mistakes, only lessons, i.e., a series of learning experiences; growth is through a series of such experiences, a process which involves both successful and unsuccessful experiments.
  2. An unsuccessful experiment does not represent failure, it is just a learning experience; often one learns more from these than from successes; apply the lessons of today so as to make yourself a better person tomorrow.
  3. Always be open in the widest possible way to encountering a new person, to a new opportunity, as these represent new teachers, new learning experiences; “leave the screen door (to the outside world) unlatched,” you never know who or what will walk in.
  4. If you encounter a closed door, simply look for another door that might be open; life is filled with a lot of paths and doors to walk through, do not waste time on a door which is closed, let the “rock” in your path be a “stepping stone.”
  5. Your life is up to you; at birth you were provided a “canvas” onto which you have the opportunity to “paint your life”; take charge of your life and the “painting of this picture,” if you do not someone or something else will.
  6. People will remember not what you said, but only how you made them feel; strive to make a difference in the lives of others.
  7. Remember that the cup is always half full, never half empty, but remember that the only cards you can play are the ones that you were dealt.
  8. Look for the good in people, try to imagine the world as it seems to the other person.
  9. Never, never worry about something over which you have no control.
  10. Whatever happens, place the least dramatic interpretation on the event, the incident, and/or whatever is said.
  11. Never have expectations, only hopes, and welcome each and every new day for “each dawn is a new beginning”; each day presents new opportunities and as has been said, “a day spent without real enthusiasm, is an opportunity lost.”
  12. Love yourself, make peace with who you are and where you are at this moment in time, be willing to let go of the life that you had planned so as to have the life that waits you.
  13. Listen to your heart; if you cannot hear what it is saying in this noisy world, make time for yourself, enjoy your own company, let your mind wander among the stars.
  14. Do not let your preoccupation with reality stifle your imagination; if someday, why not now, even though the impossible may take a while.
  15. Finally, life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, worn out, shouting—holy cow, what a ride!

 

Memorials can be made to Project ENGAGES, Georgia Tech Foundation, 760 Spring Street NW, Suite 400, Atlanta, GA, 30368. Or, you can do so online. Put specify "Project ENGAGES in the "Other Designation” field. There is also a "This gift is a memorial" checkbox where you can indicate that the gift is in memory of Bob Nerem.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1583769669 2020-03-09 16:01:09 1621622768 2021-05-21 18:46:08 0 0 news Remembering Robert M. Nerem, Georgia Tech’s Founding Father of Bioengineering and Bioscience

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2020-03-09T00:00:00-04:00 2020-03-09T00:00:00-04:00 2020-03-09 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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633421 633399 633398 633421 image <![CDATA[Robert M. Nerem, Ph.D.]]> image/png 1583788714 2020-03-09 21:18:34 1583788714 2020-03-09 21:18:34 633399 image <![CDATA[Nerem]]> image/jpeg 1583769330 2020-03-09 15:55:30 1583769330 2020-03-09 15:55:30 633398 image <![CDATA[Bob Nerem screen]]> image/jpeg 1583769280 2020-03-09 15:54:40 1583769280 2020-03-09 15:54:40
<![CDATA[Neha Garg Receives NSF CAREER Award to Fight Coral Reef Disease ]]> 34434 There’s a relatively new disease quickly sweeping parts of the world, but it’s not the one that’s dominated headlines for a year, and it doesn’t focus on humans. This threat has been around since 2014, and it’s infected more than 20 species of corals off the coast of Florida and throughout the Caribbean.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease “is spreading really, really fast,” says Neha Garg, assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Florida has 45 species of corals and more than 20 have already been impacted” by the disease. “It started in Florida, and the next we heard it had spread to the U.S. Virgin Island and other islands in the Caribbean — and the latest I heard is it has spread to the Cayman Islands.”

The cause is not known. “We know we can treat it with antibiotics, so bacteria does play a role,” Garg says, “and it can be transmitted by physical and water contact, which also tells us an infectious agent is likely at play.” Despite rising ocean temperatures, scientists don’t believe that’s the culprit behind Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, or SCTLD.

It’s an all hands on deck situation for marine biologists and the science community as they work to contain the spread and try to rejuvenate infected reefs. 

And now, Garg’s research to date into SCTLD has earned her a 2021 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (NSF CAREER) Award for her project to study the disease currently roaring through the reefs off Florida’s west coast. 

The disease adds another threat to beleaguered coral reefs around the globe. Climate change-related warming has already led to bleaching of reefs, chasing away organisms that use them for shelter and food. “Coral reefs generate carbon sources to support 20 percent of life in the oceans,” Garg says. “Then there’s the economic impact on coastal areas, with recreation, fishing. It can impact the livelihoods of coastal populations. If we lose them, it can cause imbalance in various ocean ecosystems.”

In early 2020, Garg and Georgia Tech received an Environmental Protection Agency grant to study biomarkers of coral reef disease. Her NSF CAREER award project will allow her to continue examining the changing chemical and microbial makeup of coral reefs experiencing outbreaks of SCTLD. 

As Garg shares in the project’s abstract, despite the disease’s rapid spread, “the understanding of chemical changes that accompany the onset of disease, the changes in bacterial inhabitants, and the disruption of the coral-algal symbiosis remain poorly known. Elucidating chemical changes and their symbiotic or pathogenic contributors is challenging and necessitates the use of state-of-the art multiomic and data analytic strategies.” (Multiomics combines data from several “omic” strategies including genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics, and microbiomics) 

She adds that “through the use of advanced multiomic approaches, knowledge gained from this research will provide understanding of the chemical and organismal signatures that define health or disease status of coral holobionts,” referring to an ecological symbiosis created by a host — in this case a coral — and the organisms that live in and around it. “Holobionts represent the multipartite symbiosis between the coral animal, the endosymbiotic dinoflagellate, resident microbiota (bacteria and archaea), as well as the fungal, protistan, and viral associates,” she explains.

A key component of any NSF CAREER Award is how it can enhance educational opportunities for high school and college students. Garg’s proposal will include teaching modules to train K-12 teachers through Georgia Tech’s Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers (GIFT) program. She says introducing high school students to the effects of climate change on coral reefs and the role of STEM in understanding disease mechanisms will enhance student participation in STEM fields. “Their participation in environmental science through training in biology and chemistry will serve as a strong scientific foundation for these students, and foster a future generation that cares for the environment and understands the role of science in creating a healthy future,” writes Garg.

The educational portion of her CAREER project will also involve the Georgia Aquarium. Garg reached out to researchers there, knowing that many aquariums in the U.S. maintain samples of corals behind the scenes for restoration purposes. “They are keeping an inventory of these corals so, in the future, we can go back to the ocean and replant them.” Students can take coral tissue samples in non-destructive ways to get them started on research methods, she adds.

“That’s one way we are thinking we can motivate high school students from low-income families to pursue and promote higher education in STEM fields,” Garg says. “We’ll be participating in the GIFT program to get high school students to spend the summer in our lab.”

Garg’s lab has already bought two tanks to serve as salt water aquariums, so students can isolate coral reef bacteria in the lab. She has also partnered with Valerie Paul, Smithsonian researcher and head scientist of the National Museum of History, for samples of corals with SCTLD. “We’ll run some phenotypic tests, and teach the students metabolomics.”  

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1614369593 2021-02-26 19:59:53 1620073362 2021-05-03 20:22:42 0 0 news Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease is ravaging Florida's coral reefs, with 20 out of 45 coral species in the state's waters already infected. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry assistant professor Neha Garg has received an NSF CAREER Award to help battle this rapidly spreading disease. 

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2021-04-26T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-26T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-26 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

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633200 633201 633205 633200 image <![CDATA["Big Momma" Coral Before Disease. Credit: Dr. Dave Gilliam Nova Southeastern University]]> image/jpeg 1583172962 2020-03-02 18:16:02 1583173018 2020-03-02 18:16:58 633201 image <![CDATA["Big Momma" Coral After Disease. Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection]]> image/jpeg 1583173007 2020-03-02 18:16:47 1583173007 2020-03-02 18:16:47 633205 image <![CDATA[Dr. Neha Garg]]> image/jpeg 1583174334 2020-03-02 18:38:54 1583174334 2020-03-02 18:38:54 <![CDATA[NOAA Stone Coral Tissue Loss Disease Map]]> <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Researchers Receive EPA South FL Initiative Award]]> <![CDATA[Garg Microbiome@Georgia Tech Lab:]]> <![CDATA[Math’s Mayya Zhilova Gets Early CAREER Boost from NSF ]]>
<![CDATA[The Science of Sound, Vibration to Better Diagnose, Treat Brain Diseases ]]> 35692 A team of engineering researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology hopes to uncover new ways to diagnose and treat brain ailments, from tumors and stroke to Parkinson’s disease, leveraging vibrations and ultrasound waves. 

The five-year, $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) project initiated in 2019 already has resulted in several published journal articles that offer promising new methods to focus ultrasound waves through the skull, which could lead to broader use of ultrasound imaging — considered safer and less expensive than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.  

Specifically, the team is researching a broad range of frequencies, spanning low frequency vibrations (audio frequency range) and moderate frequency guided waves (100 kHz to 1 MHz) to high frequencies employed in brain imaging and therapy (in the MHz range).

“We’re coming up with a unique framework that incorporates different research perspectives to address how you use sound and vibration to treat and diagnose brain diseases,” explained Costas Arvanitis, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Each researcher is bringing their own expertise to explore how vibrations and waves across a range of frequencies could either extract information from the brain or focus energy on the brain.”

Accessing the Brain Is a Tough Challenge

While it is possible to treat some tumors and other brain diseases non-invasively if they are near the center of the brain, many other conditions are harder to access, the researchers say. 

“The center part of the brain is most accessible; however, even if you are able to target the part of the brain away from the center, you still have to go through the skull,” Arvanitis said.

He added that moving just 1 millimeter in the brain constitutes “a huge distance” from a diagnostic perspective. The science community widely acknowledges the brain’s complexity, each part associated with a different function and brain cells differing from one to the other.  

According to Brooks Lindsey, a biomedical engineering assistant professor at Georgia Tech and Emory, there is a reason why brain imaging or therapy works well in some people but not in others. 


“It depends on the individual patient’s skull characteristics,” he said, noting that some people have slightly more trabecular bone —  the spongy, porous part of the bone that makes it more difficult to treat. 

Using ultrasound waves, the researchers are tackling the challenge on multiple levels. Lindsey’s lab uses ultrasound imaging to assess skull properties for effective imaging and therapy. He said his team conducted the first investigation that uses ultrasound imaging to measure the effects of bone microstructure — specifically, the degree of porosity in the inner, trabecular bone layer of the skull.

“By understanding transmission of acoustic waves through microstructure in an individual’s skull, non-invasive ultrasound imaging of the brain and delivery of therapy could be possible in a greater number of people,” he said, explaining one potential application would be to image blood flow in the brain following a stroke.

Refocusing Ultrasound Beams on the Fly   

Arvanitis’ lab recently found a new way to focus ultrasound through the skull and into the brain, which is “100-fold faster than any other method,” Arvanitis said. His team’s work in adaptive focusing techniques would allow clinicians to adjust the ultrasound on the fly to focus it better.

“Current systems rely a lot on MRIs, which are big, bulky, and extremely expensive,” he said. “This method lets you adapt and refocus the beam. In the future this could allow us to design less costly, simpler systems, which would make the technology available to a wider population, as well as be able to treat different parts of the brain.”

Using ‘Guided Waves’ to Access Periphery Brain Areas

Another research cohort, led by Alper Erturk, Woodruff Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and former Georgia Tech colleague Massimo Ruzzene, Slade Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, performs high-fidelity modeling of skull bone mechanics along with vibration-based elastic parameter identification. They also leverage guided ultrasonic waves in the skull to expand the treatment envelope in the brain. Erturk and Ruzzene are mechanical engineers by background, which makes their exploration of vibrations and guided waves in difficult-to-reach brain areas especially fascinating. 


Erturk noted that guided waves are used in other applications such as aerospace and civil structures for damage detection. “Accurate modeling of the complex bone geometry and microstructure, combined with rigorous experiments for parameter identification, is crucial for a fundamental understanding to expand the accessible region of the brain,” he said. 

Ruzzene compared the brain and skull to the Earth’s core and crust, with the cranial guided waves acting as an earthquake. Just as geophysicists use earthquake data on the Earth’s surface to understand the Earth’s core, so are Erturk and Ruzzene using the guided waves to generate tiny, high frequency “earthquakes” on the external surface of the skull to characterize what comprises the cranial bone.

Trying to access the brain periphery via conventional ultrasound poses added risks from the skull heating up. Fortunately, advances such as cranial leaky Lamb waves increasingly are recognized for transmitting wave energy to that region of the brain.

These cranial guided waves could complement focused ultrasound applications to monitor changes in the cranial bone marrow from health disorders, or to efficiently transmit acoustic signals through the skull barrier, which could help access metastases and treat neurological conditions in currently inaccessible regions of the brain. 

Ultimately, the four researchers hope their work will make full brain imaging feasible while stimulating new medical imaging and therapy techniques. In addition to transforming diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases, the techniques could better detect traumas and skull-related defects, map the brain function, and enable neurostimulation. Researchers also see the potential for uncovering ultrasound-based blood-brain barrier openings for drug delivery for managing and treating diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

With this comprehensive research of the skull-brain system, and by understanding the fundamentals of transcranial ultrasound, the team hopes to make it more available to even more diseases and target many parts of the brain. 

This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (CMMI Award 1933158 “Coupling Skull-Brain Vibroacoustics and Ultrasound Toward Enhanced Imaging, Diagnosis, and Therapy”).  

CITATIONS: C. Sugino, M. Ruzzene, and A. Erturk, “Experimental and Computational Investigation of Guided Waves in a Human Skull.” (Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, 2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2020.11.019

M. Mazzotti, E. Kohtanen, A. Erturk, and M. Ruzzene, “Radiation Characteristics of Cranial Leaky Lamb Waves.” (IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control, 2021) https://doi.org/10.1109/TUFFC.2021.3057309 

S. Schoen, C. Arvanitis, “Heterogeneous Angular Spectrum Method for Trans-Skull Imaging and Focusing.” (IEEE Xplore, 2020) https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8902167 

B. Jing, C. Arvanitis, B. Lindsey, “Effect of Incidence Angle and Wave Mode Conversion on Transcranial Ultrafast Doppler Imaging.” (IEEE Xplore, 2020)   https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9251477 

***
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition.
The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning.

As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.
 

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1619534807 2021-04-27 14:46:47 1619560045 2021-04-27 21:47:25 0 0 news A team of engineering researchers at the Georgia Tech hopes to uncover new ways to diagnose and treat brain ailments, from tumors and stroke to Parkinson’s disease, leveraging vibrations and ultrasound waves. The five-year, $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) project initiated in 2019 already has resulted in several published journal articles that offer promising new methods to focus ultrasound waves through the skull, which could lead to broader use of ultrasound imaging — considered safer and less expensive than magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.  

 

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2021-04-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-27T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-27 00:00:00 Research News
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia  30332-0181  USA

Media Relations Contacts: Anne Wainscott-Sargent (404-435-5784) (asargent7@gatech.edu) or Tracey Reeves (404-660-2929) (tracey.reeves@gatech.edu) 

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646921 646922 646927 646921 image <![CDATA[Close up of skull imaging]]> image/jpeg 1619529520 2021-04-27 13:18:40 1619529520 2021-04-27 13:18:40 646922 image <![CDATA[Graduate researchers measure vibration response in skull]]> image/jpeg 1619529676 2021-04-27 13:21:16 1619529676 2021-04-27 13:21:16 646927 image <![CDATA[Multidisciplinary researchers focus on full brain imaging]]> image/jpeg 1619533229 2021-04-27 14:20:29 1619533229 2021-04-27 14:20:29
<![CDATA[Julia Kubanek Named Vice President for Interdisciplinary Research]]> 34528 Julia Kubanek, professor of biological sciences and chemistry and biochemistry, and associate dean for Research in Georgia Tech’s College of Sciences, has been named vice president for Interdisciplinary Research (VPIR). Kubanek will assume the role on July 1.

“I am very pleased to announce Julia Kubanek as the next vice president for Interdisciplinary Research,” said Chaouki T. Abdallah, executive vice president for Research at Georgia Tech. “In her long and lauded career at Tech, she has proven herself an exemplary educator and leader who is committed to excellence in scholarship, and to building partnerships that grow collaborative research across the Institute.”

Kubanek joined Georgia Tech as an assistant professor in the School of Biology and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 2001. She was named an associate professor in 2006, and professor in 2011. In that time, she also served as the associate chair of the School of Biology from 2009 to 2011. Kubanek has served as the associate dean for Research in the College of Sciences since 2014.

In her role as associate dean for Research, Kubanek was part of the leadership team that helped shepherd substantial research growth in the College of Sciences, including the enhancement of research opportunities and infrastructure for faculty and students. Kubanek supported the collaborative interests of faculty and students by organizing and hosting cross-disciplinary workshops, including with the Oak Ridge National Lab. Her work also included career development workshops for early career academic and research faculty; guidance to faculty looking to launch new collaborative projects; and one-on-one mentoring of faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students.

“With 20 years at Tech, I know this institution is filled with faculty, staff, and students who want to drive life-changing research in ways they cannot achieve alone,” Kubanek said. “In a supportive, collaborative, and interdisciplinary environment, I believe the creative, promising research visions of our Georgia Tech researchers can grow to international prominence and improve people’s lives and the health of our planet.”

The VPIR is responsible for ensuring the effective and strategic administration of interdisciplinary research and activities, including the Interdisciplinary Research Institutes, the Interdisciplinary Research Centers, the Pediatric Technology Center, the Georgia Center for Medical Innovation, and the Novelis Innovation Hub. The role has been filled on an interim basis since February by Devesh Ranjan, associate chair for Research, Ring Family Chair, and professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

“I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Devesh Ranjan, who has expertly served in the role of interim VPIR and will continue to do so until June 30, providing critical continuity and leadership,” Abdallah said. “Thank you, too, to our search chair Rob Butera, professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, and vice president for Research Development and Operations, and the search committee who reviewed an exceptional field of candidates.”

Kubanek’s publications and grants have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, industry, and national labs, as well as state agencies and foundations. Her educational and scientific contributions have seen her recognized for teaching excellence and mentoring by her students and colleagues, as well as accolades from national boards and associations. She is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, as well as the National Science Foundation CAREER award, among many others.

Kubanek’s research focus has included aquatic chemical ecology, chemical signaling, chemical communication, chemoreception, chemical biology, marine natural products chemistry, secondary metabolism, drug discovery, and metabolomics. She has mentored and advised more than 90 students and postdocs and has published more than 100 papers in journals and conferences. Kubanek received a B.Sc. in chemistry from Queen's University and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of British Columbia.

]]> jhunt7 1 1618841213 2021-04-19 14:06:53 1618854116 2021-04-19 17:41:56 0 0 news Julia Kubanek, professor of biological sciences and chemistry and biochemistry, and associate dean for Research in Georgia Tech’s College of Sciences, has been named vice president for Interdisciplinary Research, effective July 1.

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2021-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-19 00:00:00 Susie Ivy, Director
Organizational, Academic, and Research Communications

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646583 646583 image <![CDATA[Julia Kubanek]]> image/jpeg 1618834138 2021-04-19 12:08:58 1618834138 2021-04-19 12:08:58
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech and Shriners Collaborate on Research Data Resources]]> 28153 The collaboration between experts at Georgia Institute of Technology and Shriners Hospitals for Children (SHC) that was launched last year is expanding to encompass the fields of precision medicine and big data analysis and interpretation in 2021.

The new initiative will create pilot research projects and tools that align with the needs and aims of the SHC network of clinicians to enable state-of-the-art clinical research and facilitate clinical practice. The seed grants will support Georgia Tech faculty and research associates working directly with SHC physicians and surgeons. The overall goal remains to improve the lives of children treated at SHC.

Leanne West, chief engineer of pediatric technologies at Georgia Tech, added, “This particular round of research is all about going further with information and data and making it accessible for research and patient care. With the unique data from SHC and Tech’s expertise in data analytics, we’re going to be able to provide more specific information for diagnosis and treatment of Shriners patients.”

The seed grant opportunity inspired investigator partners to conceptualize seven successful clinical research projects. Coleman Hilton, Shriners’ Research Informatics manager, who is responsible for addressing resource needs from the teams, noted that “these seven projects represent the breadth of care provided at Shriners and they are very focused on the specific research needs for each of the patient populations.”


The teams, awarded two-year seed grants of either $50,000 or $150,000, are led by principal investigators from each institution. May Dongmei Wang, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, is the Georgia Tech principal investigator for three of the seven projects this year.

Her lab has been busy working with SHC, “to establish a new Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) prototype as the backend server. We want to enable interoperable clinical data management across all SHC hospitals,” Wang said. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is the standard for joining disparate systems together in the exchange of electronic health records. It was developed by HL7 International, the non-profit organization that develops standards and solutions to empower global health data interoperability.

In the 2021 round of seed projects, Wang said, “we’ll assist four Shriners hospitals to develop three FHIR applications to showcase the acceleration of the clinical informatics pipeline from idea, to data, to insights, using FHIR.”

“This program will allow us to capture, access, share, and analyze data, including diagnostics, radiographic images, and genomics in a way that is not currently available in existing Shriners Hospital for Children patient registries and research databases,” said Marc Lalande, vice president of SHC’s research programs. “The infrastructure that will be developed will not only enhance our clinical research capabilities, but also advance our clinical practices.”

Here’s a rundown of the seven projects funded for 2021:

 

3D Graphical Scale for Assessing Hip Functional Range of Motion

Principal Investigators: Megan Denham, Senior Research Associate, Georgia Tech Research Institute; Harold van Bosse, SHC-Philadelphia

Project Synopsis: Hip pathology in babies and children can affect long-term development and lead to malformations and deformations and other conditions. While surgery can correct pediatric hip conditions and optimize functionality and range of motion, there currently are no outcome measurements that can adequately analyze hip function across the spectrum of conditions; no way to compare results of different treatment modalities; and none that follow results over time and growth.

Utilizing a computer model to graph range of motion, the team will develop a pediatric hip score system, allowing for more precise evaluation of various treatments of hip contractures in children across the spectrum of neuromuscular conditions (such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophies). They intend to develop a mobile application that can quantify function with a single figure, to help clinicians make more practical evaluations, leading to more valid comparisons of treatment options.

 

Craniofacial Microsomia (CFM) Informatics Infrastructure

Principal Investigators: May Dongmei Wang, Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (Georgia Tech and Emory University); Chad Purnell, M.D., SHC-Chicago

Project Synopsis: CFM is a clinical conundrum – it is the second most common craniofacial anomaly, but its pathogenesis is not clearly understood. The research team’s long-term goal is to develop an AI model of how genes and environmental factors conspire in CFM. This seed grant will establish the first step in the process, creating a framework for sharing phenotypic, clinical, radiologic, and genetic data between SHC-Chicago and Georgia Tech.

Specific aims for the seed project include creating a set of minimum common data elements for CFM research data, and developing a system to allow secure, high-volume data sharing between institutions, which will leverage the Wang lab’s expertise in developing parallel FHIR infrastructure, enabling flexible integration of data sets within the SHC system.

 

GL-SMART (Greenville-Lexington Shriner Multisite AI-enabled Rehabilitation Technology)

Principal Investigators: May Dongmei Wang, Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering; J. Michael Wattenbarger, M.D., Chief of Staff, SHC-Greenville; Henry J. Iwinski, M.D., Chief of Staff, SHC-Lexington

Project Synopsis: This is a multi-site collaboration between Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville (SC) and Lexington (KY), the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). Together, they intend to develop an advanced technology platform to improve scoliosis patient care at multiple Shriners sites.

The two Shriners sites involved in the study have accumulated extensive data from more than 1,000 patients over the past decade – insight that can help clinicians make better care decisions. Wang’s lab will develop a FHIR application to enable clinicians at both Shriners sites to share and access clinical data seamlessly. Wang also is developing a multimodal AI algorithm to streamline the process of predicting clinical outcomes in scoliosis patients.

 

HR-pQCT Informatics Infrastructure

Principal Investigators: May Dongmei Wang, Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering; Gary S. Gottesman, M.D., Center for Metabolic Bone Disease, SHC-St. Louis

Project Synopsis: For patients with musculoskeletal disorders, bone mineral density scans are critical in the evaluation, surveillance, and treatment. High resolution peripheral computed tomography (HR-pQCT) is a revolutionary advancement as a new 3-D skeletal imaging tool with the ability to differentiate internal structures from cortical bone, and inform the pathophysiology of bone diseases, providing insights into bone biology, and better treatments.

Using all of that illuminating information is hampered by the inability to query the data based on significant research parameters, which is crucial to gaining deeper insight into bone disorders. So the researchers plan to build an integrative, relational database to house the data, design a FHIR interface, then populate the database with patient data, and explore options for automating the extraction, transformation, and loading of new HR-pQCT data as it is generated.

 

Machine Learning to Predict Fentanyl Efficacy and Adverse Effects to Advance Precision Medicine

Principal Investigators: Jeffrey Skolnick, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech; Kristin Grimsrud, Assistant Clinical Professor, University of California-Davis

Project Synopsis: Personalized pain management continues to be a challenging issue for patients and clinicians. Although advances in pharmacogenetics aid in decoding genetic variants, no one really knows how a given patient will respond to a particular drug until it is administered.

To address this problem, data from two ongoing SHC studies will be used as input for machine learning (ML) algorithms to predict if a patient will experience a decrease in pain or adverse events following fentanyl administration. Skolnick’s lab will then use an ML tool it developed, MEDICASCY, for disease indication, mode of action, small molecule drug efficacy, and side effect predictions. MEDICASCY predictions will then be combined with an enzyme inference algorithm, patient clinical data, and information on fentanyl blood concentrations to generate specific predictions for fentanyl efficacy and adverse effects.

 

Platform Architecture and Machine Learning for Arthrogryposis

Principal Investigators: Tony Pan, Research Scientist, institute for Data Engineering and Science (IDEaS) at Georgia Tech; Noémi Dahan-Oliel, SHC-Montreal

Project Synopsis: Three Shriners Hospitals – Chicago, Greenville, and Montreal – are involved in this project with Georgia Tech to address important knowledge gaps in understanding arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare (1 in 3,000 live births) chronic musculoskeletal disease. Shriners will identify the underlying causes, risk factors, and distribution of AMC, documenting interventions and outcomes, and determining genetic and/or environmental factors.

Pan and his team at Georgia Tech are essentially going to help make the data more accessible, developing a computational framework for machine learning to ultimately enable precision medicine. The researchers will design and implement a system to meet the needs for this project, deploying high-performance computing and cloud friendly cyber infrastructure to enable ad-hoc, on-demand, and reproducible data analysis with low deployment cost.

 

Sports Medicine Registry

Principal Investigators: Minoru Shinohara, Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech; Corinna Franklin, director of sports medicine, SHC-Philadelphia

Project Synopsis: Six Shriners Hospitals for Children (Northern California, Erie, Chicago, Portland, Philadelphia, Montreal), as part of the Shriners Sports Medicine Consortium, are working with researcher Minoru Shinohara, who directs the Human Neuromuscular Physiology Lab at Georgia Tech. Their goal is to develop a comprehensive registry that will help clinical researchers answer many large-scale questions in pediatric sports medicine.

Shinohara, and his Georgia Tech and SHC colleagues will identify the core data elements to use from Shriners system motion analysis centers, surgical procedures, and rehab/clinical information. Ultimately, they intend to create a sports medicine registry that will be easily accessible to researchers within the consortium, giving Shriners clinicians an opportunity to have a greater impact in the treatment of pediatric sports injuries.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1618846098 2021-04-19 15:28:18 1618846473 2021-04-19 15:34:33 0 0 news BME's May Wang leading three of the seven projects in new initiative to improve lives of pediatric patients

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2021-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-19T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-19 00:00:00 Writer: Jerry Grillo

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<![CDATA[Marine Animals Inspire New Approaches to Structural Topology Optimization]]> 27561 A mollusk and shrimp are two unlikely marine animals that are playing a very important role in engineering. The bodies of both animals illustrate how natural features, like the structures of their bones and shells, can be borrowed to enhance the performance of engineered structures and materials, like bridges and airplanes. This phenomenon, known as biomimetics, is helping advance structural topology research, where the microscale features found in natural systems are being mimicked.

In a recent paper published by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), a new approach to structural topology optimization is outlined that unifies both design and manufacturing to create novel microstructures, with potential applications ranging from enhanced facial implants for cranial reconstruction to improved ways to get materials into space for planetary exploration.

“With traditional structural topology optimization, we use algorithms to determine the ideal layout of a structure – one that maximizes structural efficiency and requires fewer material resources,” said Emily Sanders, a Ph.D. student in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, and co-author of the paper. “Our new research takes that a step further by introducing structural hierarchy, microarchitectures, and spatially-varying mechanical properties to enable different types of functionality like those observed in the cuttlefish and mantis shrimp.”

The properties of both animals inspired the new framework for designing hierarchical, spatially-varying microstructures and required the researchers to build on existing technologies used to create 3D-printed structures.

“In our recent work, we’ve developed technology that includes new algorithms and computations that are the enablers of a hierarchical microstructure,” said Glaucio Paulino, Raymond Allen Jones chair and professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech, co-author of the paper and recent inductee to the National Academy of Engineering. “We can then input that information into 3D printers and create structures with tremendous amounts of details. After studying the porous, layered cuttlefish bone that has extremely adaptive properties, we’ve been able to apply that to new structures and materials like the ones shown in our paper.”

For Paulino and his team, he hopes this new research will be applied to his earlier work in cranial reconstruction on cancer patients and those who have had massive facial injuries and bone loss.

“Now, we can 3D print craniofacial implants that have been designed using topology optimization and provide the framework for tissue re-growth,” said Paulino. “Ideally when combined with the spatially-varying microarchitectures we’ve recently developed, the implants would more closely mimic the porous nature of the human bone and would promote the growth of the bone itself inside the scaffold. As the bone grows, the scaffold biodegrades, and if everything goes well, in the end the scaffold is gone, and the patient has new bones in the right places.”  

Design and Manufacturing

As Sanders explains it, there are two aspects being investigated in this paper that advance the study of topology optimization: design and manufacturing. The first goal is to design an optimal macro geometry and at the same time, optimally distribute spatially-varying micro geometries within, in order to meet performance objectives. In this paper, the researchers were looking for maximally stiff parts with limited volume, much like the mantis shrimp hammer claw and they achieved a high level of complexity that mimics nature at both scales.

The second goal is related to the manufacturing needed to create the structures. With additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – researchers can manufacture structures with complex geometries. But with the research team’s introduction of spatially-varying microstructures, the printing becomes increasingly difficult.

“The more complex 3D data that we would have to send to the printer is so enormous that it’s prohibitive,” said Sanders. “So, we had to find a new way to communicate that information to the printer. Now, we communicate only 2D information, embedding the microstructures directly in 2D slices of the structure. At the end, the printer combines the slices to get the structure. It’s much more efficient.”

“What Emily did with manufacturing closes the loop,” said Paulino. “We deliver on the design, mathematics, and algorithms. And we connect topology optimization with the additive manufacturing at both macro and micro levels.”

Future Applications

When considering the future of the advancements made to structural topology optimization in this paper, Paulino and Sanders both see applications in biomaterials, as well as magnetic properties designed for space exploration.

For Paulino’s work that continues in cranial reconstruction, he envisions interdisciplinary collaborations between engineering, chemistry and biology to develop biocompatible materials and architectures for medical use.

“We’re not there yet, but this work is a step in the right direction,” said Paulino. “Eventually, we’ll be able to print biocompatible materials. This research with spatially-varying microarchitectures should enable the optimal design and manufacturing for biomaterial applications.”

Regarding space exploration, the research could impact the creation of synthetic structures and systems with functionality, like magnetic material assemblages that could be actuated on demand by means of applied magnetic fields.  

“An important aspect of this work is that it opened up our design space so that we can have spatially-varying properties, which enables us to do things we couldn’t before,” said Sanders.

Paulino goes on to explain that with space travel, each pound of material sent into space has an enormous cost, so the amount of material and volume brought on space missions is very limited.

“The way I see our manufacturing working in space is you print in place, potentially using printing materials from the foreign planet itself,” said Paulino. “You can bring the additive printing capabilities to Mars and print structures with the properties you need when you get there. You print only what you need versus bringing everything you think you might need. In space, you want everything you do to be optimized.”

Inspired by animals and how they function in nature, Paulino and his team have evolved topology optimization once again, this time with the new design and manufacturing of spatially-varying, hierarchical structures. And, soon, practical applications in biomedicine and space exploration are sure to follow.

---

The research, Optimal and continuous multilattice embedding, was published in Science Advances on April 16, 2021. Along with Glaucio Paulino, coauthors include Emily Sanders (School of Civil and Environmental Engineering) at Georgia Tech, and Anderson Pereira from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.

This research was supported by the NSF under grant number IIP-1822141 [Phase I I/UCRC at the Georgia Institute of Technology: Center for Science of Heterogeneous Additive Printing of 3DMaterials (SHAP3D)] and from the SHAP3D I/UCRC Members: Boeing Company, U.S. Army CCDC Soldier Center, Desktop Metal, HP Inc., Hutchinson, Integrity Industrial Ink Jet Integration LLC, Raytheon Technologies, Stratasys Ltd., and Triton Systems Inc. E.D.S. and G.H.P. also acknowledge support from the Raymond Allen Jones Chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and A.P. acknowledges support from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development [Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), Brazil] under grant 313833/2018-4.

Research News
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Media Relations Contacts: Blair Meeks (wmeeks7@gatech.edu) or Tracey Reeves (tracey.reeves@gatech.edu).

Writer: Georgia Parmelee

]]> Angela Ayers 1 1618428892 2021-04-14 19:34:52 1618505224 2021-04-15 16:47:04 0 0 news 2021-04-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-14T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-14 00:00:00 Georgia Parmelee
Georgia Tech College of Engineering

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646469 646470 646471 646472 646469 image <![CDATA[Cuttlefish and Shrimp]]> image/jpeg 1618429776 2021-04-14 19:49:36 1618429776 2021-04-14 19:49:36 646470 image <![CDATA[Researchers Paulino and Sanders]]> image/jpeg 1618429842 2021-04-14 19:50:42 1618429842 2021-04-14 19:50:42 646471 image <![CDATA[Close up Paulino material]]> image/jpeg 1618429903 2021-04-14 19:51:43 1618429903 2021-04-14 19:51:43 646472 image <![CDATA[Structure of material Paulino]]> image/jpeg 1618429948 2021-04-14 19:52:28 1618429948 2021-04-14 19:52:28
<![CDATA[Scratching Out New Clues on the Sources of Certain Itch Sensations]]> 34434 Getting an itch is one thing. Everybody has to scratch every now and then, and some of us have to watch out for dry skin during the winter, or allergic reactions to ingredients in certain makeup or lotions. Yet for most of us, those discomforts involve itches on parts of our skin that have hair, not on what is called ‘glabrous’ skin: the smoother, tougher skin that’s found on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

And those glabrous skin conditions often cause chronic itching and pain. In the U.S., there are an estimated 200,000 cases of dyshidrosis, a skin condition causing itchy blisters to develop only on the palm and soles, each year. Another chronic skin condition, palmoplantar pustulosis (a type of psoriasis which causes inflamed, scaly skin and intense itch on the palms and soles) affects an estimated 330,0000 to 1,650,000 people in the U.S. each year.

“Those patients with chronic itch suffer a lot. They don’t have a significant treatment, and it affects their lives,” says Liang Han, an assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences who also researches in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. Now, new research from Han and students in her Han Lab at Georgia Tech may offer a balm of hope for these patients. 

"MrgprC11+ sensory neurons mediate glabrous skin itch,” published in the science journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America), is co-authored by Han alongside current and former graduate students Haley R. Steele (first author), Yanyan XingYuyan ZhuHenry B. HilleyKaty LawsonYeseul Nho, and Taylor Niehoff.

Han and her students uncovered new information about which sensory neurons are responsible for glabrous skin itch. “We here present evidence demonstrating that distinct neuronal populations are responsible for mediating hairy and glabrous skin itch,” the authors write. “This study advanced our understanding of itch and will have significant impact on the clinical treatment of itch.”

Steele adds more: “Our research is showing, for the first time, the actual neurons that send itch are different populations. Neurons that are in hairy skin that do not sense itch in glabrous skins are one population, and another senses itch in glabrous skins.”

Of transgenic mice and sensory neurons

Steele, a current graduate student in the School of Biological Sciences who dual-majored in Biology and Literature, Media, Communications, is in her fifth year at Georgia Tech. In the new study, she highlights another reason why glabrous skin itches are significant sources of pain for patients. “That’s actually one of the most debilitating places (to get an itch),” Steels says. “If your hands are itchy, it’s hard to grasp things, and if it’s your feet, it can be hard to walk. If there’s an itch on your arm, you can still type. You’ll be distracted, but you’ll be okay. But if it’s your hands and feet, it’s harder to do everyday things.”

Why has an explanation so far eluded science? “I think one reason is because most of the people in the field kind of assumed it was the same mechanism that’s controlling the sensation. It’s technically challenging. It’s more difficult than working on hairy skin,” Han says.

She and her team got around the technical challenge by relying on a new investigative procedure, or assay, that Steele had been working on to judge behavior in research mice. The previous method would have involved injecting itch-causing chemicals into mice skin, but the majority of a mouse’s skin is covered with hair. The team had to focus on the smooth glabrous skin on tiny mice hands and feet. 

Using transgenic (genetically modified) mice also helped track down the proper sensory neurons responsible for glabrous skin itches. “What we can do is specifically activate a particular set of neurons that causes itch, and we saw that biting behavior again modeled,” referring to how mice usually deal with itchy skin.

A particular set of mice in the study was given a chemical to specifically kill an entire line of neurons. “We can see what would happen if they didn’t have those neurons we’re targeting,” Steele adds. 

Han, Steele and their team focused on three previously known pruriceptive (related to itch sensation) neurons in glabrous skin.

The result, as highlighted in the research study: “Our results show that MrgprA3+ and MrgprDneurons, although key mediators for hairy skin itch, do not play important roles in glabrous skin itch, demonstrating a mechanistic difference in itch sensation between hairy and glabrous skin. We found that MrgprC11+ neurons are the major mediators for glabrous skin itch. Activation of MrgprC11+ neurons induced glabrous skin itch, while ablation (removal) of MrgprC11+ neurons reduced both acute and chronic glabrous skin itch.”

Applications could involve figuring out a way for patients to turn off those itch-inducing neurons. “Blocking the neuron is one approach, but that’s down the road. That is something that we always hope,” Han says. “It is very reasonable to propose — to find a way to block those neurons in human skin.”

 

The researcher team thanks the animal care and welfare team at Georgia Institute of Technology for their care and services. This work was supported by grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NS087088 and HL141269), and the Pfizer Aspire Dermatology Award to Liang Han.

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1616096505 2021-03-18 19:41:45 1618326308 2021-04-13 15:05:08 0 0 news Itch sensations that strike glabrous skin — like that found on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet — can be the source of lasting discomfort for many people. But a new study from School of Biological Sciences researchers may bring eventual relief, thanks to findings that may narrow down the unique glabrous skin receptors that respond to those itches.

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2021-04-06T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-06T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-06 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences 

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646183 645519 645518 646183 image <![CDATA[(Photo by Ian Dooley via Unsplash)]]> image/jpeg 1617733988 2021-04-06 18:33:08 1617733988 2021-04-06 18:33:08 645519 image <![CDATA[Liang Han]]> image/png 1616096909 2021-03-18 19:48:29 1616096909 2021-03-18 19:48:29 645518 image <![CDATA[Haley Steele]]> image/png 1616096622 2021-03-18 19:43:42 1616096622 2021-03-18 19:43:42 <![CDATA[An Itch You Can’t Scratch: Researchers Find Itch Receptors in the Throats of Mice]]> <![CDATA[Petit Institute Expands Its Ranks by 23, Including Liang Han, Britney Schmidt, Amanda Stockton ]]>
<![CDATA[Methylation Matters: Exploring Evolution and Effects on Human Brain Health]]> 34434 It may not be a process that most people are familiar with, but DNA methylation is very important to brain evolution. It’s viewed as a critical regulatory mechanism implicated in cognitive development, learning, memory, and disease. That regulation includes gene expression, which happens when DNA instructions are converted into a functional product, namely messenger RNA molecules, which provide templates for proteins.

School of Biological Sciences professor who specializes in molecular and genomic evolution has uncovered some new information about how DNA methylation evolved in the human brain — and how that compares to brains of some of our primate relatives. She and a global team of researchers have published their findings, “Evolution of DNA methylation in the human brain” in Nature Communications

“The large and complex brain is a distinguishing trait of the human lineage,” explains Soojin Yi, who directs the Yi Lab of Comparative Genomics and Epigenomics at Georgia Tech. “Scientists have been very interested in finding genetic and gene expression changes that are associated with the evolution of human brains.”

DNA methylation is a biological process by which methyl groups — organic compounds made up of three hydrogen atoms and a carbon atom — are added to DNA, which in turn sets off molecular processes to help regulate gene expression and other genetic factors that are necessary in healthy brains and nervous systems. When something goes wrong with DNA methylation, it can lead to certain diseases, including cancer and neuropsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia.

“To understand the contribution of DNA methylation to human brain-specific gene regulation and disease susceptibility, it is necessary to extend our knowledge of evolutionary changes in DNA methylation during human brain evolution,” Yi says. 

Science has long known about the DNA methylation connection to certain conditions, but the evolutionary aspect has so far been largely unexplored. “Previous studies used bulk tissues, while DNA methylation is known to vary substantially between cell types,” Yi shares, so her team, including the paper’s co-corresponding author Genevieve Konopka’s lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center, focused on the search for cell-type-specific epigenetic (gene-activity-changing) marks, including DNA methylation and histone (basic protein) modifications. Those are implicated in cell-type-specific gene expression and disease susceptibility in humans. 

“Data from bulk tissues can be biased toward specific cell types and consequently, underpowered to detect cell-type-specific evolutionary changes,” Yi explains. “Therefore, to fully understand the role of DNA methylation in human brain evolution, it is necessary to study cell-type-specific changes of DNA methylation.”

Yi and her team found suitable samples for chimpanzees and macaques in the specimen archives of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University. “We also separated neurons and oligodendrocytes (which forms the protective sheaths for neural transmission) from bulk brain samples, so that we can study cell-type specific patterns of DNA methylation,” Yi says.

“We found that the human brains are particularly heavily methylated compared to chimpanzee and rhesus macaque brains — both in neurons and oligodendrocytes.” 

Yi and her team found that some positions that have unique patterns of DNA methylation in human brains were previously implicated in neuropsychiatric diseases including schizophrenia.

“Our work extends the knowledge of the unique roles of . . . methylation in human brain evolution, and offers a new framework for investigating the role of the epigenome evolution in connecting the genome to brain development, function, and diseases.” 

 

Yi’s research team included colleagues from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and the Department of Pathology, at Emory University; the Center for Cooperative Research in Biosciences, Basque Research and Technology Alliance (BRTA), Bizkaia Technology Park, Spain; The Department of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern Medical Center;  the Center for Medical Research and Education, Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Japan; the Schizophrenia Research Project, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science, Japan; and the College of Nursing, The Research Institute of Nursing Science, Seoul National University, South Korea.

For human samples, UT Southwestern Medical Center Institutional Review Board (IRB) has determined that as this research was conducted using post-mortem specimens, the project does not meet the definition of human subjects research and does not require IRB approval and oversight. Non-human primate samples were obtained from archival, post-mortem brain tissue opportunistically collected from subjects that died from natural causes, and following procedures approved by the Emory Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and in accordance with federal and institutional guidelines for the humane care and use of experimental animals. No living great apes were used in this study. 

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1617632913 2021-04-05 14:28:33 1618231145 2021-04-12 12:39:05 0 0 news It's one of the most important processes for the development of the human brain, but science is still learning about DNA methylation. A School of Biological Sciences professor and her research team have uncovered some new information about how this process evolved in humans.

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2021-04-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-05 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

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646182 289071 646182 image <![CDATA["Charles Bell Anatomy of the Brain, c. 1802" (Wikimedia Commons, Shaheen Lakhan)]]> image/jpeg 1617733112 2021-04-06 18:18:32 1617733112 2021-04-06 18:18:32 289071 image <![CDATA[Soojin Yi]]> image/jpeg 1449244274 2015-12-04 15:51:14 1475894986 2016-10-08 02:49:46
<![CDATA[Serpooshan Awarded NSF CAREER Award to Bioprint a 3D Model of the Developing Human Heart]]> 27446 When babies are born with severe heart defects like pulmonary artery atresia or hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the prognosis is difficult. There is no cure, no reliable therapy for many of these defects. Just uncertainty. And drastic efforts to fix the parts of the heart that didn’t develop properly.

Ultimately, these tiny babies may face multiple significant surgeries in their early weeks of life.

That’s what Vahid Serpooshan thinks about when he’s in his lab using a sophisticated 3D bioprinter to create models of the earliest stages of heart development: the babies and their families and how his team can help by unravelling some of the mysteries of the developing human heart.

“These are babies who are a few days old and who are suffering from very severe, acute heart disease and heart defects. And many of them do not survive — even after multiple surgeries,” Serpooshan said. “Being able to simulate such severe situations in bioprinted and bioengineered platforms where there's no real limit to their manufacturing for study and analysis — that has a really high value for us in terms of how we're able to help patients and save patients’ lives.”

Understanding normal heart development — and thus, what can go wrong and lead to severe defects — is the cornerstone of the Faculty Early Career Development award Serpooshan received this spring from the National Science Foundation. Known as CAREER awards, these five-year grants are NSF’s most-prestigious award for early career faculty. They identify potential leaders and academic role models, giving them funds to build the foundation for a lifetime of study.

Serpooshan’s foundation will be the first 3D-printed model of heart tissue using soft, flexible hydrogel materials that are infused with cells from specific patients. He’s working to develop models that mimic the exact structure of the heart at two stages: the embryonic heart tube present at roughly 20 days after conception and a more fully developed fetal heart at 30-34 weeks.

Serpooshan and his team will connect the models to a bioreactor that creates a flow of stand-in material similar to blood, creating a dynamic system that functions just like the real thing.

“Up until this point, printing a synthetic, plastic model and perfusing it with different types of media has been done. But when it comes to hydrogels, and adding cells, and then having this flow going through — this is something that is a lot more complex, and no one has really tried this before,” said Serpooshan, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory. “We bioprint with soft hydrogels that mimic heart tissue, and we add cells that look exactly like the real heart tissue cellular structure. Then we perfuse with the flow that mimics the developing heart flow.”

Nothing that exists now can replicate heart development in quite the same way, Serpooshan said. Animal models are imperfect substitutes for human heart development, and 2D models lack fidelity to the three-dimensional structures and flow at play.

“Having a bioprinted, engineered model that you can print hundreds of is one of our main advantages. You can order the machine to print hundreds of consistent models,” Serpooshan said. “This allows us to change parameters and study how cells behave without using any animals or even going to clinical trials.”

That means the models could be used to accurately test promising new drugs. They could also be used to help surgeons hone their techniques and develop new methods. Early versions of the models have been used by Serpooshan’s close collaborator Holly Bauser-Heaton in just that way. She’s a pediatric cardiologist at Emory.

In particular, Serpooshan and his team are focused on the velocity of blood flow through the developing heart in all three dimensions and the shear stresses that flow exerts on heart cells. Serpooshan said these are critical signals to cells that guide when they grow or move or change. When flow is altered, so, too, is the tissue development.

“There is a theory called ‘no flow, no grow,’ that says that any disruption in the flow of the blood during the development of the heart could result in significant abnormal development,” he said. “That's where the significance of these measurements comes. Being able to visualize and quantify in 3D the flow parameters, including velocity and shear stress, helps us to study what cells are sensing in these environments and if we disrupt flow, for example, how that could change cell behavior.”

Of course, what Serpooshan is proposing is not easy. Heart tissue is complex, so creating this kind of model wasn’t even imaginable until 3D bioprinting came along, he said. The technique allows Serpooshan to deposit specific kinds of cells and biomaterials in specific areas of the tissue models to accurately reflect actual heart tissue composition.

They use three kinds of heart cells, created by reprogramming patients’ blood cells or skin cells into stem cells. This induced pluripotent stem cell technology allows Serpooshan to turn those stem cells into cardiac muscle cells and endothelial cells in the developing heart.

Building the models requires detailed imaging and processing to turn the scans into 3D structures before printing can begin. Serpooshan said other Coulter Department faculty, including Lakshmi “Prasad” Dasi, David Frakes, and Brooks Lindsey, as well as collaborators at Emory School of Medicine, including Bauser-Heaton and Timothy Slesnick, bring key expertise to the work.

Once his team has functioning models, they’ll be able to study two other key conditions along with blood flow that make up the microenvironment around cells as the heart forms and could affect their behavior: stiffness of the tissues and the concentrations of the different proteins in those tissues.

Data suggests all three contribute to abnormalities that lead to congenital heart defects. The question is, how significant is their role?

“Gaining knowledge about some very complex and vague processes that no one has been really able to study in such precision is going to be one of the main outcomes,” Serpooshan said.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617898128 2021-04-08 16:08:48 1617898651 2021-04-08 16:17:31 0 0 news The project focuses on understanding normal heart development and what can go wrong in those processes and lead to severe defects.

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2021-04-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-08T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-08 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

]]>
646245 646246 646244 646245 image <![CDATA[Bioprinted Embryonic Heart Model]]> image/jpeg 1617896524 2021-04-08 15:42:04 1617898111 2021-04-08 16:08:31 646246 image <![CDATA[Bioprinted Developing Heart Models Workflow Illustration]]> image/jpeg 1617896756 2021-04-08 15:45:56 1617896756 2021-04-08 15:45:56 646244 image <![CDATA[Vahid Serpooshan]]> image/jpeg 1617895916 2021-04-08 15:31:56 1617895916 2021-04-08 15:31:56 <![CDATA[NSF CAREER Project Summary]]> <![CDATA[NSF Early Career Development Awards]]> <![CDATA[Vahid Serpooshan]]>
<![CDATA[Lily Cheung Wins $1.1 Million Human Science Frontier Program Award]]> 27195 Lily Cheung, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, has won a $1.1 million Human Science Frontier Program (HSFP) award to investigate the interplay of cellular movement and metabolism in grass stomata – the microscopic breathing valves on plant leaves.

New insights into how these tiny structures work could be exploited to bioengineer crops that can better withstand the drought and heatwaves associated with climate change.

“If you ate any corn, wheat, or rice today, you enjoyed sugars made from carbon that passed through stomata,” Cheung says. “Together, these three grass species provide half of all calories consumed by humans, and much of their agricultural success is credited to how fast their stomata work."

According to a United Nations statistic, the world will need to produce 50% more food by the middle of the century to account for population growth rates, changing diets, and the harmful effects of climate change on current agricultural practices.

“Ensuring food security, via biotechnology or any other means, is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century,” says Cheung, who is collaborating with biophysicist Anne-Lisa Routier Kierzkowska of the University of Montreal and plant biologist Michael Raissig of the University of Heidelberg on the three-year HFSP project.

The HFSP funds international, multidisciplinary collaborations focused on creating novel approaches to problems in fundamental biology. Cheung’s team, one of seven selected Early Career awards from a total of 158 letters of intent, joins a cohort of 94 awardees from 20 different countries.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1617890846 2021-04-08 14:07:26 1617890943 2021-04-08 14:09:03 0 0 news 2021-04-07T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-07T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-07 00:00:00 Brad Dixon

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646240 646240 image <![CDATA[Lily Cheung Wins $1.1 Million Human Science Frontier Program Award]]> image/png 1617890900 2021-04-08 14:08:20 1617890900 2021-04-08 14:08:20
<![CDATA[Wellcome Leap Grant Funds Work to Create Human Immune Responses]]> 27446 A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, led by bioengineer Ankur Singh, has been awarded a multi-million-dollar, multi-year award from Wellcome Leap as part of the nonprofit’s international $50 million Human Organs, Physiology, and Engineering (HOPE) program.

“This is a game-changer opportunity, where a unique class of engineers from interdisciplinary backgrounds challenge the status quo as champions of innovation,” Singh said. “We each have a specific area of expertise, and without this kind of cohesive collaboration, it would be difficult to achieve our big picture goals.”

Singh is an associate professor with a joint appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. He heads up a multidisciplinary investigative team that includes Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech; Krishnendu Roy, director of the NSF Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies; Ahmet Coskun, assistant professor in BME; and Jeremy Boss, chair of Emory’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

For many life-threatening infectious diseases, like tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria, effective vaccinations are still lacking, noted Singh, a Woodruff Faculty Fellow.

“There are numerous challenges in understanding disease transmission, pathology and developing new vaccines, including a limited understanding of immune correlates of protection, identification of viable vaccine candidates, and off-target effects that must be evaluated in staged clinical trials,” he said.

So his research team aims to develop multi-organ platforms that recreate human immunological responses observed in vaccination studies.

“I’m excited about this highly innovative project involving a phenomenal research team and advanced technologies,” García said. “The engineering of complex in vitro microfluidic tissue-on-a-chip models that faithfully recapitulate functions of lymphoid tissues will have transformative impact in the field in generating new knowledge and advancing therapies.”

Wellcome Leap was established to build bold, unconventional programs and fund them at scale – programs that aim to deliver breakthroughs in human health over 5 to 10 years and demonstrate seemingly impossible results on seemingly impossible timelines.

Leap is a U.S.-based nonprofit founded by the Wellcome Trust with an initial $300 million investment and modeled on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The $50M HOPE program supports efforts to bioengineer human tissues, organoids, organs, and platforms that can be used to accelerate and scale new treatments for complex human health challenges.

Human Organs, Physiology, and Engineering (HOPE) will focus on two goals: creating a multi-organ platform that recreates human immunological responses with sufficient fidelity to double the predictive value of a preclinical trial with respect to the efficacy, toxicity, and immunogenicity of therapeutic interventions targeting cancer and autoimmune and infectious diseases; and demonstrating the advances needed to restore organ function using cultivated organs or biological/synthetic hybrid systems that double the five-year survival rate of patients on replacement therapy or awaiting organ transplantation.

“When our immune system encounters a new virus, it has a complex program in place to create highly selective, long-lived plasma cells that secrete antibodies,” Singh noted. “The technology developed through this project would enable a better understanding of those processes and potentially lead to groundbreaking new therapies.”

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617633782 2021-04-05 14:43:02 1617634799 2021-04-05 14:59:59 0 0 news Georgia Tech-Emory team receives multi-year funding in $50 million international effort targeting human immunology

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2021-04-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-05T00:00:00-04:00 2021-04-05 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Communications Officer II

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

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646120 646120 image <![CDATA[Ankur Singh]]> image/jpeg 1617632915 2021-04-05 14:28:35 1617632915 2021-04-05 14:28:35 <![CDATA[Wellcome Leap]]> <![CDATA[Ankur Singh]]> <![CDATA[Jeremy Boss]]> <![CDATA[Andrés García]]> <![CDATA[Krishnendu Roy]]>
<![CDATA[Researchers Find New Drug Can Quickly Reverse Eye Pressure Increases from Steroid Eye Drops]]> 27446 Doctors routinely prescribe steroid drops for patients after eye surgery or to treat eye inflammation or swelling. Those drugs can cause a sharp pressure increase inside the eyes, however, requiring additional treatment to prevent damage to patients’ sight.

Researchers have found a relatively new drug works to quickly reverse — and prevent — the rise in intraocular pressure that can result from using ophthalmic steroids, even in patients who don’t respond to other medications. Their findings are published March 30 in the journal eLife.

“It's really hard to treat those patients. They come in with a very high pressure, and they tend to throw the kitchen sink at them in terms of trying to get the pressure down,” said C. Ross Ethier, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and one of the study’s corresponding authors.

Working with collaborators at Duke University, Ethier’s team reviewed patient charts to find people who weren’t responding to any treatment — until their doctors tried netarsudil, a new drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the most common form of glaucoma, called primary open-angle glaucoma.

“It's a little bit of a Hail Mary pass, but the physicians started treating their patients with this new drug, and it actually did a heck of a good job in terms of lowering the pressure in the eye,” Ethier said. “That's actually pretty exciting — it opens up the idea that if you have a patient who's not responding to standard treatment of steroid-induced glaucoma, it might be worth considering this new netarsudil drug.”

Since it’s so new, netarsudil is expensive and not commonly prescribed. But Ethier said their findings suggest turning to the drug sooner for patients experiencing the pressure-increasing effects of steroid eye drops — it could help preserve their vision.

Eye pressure is regulated by a complex network of tissues that secrete, circulate, and drain fluid in the eye. In glaucoma, the drain gets backed up. Physicians typically use several kinds of medications to counter higher intraocular pressure for patients using steroid drops: Some activate a secondary drainage network while others cause the eye to make less fluid in the first place.

Those are indirect routes to solve the problem, Ethier said. Netarsudil goes right at it, targeting the eye tissues that naturally drain fluid to “unclog” them.

“We think the reason this drug is so effective in this particular form of glaucoma is that the pathology is really localized to the drain, and because this type of disease comes on fast, you can hit the drain right away,” said Ethier, who is also the Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering.

To better understand how the drug targets the draining tissues — known as the trabecular meshwork — the researchers turned to an established and reliable mouse model. A hallmark of steroid-induced glaucoma is deposition of extracellular matrix in the trabecular meshwork. Ethier said their experiments showed that netarsudil seemed to be very effective at opening the drain, so to speak, by reducing this matrix material, which normally helps support and bind cells together.

“In a patient, it's actually quite hard to know what's going on to cause the pressure to become lower. There are measurements that you can't make in a patient that you can make in a laboratory setting,” Ethier said. “We hypothesized that this effect we observed was due to the unblocking of the drain, but really, the only way to confirm that was to use this mouse model of the disease.”

Ethier worked with longtime collaborator Daniel Stamer at Duke on the study as well as clinicians at Duke and Washington State University. He said pressure regulation in the eye is a complicated system that still is not well understood. In addition to offering a potential new treatment for patients, he said, their work unravels a bit more about how the system functions.

“This study tells you something about how the whole system is working,” Ethier said. “We've been studying it for many years — not just my lab, but the broader community. And every time we find something, it's like, there's another layer on the onion.”

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, grant Nos. EY030124, EY031710, and EY005722; the BrightFocus Foundation; Research to Prevent Blindness; the Georgia Research Alliance; and Aerie Pharmaceuticals. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agency.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1617199351 2021-03-31 14:02:31 1617218065 2021-03-31 19:14:25 0 0 news Study suggests turning to netarsudil sooner for these hard-to-treat patients could help preserve their sight.

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2021-03-31T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-31T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-31 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

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645933 642321 645933 image <![CDATA[Instilling Eye Drops]]> image/jpeg 1617198294 2021-03-31 13:44:54 1617198294 2021-03-31 13:44:54 642321 image <![CDATA[Ross Ethier]]> image/jpeg 1609123184 2020-12-28 02:39:44 1609123184 2020-12-28 02:39:44 <![CDATA["Anti-fibrotic activity of a rho-kinase inhibitor restores outflow function and intraocular pressure homeostasis"]]> <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier]]> <![CDATA[W. Daniel Stamer]]>
<![CDATA[Ethier Named Editor of Journal of Biomechanical Engineering]]> 27446 C. Ross Ethier has been appointed co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biomechanical Engineering.

Published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the journal focuses on the application of mechanical engineering principles to improve human health. Ethier assumes his new responsibilities immediately.

“This is one of the best-established journals in biomechanics, having published many classic articles,” said Ethier, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering. “We will continue to be relentlessly focused on article quality, and I am looking forward to continuing to increase the diversity of our editorial board, referees, and authors.”

Ethier works at the intersection of mechanics, physiology, and cell biology to understand the role of mechanics in disease and prevent mechanically triggered damage to tissues and organs. He has done extensive research on the eye disease glaucoma and osteoarthritis, which affects the joints.

Ethier said he aims to publish more special issues and review articles as editor, and he would like to create a new type of article focused on measurement and computational techniques in biomechanics and mechanobiology.

In addition to publishing his own research in the journal, Ethier has served as an associate editor and chair of the society’s division that oversees the journal. He’s the second editor-in-chief to hail from Georgia Tech: Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience Founding Director Bob Nerem served in the role for nearly a decade.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1616596943 2021-03-24 14:42:23 1616597069 2021-03-24 14:44:29 0 0 news The journal focuses on the application of mechanical engineering principles to improve human health

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2021-03-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-24T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-24 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

Communications Manager

Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering

]]>
627768 627768 image <![CDATA[Ross Ethier]]> image/jpeg 1571409927 2019-10-18 14:45:27 1616597049 2021-03-24 14:44:09 <![CDATA[C. Ross Ethier]]> <![CDATA[Journal of Biomechanical Engineering]]>
<![CDATA[Identifying Cells to Better Understand Healthy and Diseased Behavior]]> 35692 In researching the causes and potential treatments for degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, neuroscientists frequently struggle to accurately identify cells needed to understand brain activity that gives rise to behavior changes such as declining memory or impaired balance and tremors. 

A multidisciplinary team of Georgia Institute of Technology neuroscience researchers, borrowing from existing tools such as graphical models, have uncovered a better way to identify cells and understand the mechanisms of the diseases, potentially leading to better understanding, diagnosis, and treatment. 

Their research findings were reported Feb. 24 in the journal eLife. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. 

The field of neuroscience studies how the nervous system functions, and how genes and environment influence behavior. By using new technologies to understand natural and dysfunctional states of biological systems, neuroscientists hope to ultimately bring cures to diseases. Before that can happen, neuroscientists first must understand which cells in the brain are driving behavior but mapping the brain activity cell by cell isn’t as simple as it appears. 

No Two Brain Cells Are Alike
Traditionally, scientists established a coordinate system to map each cell location by comparing images to an atlas, but the notion in literature that “all brains look the same is absolutely not true,” said Hang Lu, the Love Family Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Taking a coordinate approach presents two main challenges: first, the sheer number of cells in which none look that distinct; second, cells vary from individual to individual. 

“This is a current huge bottleneck – you can record neuron activities all you want but if you don’t understand which cells are doing what, it’s difficult to compare between brains or conditions and draw meaningful conclusions,” Lu said.

According to graduate researcher Shivesh Chaudhary, there are also noises in data that make establishing correspondence between two different regions of the brain difficult.

“Some deformations may exist in data or some portions of the shape may be missing,” he said.

Focusing on Cell Relationships, Not Just Geography
To overcome these challenges, the Georgia Tech researchers borrowed from two disciplines – graphical models in machine learning and metric geometry approach to shape matching in mathematics – and built a computational method to identify cells in their model organism, the nematode C.elegans.

The team used frameworks from other fields such as natural language processing to build their own modeling software. In natural language processing, the computer can determine what sentences mean by capturing dependencies between words in a statement.

The researchers embraced a similar model but instead of capturing dependencies among the words, “We captured them among the neurons to identify cells,” Chaudhary said, noting that this approach limits error propagation as compared to other methods that examine the geographic location of each cell. 

“Using relationships among the cells was actually more useful in defining a cell’s identity,” Lu said. “If you define one, you will have the implications of the identity of the other cells.”

The approach, say the research team, is significantly more accurate than the current method of identification. The algorithm, while not perfect, performs significantly better in the face of imperfect data, and “gets less rattled” by noise or errors, Lu said.

The algorithm has huge implications for many developmental diseases, since once scientists can understand the mechanism of a disease, they can find interventions. 

“You can use this to do drug and genetic screens to assess genetic risks. You can take someone’s genetic background and examine how this background makes cells behave differently from the standard reference genetic background,” Lu said.

“One cool thing about this approach is that it is data driven, and therefore, it captures the variations among individual worms. This method has a high potential to be applicable to a wide range of studies on development and function under normal as well as disease-like conditions,” said Yun Zhang, professor, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Center for Brain Science at Harvard University.

Faster Data Analysis  
The algorithm greatly accelerates the speed of analyzing whole-brain data. The researchers explained that before this advance, their lab might take 20 minutes to record a set of data, but it would take them weeks to identify cells and analyze data. With the algorithm, the analysis takes “overnight at most on a desktop,” said Chaudhary. 

The technique also supports crowdsourcing, collaborative online platforms that open up the algorithm to a larger community, which can test the algorithm and build atlases. 

“Every researcher working on the same problem could do recordings and contribute to further building these atlases that will be widely usable in all contexts,” Lu said.

The researchers credit the success of the project to being able to draw upon multiple disciplines across physics, biology, math, and chemistry. Chaudhary, who has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering, took advantage of developments in computer science and math to solve this particular neuroscience problem.  

“In our labs, we have a physicist working on building microscopes, we have biologists, we have people like me who are inclined more towards computer science. We also collaborate with a pure mathematician,” he explained. “The neuroscience field has everything. You can go any direction that you want to.”

In addition to Lu and Chaudhary, other Georgia Tech researchers contributing to this work were Sol Ah Lee, Yueyi Li, and Dhaval S. Patel.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health through awards R21DC015652, R01NS096581, R01GM108962, and R01GM088333 and the National Science Foundation under awards 1764406 and 1707401. 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 sponsoring agencies.

CITATION: S. Chaudhary, et al., “Graphical-Model Framework for Automated Annotation of Cell Identities in Dense Cellular Images.” (eLife, 2021) doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.10.986356

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Media Relations Contact: Anne Wainscott-Sargent (404-435-5784)  (asargent7@gatech.edu)  

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1615983858 2021-03-17 12:24:18 1616018793 2021-03-17 22:06:33 0 0 news This multidisciplinary approach to cell identification borrows from existing tools such as graphical models and could lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and ultimately, improve diagnosis and treatment.

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2021-03-17T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-17T00:00:00-04:00 2021-03-17 00:00:00 Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Research News

(404-435-5784)

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645451 645452 645453 645451 image <![CDATA[Graphical Model Framework]]> image/jpeg 1615981388 2021-03-17 11:43:08 1615981388 2021-03-17 11:43:08 645452 image <![CDATA[Professor Hang Lu]]> image/jpeg 1615981882 2021-03-17 11:51:22 1615981882 2021-03-17 11:51:22 645453 image <![CDATA[Shivesh Chaudhary]]> image/jpeg 1615982223 2021-03-17 11:57:03 1615982223 2021-03-17 11:57:03
<![CDATA[Julie Champion and Corey Wilson Elected as AIMBE Fellows]]> 27195 Associate Professors Julie Champion and Corey Wilson of Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering have been elected to the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE).

Election to the College of Fellows is an honor reserved for the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers in the country. According to AIMBE, the most accomplished and distinguished engineering and medical school chairs, research directors, professors, innovators, and successful entrepreneurs comprise the College of Fellows.

Champion and Wilson will be among 174 engineers inducted into the College of Fellows during AIMBE’s 2021 Annual Event on March 26.

Candidates for the AIMBE College of Fellows are nominated by existing members and evaluated by a panel of their peers. Reviewers consider significant research accomplishments and how candidates have engaged in service and given back to the fields of medical and biological engineering for the benefit of society.

Champion was nominated and elected for the creation of materials made from therapeutic proteins that enable their delivery and function in immunomodulatory and cancer applications.

Wilson was nominated and elected for his seminal work in developing the field of biomolecular systems engineering, intelligent microorganisms, and promoting diversity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

According to AIMBE, since 1991, the “College of Fellows has led the way for technological growth and advancement in the fields of medical and biological engineering. AIMBE Fellows have helped revolutionize medicine and related fields to enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world. They have successfully advocated for public policies that have enabled researchers and business-makers to further the interests of engineers, teachers, scientists, clinical practitioners, and ultimately, patients.”

Other Georgia Tech faculty members elected to the AIMBE Fellow Class of 2021 include Professor Lakshmi “Prasad” Dasi of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Professors Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb and Brandon Dixon of the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

For more information about the AIMBE Annual Event, please visit www.aimbe.org.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1615578006 2021-03-12 19:40:06 1615578006 2021-03-12 19:40:06 0 0 news 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15 00:00:00 Brad Dixon

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644829 644829 image <![CDATA[Julie Champion, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering]]> image/png 1614628462 2021-03-01 19:54:22 1614628462 2021-03-01 19:54:22
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech Receives $2.2M in Toyota Research Institute Robotics Funding]]> 35692 The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of 16 academic institutions selected for Toyota Research Institute’s (TRI) collaborative research program. 

Founded in 2015 and now in its second wave of investment with top universities, TRI will invest more than $75 million over the next five years. The university partners will focus on breakthroughs around tough technological challenges in key research priority areas of automated driving, robotics, and machine-assisted cognition.

“Georgia Tech is honored to work closely with TRI to advance robotics in key fields. It’s an exciting start to what we hope will be a longer-term collaboration,” said Seth Hutchinson, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and professor and KUKA Chair for Robotics in the School of Interactive Computing

"This new phase of university research is about pushing even further and doing so with a broader, more diverse set of stakeholders. To get to the best ideas, collaboration is critical. And we sought out universities like Georgia Tech that share our vision of using AI for human amplification and societal good. The funded projects will contribute to two TRI focus areas: automated driving and home robotics," said Eric Krotkov, TRI chief science officer.

The two Georgia Tech projects total $2.2M over the next three years. Under the agreement, each team will be paired with TRI researchers, who will serve as co-investigators. 

An Outdoor MiniCity to Test Autonomous Driving    
The first research project aims to make it easier for universities to test autonomous vehicles, building on Georgia Tech’s AutoRally platform. Georgia Tech researchers use this small-scale autonomous dirt track to test aggressive driving. The car can control turns and calculate for on-course obstacles at speeds approaching 20 miles per hour. The software and simulation environment could help make future self-driving cars safer under similar hazardous road conditions. Georgia Tech researchers will build on this platform to develop a scale-model MiniCity environment to develop and test autonomy algorithms.

Current autonomous vehicle testing is done by industry using full-size vehicles on city streets – an expensive proposition not viable for the broader academic research community.
“There’s a barrier to entry for the science in the field,” said principal investigator James Rehg, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing. “Our platform uses a one-fifth scale vehicle, freeing us to do research at lower cost and without taking any risks – we can crash our car and it’s inexpensive to repair and nobody gets hurt.”

The autonomous cars will navigate the MiniCity and avoid hazards while obeying speed and traffic rules. Sensors will enable the cars to sense obstacles and make decisions on how fast to drive or how to steer. “We are addressing the issue of reproducibility of autonomous driving in a test environment,” Rehg said. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of TRI’s three original funded universities, is leading the research project. MIT operates an indoor autonomous driving track that simulates paved city streets. With Georgia Tech’s outdoor track, researchers can then see how autonomous cars perform over gravel, dirt, and other more realistic driving conditions. 

According to Rehg, autonomy testing presents unique challenges. “There’s a reason you get a driver’s test — you have to understand the variety of situations that can arise in driving and the rules, and you must understand how the context can change and make all the right decisions for safety.” 

With the MiniCity, Rehg and fellow investigator Evangelos Theodorou, an associate professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, hope to develop a standardized testbed and protocol for testing and then invite academic teams to compete and measure the driving performance of their vehicles.  

Human-assist Robots to Help People Age in Place
Georgia Tech’s other TRI research project involves robotics that can assist older adults. It reflects Toyota and TRI’s priority to help older adults age in place.

“It’s really a powerful thing to have independence and be able to do things for yourself,” said the project’s principal investigator, Charlie Kemp, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and adjunct associate professor in the School of Interactive Computing. Kemp also is a co-founder and the chief technology officer of Hello Robot Inc., a company that has commercialized robotic assistance technologies initially developed in his lab.  

Looking at the aging issue, Kemp and co-PI Hutchinson will examine how to take advantage of complementary characteristics that can lead to better physical collaboration between an individual and a robot.

“We are asking, ‘How can an individual and a particular robot best work together?’ ‘How do we individualize the robot to the person to give them a better quality of life?’” Kemp said.

They plan to take a modeling approach initially using physics simulations and, later, conducting studies with young able-bodied participants, healthy older adults, and older adults with impairments. 

The researchers will use sensing technology – including pressure sensors on beds that pinpoint a person’s body position and movement, as well as capacitive sensors that help the robot to better perceive a person’s body position up close. Such information can help with activities like dressing.  

“It’s a very intimate interaction between the robot and the human,” Hutchinson said.

Both investigators share TRI’s view that robotics that can assist older adults with daily living could make a major impact in the well-being of an increasingly graying population. In fact, during the next three decades, the global population over the age of 65 is projected to more than double. Japan, headquarters for Toyota, has the highest proportion of older citizens of any country in the world, with one in four people over 65.  

“We have talked about robots helping older adults for decades and we’re still not there,” said Kemp. “There’s a real opportunity to help people. As I get older, I’d love for this technology to be there for me and for my loved ones. While we still have a long way to go, the research can get us closer,” he added.

Hutchinson acknowledged that it will take time before people see robotic assistive technologies in hospitals or people’s homes, but the potential is there.

“What is most exciting about the TRI project is it has the potential to show up in people’s homes because TRI is invested in getting it there. And that means our research could really make an impact on a broad scale instead of only touching research journals or elite practitioners in the field,” he said.

Robotics Success Takes a Village 
The investigators agree that Georgia Tech’s multidisciplinary focus within robotics is a strength that will serve them well in their work with TRI, and especially in the future when autonomy goes mainstream.

“If you think about what it’s going to take for autonomous vehicles to really exist in the world on a large scale and deliver passengers in high volumes, it’s going to require all those things – engineering, science policy, law, and ethics – all those disciplines coming together,” said Rehg.
Kemp agreed, noting that since founding his Healthcare Robotics Lab in 2007, he’s attracted students from across engineering disciplines — from mechanical and computing to electrical, aerospace, and biomedical.  
“It's definitely something that's distinctive about Georgia Tech — it's a real strength,” he said.

Charlie Kemp owns equity in Hello Robot and is an inventor of Georgia Tech intellectual property (IP) licensed by Hello Robot. Consequently, he benefits from increases in the value of Hello Robot and receives royalties via Georgia Tech for sales made by Hello Robot. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Georgia Tech in accordance with its conflict-of-interest policies.

]]> Anne Sargent 1 1615239114 2021-03-08 21:31:54 1615424878 2021-03-11 01:07:58 0 0 news Georgia Tech researchers will create an outdoor minicity to test autonomous driving in an urban area, while another team will focus on home robotics to help aging populations and robots better collaborate.

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2021-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-08T00:00:00-05:00 2021-03-08 00:00:00 Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Research News

(404-435-5784) 

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645119 645222 645119 image <![CDATA[AutoRally ]]> image/jpeg 1615236952 2021-03-08 20:55:52 1615240710 2021-03-08 21:58:30 645222 image <![CDATA[Stretch with Professor Charlie Kemp]]> image/jpeg 1615424723 2021-03-11 01:05:23 1615424723 2021-03-11 01:05:23
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Expands Its Ranks by 23, Including Liang Han, Britney Schmidt, Amanda Stockton]]> 34528 The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at the Georgia Institute of Technology sees continued growth in its faculty ranks with the addition of 23 new members in recent months. The group covers a wide swath of bioengineering and bioscience research fields, representing Georgia Tech, Emory, and Morehouse College.

This brings the total number of Petit Institute faculty to 244 members; meet the newest cohort below. 

Guy Benian, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. The Benian lab focuses on the functions and structures of giant multi-domain proteins, and the mechanism by which myofibrils are attached to the muscle cell membrane and transmit force.

Ahmet Coskun, assistant professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech and Emory University. Coskun is a systems biotechnologist and bioengineer, working at the nexus of multiplex imaging and quantitative cell biology. His lab aims to deliver biotechnologies for spatial multi-comics profiling vision at the single cell level.

Prasad (Lakshmi) Dasi, professor, Coulter Department. Dasi's research is in translational cardiovascular engineering, pushing engineering to better treat and/or manage structural heart diseases in both adults and children. 

Thomas DiChristina, professor, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech. His Environmental Geomicrobiology Lab focuses on fundamental and applied aspects of microbial metal respiration.

Liang Han, assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech. Han’s research is focused on using a combination of molecular, cellular, immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to understand how the nervous system receives, transmits and interprets various stimuli to induce physiological and behavioral responses. 

Karmella Haynes, associate professor, Coulter Department. The Haynes’ lab aims to identify how the intrinsic properties of chromatin, the DNA-protein structure that packages eukaryotic genes, can be used to control cell development in tissues.

Shella Keilholz, associate professor, Coulter Department. Keilholz's lab studies network dynamics in the brain using a combination of MRI, electrophysiology, and optical imaging.

Pinar Keskinocak, professor, H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Tech. Keskinocak's research focuses on the applications of operations research and management science with societal impact, particularly health and humanitarian applications, supply chain management, and logistics/transportation.

Adam Klein, professor of laryngology, otolaryngology, Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Klein’s research interests include vocal cord reanimation, laryngeal papillomatosis, and designing a surgical trainer for phonomicrosurgery (voice surgery). 

Sakis Mantalaris, professor, Coulter Department. The Biomedical Systems Engineering Laboratory focuses on providing integrated in vitro/in silico platforms for clinical translational biomedical applications, specifically delivering an interdisciplinary program on bioprocess engineering for the production of high-value products for precision healthcare applications.

David Myers, assistant professor, Coulter Department. Myers’ Sensors for Living Systems Lab (SL2) seeks to improve healthcare measurements and learn how to extract information from biological systems.

Tianye Niu, associate professor, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech. The research interests of Niu’s Advanced Imaging Laboratory for Radiation Therapy focus on conebeam CT scanner design and spectral CT algorithm development, connected by the current need for clinical onboard and high-volume data analysis. 

Christopher Porter, associate professor in hematology and oncology, Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Porter's lab studies mechanisms of carcinogenesis and treatment resistance, with the goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies to improve the care of children with cancer.

Felipe Quiroz, assistant professor, Coulter Department. Quiroz’ lab engineers self-assembling materials that are genetically-encoded and stimuli-responsive.

Arijit Raychowdhury, professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech. Raychowdhury’s Integrated Circuits & Systems Research Lab studies low power digital and mixed-signal circuit design, design of power converters, sensors and exploring interactions of circuits with device technologies.

Christopher Saldana, assistant professor, Woodruff School. Saldana's current research interests are centered on establishing the processing science needed to realize next generation material systems (alloys, composites, bio-inspired) and manufacturing processes.

Britney Schmidt, associate professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech. The Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab works to understand how icy ocean worlds form, evolve, and ultimately could give rise to life. 

Nicoleta Serban, professor, Stewart School. Serban’s research focuses on model-based data mining for functional data, spatio-temporal data with applications to industrial economics with a focus on service distribution and nonparametric statistical methods motivated by recent applications from proteomics and genomics. 

Vahid Serpooshan, assistant professor, Coulter Department. Serpooshan Tissue Manufacturing & Analysis Lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to design and develop micro/nano-scale tissue engineering technologies with the ultimate goal of generating functional tissues and organs.

Jennifer Singh, associate professor, School of History and Sociology, Georgia Tech. Singh's research investigates the intersections of genetics, health and society, which draws on her experiences of working in the biotechnology industry in molecular biology and as a public health researcher at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jonathan Stiles, professor of microbiology, biochemistry, and immunology, Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Stiles’ research interests are in molecular pathogenesis of neglected diseases that affect the central nervous system (CNS) with emphasis on cerebral malaria and African trypanosomiasis ("Sleeping Sickness").

Amanda Stockton, assistant professor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Tech. The Stockton group's research centers around three related astrobiological themes: the analysis of extraterrestrial organic molecules in the search for life beyond Earth, fingerprinting life at Earth’s extremes, and exploring the origins of biomolecules and the emergence of life.

Gleb Yushin, professor, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Tech. Yushin’s Nanotech Lab focuses on finding nanotechnology-driven solutions to enable the next generation of lighter, more energy dense, more cost-effective energy storage devices by studying their materials structure-property relationships.

]]> jhunt7 1 1594341324 2020-07-10 00:35:24 1615312951 2021-03-09 18:02:31 0 0 news 2020-07-09T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-09T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-09 00:00:00 Colly Mitchell

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312351 312351 image <![CDATA[Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience]]> image/jpeg 1449244929 2015-12-04 16:02:09 1475895022 2016-10-08 02:50:22 <![CDATA[Petit Institute faculty web page]]>
<![CDATA[Beam Therapeutics Acquires Dahlman’s Gene Therapy Startup]]> 27446 A startup spun out of Georgia Tech in 2018 to guide gene therapies using lipid nanoparticle technology has been acquired by Beam Therapeutics in an all-stock deal announced Feb. 23.

Guide Therapeutics was born out of DNA barcoding and data storage work in the lab of James Dahlman, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. Dahlman co-founded Guide to efficiently develop safe gene therapies with a former graduate researcher in his lab, Cory Sago.

The company uses patented DNA barcoding technology to tag lipid nanoparticles and then simultaneously test thousands of the molecules in search of those that can deliver drugs to different kinds of cells in the body.

One FDA-approved a drug uses the lipid nanoparticle delivery approach to target cells in the liver. Guide is searching for nanoparticles that will work to deliver therapies to other cells and says it can generate drug delivery data at a rate 15,000-fold higher than traditional experiments.

Guide received project management and business mentorship from the Coulter Department’s Biolocity technology commercialization program in 2019. The company also won a Deal of the Year award from Georgia Bio in 2020 after an initial equity investment from GreatPoint Ventures.

Read more about the acquisition.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614173857 2021-02-24 13:37:37 1614364111 2021-02-26 18:28:31 0 0 news Guide Therapeutics was born from James Dahlman's work on DNA barcodes.

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2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

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644640 644640 image <![CDATA[James Dahlman (16x9)]]> image/jpeg 1614195529 2021-02-24 19:38:49 1614195739 2021-02-24 19:42:19 <![CDATA[Read More: "Beam makes $120M bet that GuideTx’s tech brings gene editing beyond the liver"]]> <![CDATA[Beam Therapeutics News Release]]> <![CDATA[Read More: "DNA: Faster Data, More Storage, Better Drugs"]]> <![CDATA[James Dahlman]]> <![CDATA[Guide Therapeutics]]> <![CDATA[Biolocity]]>
<![CDATA[Microscopic Improvements Make a Big Impact]]> 27446 By Zoe Elledge

For the first time, a microscopy system has been able to demonstrate super-resolution imaging of living cells in flow.

Walter H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Shu Jia, along with his Laboratory for Systems Biophotonics, recently introduced their super-resolution optofluidic scanning microscopy system (OSM). It can view sub-diffraction-limit details of flowing cells and includes a high-quality microscope, a microfluidic system, and a micro lens array. These elements combine to create a grid of light spots that illuminate the sample inside a microfluidic channel.  

Current microscopy technologies often sacrifice high-resolution images for a high throughput rate — the number of cells moving through the system to be analyzed. These systems need to stop the flow of cellular material in order to obtain a high-resolution image and therefore disturb the throughput rate. The flaws inherent in the current systems pose problems to researchers who need to analyze a large number of samples and want to take high-resolution images continuously. Jia’s new OSM system provides users the ability to do both.

“When you want to look at a cell, much of its organelles and structures are smaller than the conventional limit of the microscopes,” Jia said. “You want to have a higher resolution so that you can resolve finer structures. We’re trying to provide a system that can generate super-resolution images of the cells in flow so that you can learn more information from the cells and glean more biological insights.”

Jia and his team described their optofluidic scanning microscopy technology in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Lab on a Chip. Their study appeared on the back cover of the third issue for 2021.

The OSM system illuminates the flowing sample in a pattern called multi-focal excitation, which provides super-resolution images of the sample and allows the team to extract even more information during analysis. Multi-focal excitation allows the system to take images without disrupting the flow of samples and makes it a revolutionary addition to the field of microscopy.

Another unique feature of the OSM is its platform accessibility, which is currently a topic of concern in the field of super-resolution microscopy. Jia’s lab created OSM to be compatible with various types of devices and samples so that its use can be broad and interdisciplinary.

“Just like a regular microscope, a lab can use it to image any sample it needs,” said Biagio Mandracchia, the paper’s first author and a postdoctoral fellow who works in Jia’s lab. “It offers a variety of opportunities for different disciplines and levels of research.”

Looking forward, OSM could be applied to fundamental biology studies, providing super-resolution images of large cellular populations and the individual organelles within a single cell.  It could also be used to analyze tissue samples in biopsies. Jia said the technology could be used in preclinical and clinical studies, offering large amounts of diagnostic information faster.

“Our technique is simple, so we expect to see it used by physicians for obtaining diagnostics and analyzing samples, which will potentially have a large impact in both fundamental and clinical research,” he said.  

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1614349327 2021-02-26 14:22:07 1614364057 2021-02-26 18:27:37 0 0 news Shu Jia’s lab combines microfluidics with super-resolution microscopy to create a revolutionary new imaging system

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2021-02-26T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-26T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-26 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart
Communications Manager

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644714 644715 644714 image <![CDATA[Optofluidic Scanning Microscopy]]> image/jpeg 1614289056 2021-02-25 21:37:36 1614289056 2021-02-25 21:37:36 644715 image <![CDATA[Lab on a Chip 2021 Issue 3 Back Cover]]> image/jpeg 1614289214 2021-02-25 21:40:14 1614289214 2021-02-25 21:40:14 <![CDATA["Super-resolution optofluidic scanning microscopy," Lab Chip, 2021, 21, 489-493 ]]> <![CDATA[Laboratory for Systems Biophotonics]]> <![CDATA[Shu Jia]]>
<![CDATA[Using Deep Learning to Better Predict Alzheimer’s ]]> 28153 In the age of big and bigger biomedical data, researchers like May Wang are appropriating a powerful analytics tool from the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) to help. Using deep learning to dig into these cascading cyber-mountains of information, they’re able to open doors to the next generation of precision health care.

“Basically, deep learning tries to imitate the way our brain works,” said Wang, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “We know that this kind of AI has great potential for clinical decision support — for personalized, predictive, and preventive medicine.”

AI systems use algorithms to automatically learn, describe, and improve data, using statistical techniques to spot patterns and then perform actions. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that goes a bit further, using artificial neural networks inspired by the biology of the human brain. Deep learning AI uses a pattern of logic that mimics how a human might arrive at a conclusion. Only much faster.

“The ultimate, long-term goal of this research would be to provide clinicians with a better tool for predicting the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Wang, principal investigator of the Biomedical Informatics and Bio-imaging Laboratory (Bio-MIBLab). “We aren’t there yet. But we feel that this work is like an early spark in a larger explosion of research demonstrating the power of deep learning.”

Wang and her colleagues tested the concept and wrote about it recently in Nature Scientific Reports.

Wang’s team used data gathered from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a multicenter study of 2,000-plus patients (originated by the University of Southern California) that aims to develop clinical, imaging, genetic, and biochemical biomarkers for the early detection and tracking of Alzheimer’s.

Most studies of Alzheimer’s, as well as mild cognitive disorders, use a single mode of data — imaging, for example — to make predictions of what may lie ahead, pathologically, in a patient’s neurological journey.

Wang and her collaborators wanted to know if deep learning could combine multiple kinds, or modalities, of data to offer a fuller picture. It did — their multimodal model outperformed the traditional single-mode model, “significantly improving our prediction accuracy, providing a more holistic view of disease progression,” Wang said.

The team used cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); whole genome sequencing data; and clinical test data, like demographics, neurological exams, cognitive assessments, biomarkers, and medication.

Still, the study was limited to a relatively small number of patients. As Wang explained, all 2,004 patients in the ADNI database had clinical data, but only 503 had imaging data and 808 had genetic data; just 220 patients had all three data modalities.

“That isn’t a large group,” Wang said. “My hope is that this study and others will inspire hospitals and health care organizations to collect multiple modalities of data from the same cohorts of patients so that we can develop a more complete picture of what disease progress is like. We need to test our models on larger, richer data sets.”

It looks as if she will get that opportunity. On the heels of the paper’s publication, three more journals invited her team to write a follow-up paper on the ADNI work, “so I feel like we are moving in the right direction,” Wang said. “This is an important work.”

 

This research was supported in part by the Petit Institute Faculty Fellow Fund, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Faculty Fellow Research Fund, Amazon Faculty Research Fellowship, and the China Scholarship Council (Grant No. 201406010343).

CITATION: Janani Venugopalan, Li Tong, Hamid Reza Hassanzadeh, May Wang, “Multimodal deep learning models for early detection of Alzheimer’s”  (Nature Scientific Reports 2021)

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1614175655 2021-02-24 14:07:35 1614177800 2021-02-24 14:43:20 0 0 news Wang Lab uses AI model to generate new insights into patients’ disease progression

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2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-24 00:00:00 644618 644618 image <![CDATA[May Wang and team]]> image/jpeg 1614175550 2021-02-24 14:05:50 1614191375 2021-02-24 18:29:35
<![CDATA[Researchers Develop Method to Create 3D ‘Map’ of Tissue Structure and Function]]> 27446 A newly published approach to profiling human tissue samples can build a 3D picture of structure and function at the molecular level. The procedure marries techniques from chemistry, biology, and data science and could help doctors design precision therapies in the coming years for patients who aren’t responding to treatment.

In a study of human tonsil tissue, the researchers combined a labeling scheme using isotopes to “tag” specific kinds of cells — in this case, immune cells such as T-cells and B-cells — with imaging mass spectrometry that can identify metabolites, the molecules around those cells that are used for various metabolic functions. And instead of doing this on a single, two-dimensional “slice” of tissue, they used data from about 150 slices to create a 3D map of the tissue.

“An analogy to our system is actually geography: We create the geography of tonsils — where are the valleys, where are the mountains. But when we are doing that, we are looking at more granular features, [including] which molecular distributions are around, and how do they really change within this tonsil tissue,” said Ahmet Coskun, Bernie Marcus Early Career Professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

“Typically, the metabolites are measured in one experiment, and these protein-specific labels are measured in another, separate experiment. Bringing the two together in a unique, single measurement is one of the advantages here,” he said.

Coskun’s team used tools from data science to turn all of that data into a 3D map of the tonsil tissue, which Coskun said is more accurate since the tissues are three-dimensional themselves. They described their unique approach — combining two disparate measurements into a single test and processing a huge amount of data to make a 3D map — Jan. 27 in the journal Science Advances. They call the technique a “3D Spatially resolved Metabolomic profiling Framework.”

“You've seen in hospitals how MRIs are done — they can make entire body 3D. That's not done at the microscale, unfortunately,” Coskun said. “When you look at microscale things, they're just two-dimensional slices most of the time.”

Coskun and his team studied B-cells in tonsils, important harbingers of a potential infection. Tonsils are one of the first areas that sense a foreign bacteria or virus, and the immune cells there warn the body to prepare to fight an invader. The team’s spatial map showed the locations of T-cell and B-cell concentrations. It also discovered lower concentrations of specific kinds of fat molecules called lipids that the B-cells use to proliferate and create antibodies.

In experiments looking at nearly 200 different kinds of metabolites and lipids, the researchers uncovered a unique “code” that identified where specific lipids related to different kinds of cell function were depleted.

“That is information you can use to understand how tonsils respond to outside foreign objects that are interfering our bodies,” Coskun said, “and then how those specific anatomical regions in tonsils use their metabolites and lipid content to respond to them.”

Understanding structure and function in conjunction also can pinpoint how cells are using energy, depleting oxygen, or otherwise working in the body, he noted.

“You can use this information to design precision therapies and to find the best drugs for that specific person,” Coskun said. “Drug libraries attack this specific mechanism or that specific mechanism, so by comparing the drug libraries and a specific patient's structure and function profiles, you can actually design personalized drugs for that specific patient.”

That’s still a few years down the road — Coskun said the specialized machines his team used to develop the metabolic profiling are still expensive and mostly housed in research centers.

But: “The biochemical methods that we developed, they're easy; they can be done in any lab,” he said. “Getting the measurements done is the rate-limiting step here.”

Coskun said he could imagine a centralized service where healthcare providers send patient samples for testing — akin to how genetic sequencing is done now. But as technology advances and the machines get cheaper, he said they could end up in more and more hospitals. His team also is developing a cheaper, custom device to overcome the limitations of requiring costly, relatively rare equipment to employ his team’s approach.

“Our goal is discovery. We'd like to use this machine to survey a number of patients who respond to certain drugs and who don't respond to certain drugs,” Coskun said. “We'd like to compare these groups of patients for a personalized therapy approach. We want to make the framework from our end, so that it's ready for clinicians to adapt later.”

Coskun’s team on the study included graduate students Shambavi Ganesh, Thomas Hu, Mayar Allam, and Shuangyi Cai as well as Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology researchers Eric Woods and Walter Henderson.

Already, Coskun and his collaborators are exploring what his 3D profiling approach can tell researchers about lung and prostate cancers, visualizing how immunotherapies affect the interplay between the immune system and tumors.

“There are cancer cells and immune cells, and we'd like to understand why and how they're interacting, and then, when they come together, what happens to the structure and function in what we call the tumor microenvironment,” he said.

“If you understand the structure and function of that tumor macroenvironment better, then you can trace back which mechanisms worked or haven't worked.”

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health K25 Career Development Award K25AI140783, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and the Bernie Marcus Early Career Professorship. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any funding agencies.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611779460 2021-01-27 20:31:00 1613999671 2021-02-22 13:14:31 0 0 news The procedure marries techniques from chemistry, biology, and data science and could help doctors design precision therapies for patients who aren’t responding to treatment.

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2021-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-27T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-27 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

404.385.2416

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643504 643506 643511 643504 image <![CDATA[3D Molecular Map of Tonsils]]> image/png 1611778760 2021-01-27 20:19:20 1611778789 2021-01-27 20:19:49 643506 image <![CDATA[3D TOF-SIMS Conceptual Diagram]]> image/png 1611778887 2021-01-27 20:21:27 1611778887 2021-01-27 20:21:27 643511 image <![CDATA[Ahmet Coskun]]> image/jpeg 1611779802 2021-01-27 20:36:42 1611780649 2021-01-27 20:50:49 <![CDATA[Read more: "Spatially resolved 3D metabolomic profiling in tissues"]]> <![CDATA[Ahmet Coskun]]>
<![CDATA[Two Woodruff School Professors Elected to AIMBE]]> 27195 The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the election of Woodruff School Professors Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb and Brandon Dixon to its College of Fellows. They were nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows.

Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb is the Harris Saunders Jr. Chair Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and her research interests are in ferroelectric and multiferroic materials and their application to nano- and micro-electromechanical systems as sensors and actuators. Her research projects integrate micro and nanofabrication techniques and processes, with fundamental science of ferroelectric materials. Bassiri-Gharb was elected to the AIMBE for "outstanding contributions to development of innovative sensor materials applicable in personalized medicine and biomedical engineering applications."

Professor Brandon Dixon's research focuses on elucidating and quantifying the molecular aspects that control lymphatic function as they respond to the dynamically changing mechanical environment they encounter in the body. Through the use of tissue-engineered model systems and animal models, his group's research is shedding light on key functions of lymphatic transport, and the consequence of disease on these functions. Dixon was elected to the AIMBE for "outstanding contributions to technology development furthering our understanding of the structure - function relationships in the lymphatic vasculature."

The College of Fellows is comprised of the top two percent of medical and biological engineers in the country. The most accomplished and distinguished engineering and medical school chairs, research directors, professors, innovators, and successful entrepreneurs comprise the College of Fellows. AIMBE Fellows are regularly recognized for their contributions in teaching, research, and innovation. AIMBE Fellows have been awarded the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Technology and Innovation and many also are members of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Sciences.

A formal induction ceremony will be held during AIMBE’s 2021 Annual Event on March 26. Bassiri-Gharb and Dixon will be inducted along with 174 colleagues who make up the AIMBE Fellow Class of 2021. For more information about the AIMBE Annual Event, visit here.

AIMBE’s mission is to recognize excellence in, and advocate for, the fields of medical and biological engineering in order to advance society. Since 1991, AIMBE’s College of Fellows has led the way for technological growth and advancement in the fields of medical and biological engineering. AIMBE Fellows have helped revolutionize medicine and related fields to enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world. They have successfully advocated for public policies that have enabled researchers and business-makers to further the interests of engineers, teachers, scientists, clinical practitioners, and ultimately, patients.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1613571279 2021-02-17 14:14:39 1613571312 2021-02-17 14:15:12 0 0 news 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15 00:00:00 Benjamin Wright
Communications Manager, Mechanical Engineering

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590869 590869 image <![CDATA[Brandon Dixon]]> image/jpeg 1493086001 2017-04-25 02:06:41 1493086001 2017-04-25 02:06:41
<![CDATA[Study Finds Alligator Hearts Keep Beating No Matter What ]]> 34528 Mammals and cold-blooded alligators share a common four-chamber heart structure – unique among reptiles – but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike humans and other mammals, whose hearts can fibrillate under stress, alligators have built-in antiarrhythmic protection. The findings from new research were reported Jan. 27 in the journal Integrative Organismal Biology.

“Alligator hearts don’t fibrillate – no matter what we do. They’re very resilient,” said Flavio Fenton, a professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and the report’s corresponding author. Fibrillation is one of the most dangerous arrhythmias, leading to blood clots and stroke when occurring in the atria and to death within minutes when it happens in the ventricles.  

The study looked at the action potential wavelengths of rabbit and young alligator hearts. Both species have four-chambered hearts of similar size (about  3 cm); however, while rabbits maintain a constant heart temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, the body temperature of active, wild alligators ranges from 10 to 37 degrees Celsius. Heart pumping is controlled by an electrical wave that tells the muscle cells to contract. An electrical signal drives this wave, which must occur in the same pattern to keep blood pumping normally. In a deadly arrhythmia, this electrical signal is no longer coherent.

“An arrhythmia can happen for many reasons, including temperature dropping. For example, if someone falls into cold water and gets hypothermia, very often this person will develop an arrythmia and then drown,” Fenton said.

During the study, the researchers recorded changes in the heart wave patterns at 38 C and 23 C. “The excitation wave in the rabbit heart reduced by more than half during temperature extremes while the alligator heart showed changes of only about 10% at most,” said Conner Herndon, a co-author and a graduate research assistant in the School of Physics. “We found that when the spatial wavelength reaches the size of the heart, the rabbit can undergo spontaneous fibrillation, but the alligator would always maintain this wavelength within a safe regime,” he added.

While alligators can function over a large temperature range without risk of heart trauma, their built-in safeguard has a drawback: it limits their maximum heart rate, making them unable to expend extra energy in an emergency. Rabbits and other warm-blooded mammals, on the other hand, can accommodate higher heart rates necessary to sustain an active, endothermic metabolism but they face increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia and critical vulnerability to temperature changes. 

The physicists from Georgia Tech collaborated with two biologists on the study, including former Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellow Henry Astley, now assistant professor in the Biomimicry Research and Innovation Center at the University of Akron’s Department of Biology.   

“I was a little surprised by how massive the difference was – the sheer resilience of the crocodilian heart and the fragility of the rabbit heart. I had not expected the rabbit heart to come apart at the seams as easily as it did,” noted Astley. 

Lower temperatures are one cause of cardiac electrophysiological arrhythmias, where fast-rotating electrical waves can cause the heart to beat faster and faster, leading to compromised cardiac function and potentially sudden cardiac death. Lowering  the temperature of the body – frequently done for patients before certain surgeries – also can induce an arrhythmia. 

The researchers agree that this study could help better understand how the heart works and what can cause a deadly arrhythmia – which fundamentally happens when the heart doesn’t pump blood correctly any longer.  

The authors also consider the research a promising step toward better understanding of heart electrophysiology and how to help minimize fibrillation risk. Until December 2020, when Covid-19 took the top spot, heart disease was the leading cause of death in the United States and in most industrialized countries, with more people dying of heart disease than the next two causes of death combined.

Astley said the research provides a deeper understanding of the natural world and insight into the different coping mechanisms of cold- and warm-blooded animals. 

Co-author Tomasz Owerkowicz, associate  professor in the Department of Biology at California State University, San Bernardino, considers the findings “another piece of the puzzle that helps us realize how really cool non-human animals are and how many different tricks they have up their sleeves.”

He expressed hope that more researchers will follow their example and use a non-traditional animal model in future research.

“Everyone studies mammals, fruit flies, and zebrafish. There's such a huge wealth of resources among the wild animals that have not been brought to the laboratory setting that have such neat physiologies, that are waiting to be uncovered. All we have to do is look,” he said.

CITATION: C. Herndon, et al., “Defibrillate you Later, Alligator; Q10 Scaling and Refractoriness Keeps Alligators from Fibrillation.” (Integrative Organismal Biology, 2021)  https://academic.oup.com/iob/advance-article/doi/10.1093/iob/obaa047/6120966?login=true.

Research News
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Media Relations Contacts: Anne Wainscott-Sargent (404-435-5784) (asargent7@gatech.edu) John Toon (404-894-6986) (jtoon@gatech.edu) 

Writer: Anne Wainscott-Sargent

 

]]> jhunt7 1 1613490194 2021-02-16 15:43:14 1613520708 2021-02-17 00:11:48 0 0 news A new study reported by Georgia Tech researchers finds that an alligator heart will not fibrillate when exposed to drastic temperature changes, unlike a rabbit (mammal) heart, which is critically vulnerable to heart trauma under those conditions. The research could help  better understand how the heart works and what can cause a deadly arrhythmia – which fundamentally happens when the heart doesn’t pump blood correctly any longer. 
 

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2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-15 00:00:00 Anne Wainscott-Sargent

Research News

(404) 435-5784

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644226 644227 644226 image <![CDATA[Alligator 1]]> image/jpeg 1613398625 2021-02-15 14:17:05 1613398625 2021-02-15 14:17:05 644227 image <![CDATA[Alligator 2]]> image/jpeg 1613398934 2021-02-15 14:22:14 1613398934 2021-02-15 14:22:14
<![CDATA[We Heart Physics: Flavio Fenton on Cardiac Rhythms, Chaos, and a Mission to End Arrhythmias ]]> 34434 It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day for Flavio Fenton to focus his attention on the human heart. It’s what he’s researched for the past 30 years. 

Fenton is a professor in the School of Physics. He once wanted to be a particle physicist, with hopes of working on the Higgs boson while working at the Superconducting Super Collider. Instead, he’s spent the last three decades learning and sharing everything he can about cardiac electrical signals. Why?

It’s because the heart “is a fascinating system that involves a lot of physics,” Fenton shares. “When you think about the physics of a heart, the first thing that comes to mind is the pumping action and the forcing of fluids. But the reason it contracts is an electrical signal. There’s a lot of physiology and biology behind the function of the heart, but underneath it all, there’s so many areas of physics you can apply to it to understand how it works — and how it fails to work, like in the case of arrhythmias,” which happen when a heart beats in an abnormal rhythm, beating too slow or too fast and often irregularly. 

Yes, the story of the heart is one of fluids and mechanics, staples of basic physics. But it also involves the chaos of electrical storms within cardiac tissue that cause those arrhythmias. Fenton’s ability to find the physics and mathematics in those cardiac rhythms has resulted in research that’s helped to create 3D images of arrhythmias, studies that put the latest technologies of computer simulations into consumer electronics so more scientists can have access to them, and work that’s helped us better understand how certain Covid-19 treatments can negatively impact patients’ hearts.

How Fenton came to focus on the heart is also the story of how science, and life, can force adaptations to long-range plans. 

An early career decision: follow the heart

The massive Super Collider project where Fenton hoped to conduct particle physics research in Texas in the 1990s was halfway dug out of the ground when Congress decided to cut its funding. Fenton shares that he didn’t want to compete with a number of suddenly unemployed high energy physicists, so he changed his academic plans and pursued a different scientific mystery.

“At the time it was being discovered that electrical spiral waves in the heart drove certain kinds of arrhythmias. My advisor and I decided to investigate how anatomical features of the heart destabilized spiral waves, leading to deadly arrhythmias.” 

That would necessitate learning physiology and biology, while filling in other gaps in his education so he could pivot to cardiac studies—after he already had spent several years working in particle physics. “In the end, my Ph.D. took ten years,” he recalls. Then, he wanted to apply his nascent theories about cardiac spiral waves and how they propagate within heart tissue. “As a postdoc, I worked for a few years in hospitals so I could learn from a cardiologist, Dr. Steve Evans, about arrhythmias in the clinic.”

Deciding he needed more background in performing experiments, he then went to Cornell to work with Robert Gilmour, a professor “doing cool experiments” with cardiac signals. “Even though I was not trained as an experimentalist, I was allowed a great deal of freedom in the lab, and I learned a lot even when experiments did not always go according to plan in the beginning,” he says with a laugh. 

He was also building his fascination with cardiac electrical signals that would result in published research, grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, and breakthroughs involving how science can image, and possibly treat, the electrical storms that plague unstable hearts. 

A colorful and scary view of heart arrhythmias

Fenton’s fascination with heart rhythms collided with the Covid-19 pandemic in May 2020, when he and colleagues at Georgia Tech, Emory University, and Johns Hopkins University published a paper in the journal Heart Rhythm on the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. At the time, the drug was touted as a potential treatment for those with Covid-19, but the team’s study showed how hydroxychloroquine at the higher proposed doses triggered abnormal heart activity.

“We have illustrated experimentally how the drug actually changes the electrical waves in the heart, and how that can initiate an arrhythmia,” Fenton told Georgia Tech’s Research Horizons. “We used optical mapping, which allows us to see exactly how the waveforms in the heart were changed and why that is dangerous.”

The scientists used a powerful LED-based optical mapping system, along with fluorescent dyes to make visible the movement of the electrical waves. A video produced by Georgia Tech shows sections of a heart lighting up with colors illustrating electrical activity in regions of the organ. Waveform graphics show how a so-called “T-wave” in the heartbeat grows longer with the introduction of hydroxychloroquine. Fenton says that can create problems with succeeding waves.

“The wavelength becomes less homogeneous and that produces sections of the heart where the waves do not propagate well,” he said. “In the worst case, there are multiple waves going in different directions. Sections of the heart are contracting at different times, so the heart is just quivering. At that point, it can no longer pump blood throughout the body.”

The picture of a heart in distress

Two years before the pandemic hit, optical mapping technology had also figured into a 2018 research paper published by Fenton and colleagues. The idea was to find a way to provide more visual, detailed three-dimensional evidence of what goes on throughout the heart during cardiac arrest, something that up until then had largely evaded science.

The kinds of spiral-like waves seen in heart fibrillation (where the cardiac rhythms are dangerously out of sync, and the upper or lower chambers of your heart experience chaotic electrical signals) needed to be visualized in order to see what effects they were having inside cardiac muscle. “However, visualization of the 3D wave phenomena that occur within the cardiac muscle has remained a major scientific challenge. Despite substantial progress in the development of tomographic optical techniques, the measurement of transient electrical scroll waves inside cardiac tissue has so far been impossible,” the authors stated.

Fenton, School of Physics postdoctoral fellow Ilija Uzelac, and colleagues from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-organization and University of California San Diego came up with a mix of panoramic optical mapping and high-resolution four-dimensional ultrasound imaging. “Until now, only surface recording of complex fibrillation was possible,” Fenton said at the time.

The team’s new imaging technique could help lead to earlier identification of heart rhythm disorders and development of better treatments. Thanks to the group’s research, a more complete picture of what exactly happens to a human heart while in distress is also coming into view.

Dialing up heart rhythms on a smartphone 

In 2019, Fenton and researchers had been able to take technologies that allowed them to simulate the spiral waves of heart rhythms by solving mathematical equations using supercomputers, and apply them to widely available consumer electronics like smartphones and laptop computers. 

That research, co-authored by Fenton, School of Physics research scientist Abouzar Kaboudian, and School of Computational Science and Engineering associate professor Elizabeth M. Cherry (then at Rochester Institute of Technology) was published in the journal Science Advances

While heart rhythm studies in general required powerful computers — sometimes supercomputers — the march of digital technology’s progress has resulted in scientists being able to use the same computer chips used in high-end gaming applications and commercial software found in web browsers to expand the reach of 3D modeling. 

“Models that might have been accessible to only a handful of researchers in the world will now be available to many more groups,” Fenton shares. “This also opens the door to many other areas of research where people have equations that can be solved in parallel. Anybody can have access to these programs, which run simulations as much as thousands of times faster than standard CPUs (central processing units).”

Sounding out future cardiac research       

Fenton says he has never looked back at the decision he made to forgo particle physics so he could work on cardiac electrical signals. 

“It showed me that even though you think you want something, you have to be open to new things,” he says. “You may find those other things are more interesting. I’m having so much fun in doing this. I’m so glad I changed to this area.”

And as to what’s next? Fenton’s current projects involve possible advances in the amount of voltage used to treat fibrillations, and new knowledge about where in the heart to apply that voltage. He maintains collaborations with agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and a wide array of researchers and clinicians, with hopes that hospitals will eventually be able to directly apply what he has studied over the years to assist in better patient care and health outcomes. 

“The heart has been a really fun system to study, there’s so much that we still don’t know,” he adds, “but on top of that, it has a main application of directly saving lives, if we can find better and safer ways to prevent and terminate arrhythmias.”

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1612971092 2021-02-10 15:31:32 1613146298 2021-02-12 16:11:38 0 0 news He's a physicist, but Flavio Fenton has long been fascinated by the heart, and the electrical signals that keep it pumping. Fenton recounts how he pivoted from particle physics to researching cardiac rhythms, along the way helping to provide innovations in heart sound studies. 

]]>
2021-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

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644108 638980 644057 644058 644108 image <![CDATA[Heart illustration by Harriss Callahan and Monet Fort]]> image/jpeg 1612991666 2021-02-10 21:14:26 1612991666 2021-02-10 21:14:26 638980 image <![CDATA[Flavio Fenton]]> image/png 1599838469 2020-09-11 15:34:29 1599838469 2020-09-11 15:34:29 644057 image <![CDATA[Cardiac spiral waves in a rabbit's heart (Photo FDA)]]> image/png 1612971972 2021-02-10 15:46:12 1612971972 2021-02-10 15:46:12 644058 image <![CDATA[Electrocardiogram (Photo iStock)]]> image/png 1612972063 2021-02-10 15:47:43 1612972063 2021-02-10 15:47:43 <![CDATA[Fenton & Lieberman: 2018 Faculty Award for Academic Outreach]]> <![CDATA[Maelstroms in the Heart Confirmed]]> <![CDATA[Flavio Fenton Joins ECE's Anna Holcomb as 2020-2021 Governor’s Teaching Fellow]]> <![CDATA[Two Georgia Tech Physicists are APS Fellows]]> <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Physicists Expand Access to Biophysics Research]]> <![CDATA[Study Shows Hydroxychloroquine's Harmful Effects on Heart Rhythm]]> <![CDATA[Using Smartphones and Laptops to Simulate Deadly Heart Arrhythmias]]>
<![CDATA[Citizenship in a New World]]> 28153 It was only fitting that the inaugural Petit Institute Antiracism Distinguished Lecture (view recording) be held on February 4th, which is the birthday of Rosa Parks, mother of the freedom movement; only fitting that it be held just weeks after a violent, failed insurrection at the nation’s capital (though the virtual event was scheduled long before the Jan. 6 uprising); and only fitting that a speaker with the poise and power of Kamau Bobb deliver the lecture.

Bobb, the global lead for diversity strategy and research at Google and the founding senior director of the Constellations Center for Equity in Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, addressed the racial and ideological divide in the U.S. Nearly 200 people virtually attended the stirring lecture, “Considering Citizenship in a New World,” during which Bobb reminded the audience of, “the delicacy of the timing,” urging his listeners not to hide behind a veneer of objective scientific research, “but to be involved, get engaged.”

The new lecture series was created by the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Committee, which was established in the aftermath of last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests in Atlanta. After the committee was organized, said chair Ed Botchwey, “we targeted February, Black History Month, for more visible activities within the Petit Institute and the broader Georgia Tech community.”

The charismatic Bobb, an engineer and science and technology policy scholar, was well known to the committee. A former program officer at the National Science Foundation where he helped shape the national research agenda, Bobb also served as a member of a President Obama taskforce designed to engage young men and boys of color in the STEM landscape. Prior to that, Bobb directed a University System of Georgia collaborative effort with the governor’s office to improve STEM education across 30 public institutions serving 325,000 students.

Bobb began developing the idea for his lecture well before the events of January 6 in Washington, D.C., which cast an unflattering spotlight on what he called, “the culminating event” of a pendular swing in America back toward a post-reconstructionist world. He offered a quick trip through American history after the Civil War: Reconstruction, followed by a century of Jim Crow, “an era of wanton dismissal of black life in America,” followed by a second reconstruction with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Acknowledging that he grew up during the second reconstruction, like many in his virtual audience, Bobb said, “We were the beneficiaries of a system that was trying to right wrongs, trying to reconcile some of the racist ideology inherent in the system of the United States, that we haven’t had enough time to expunge from our national identity. And so, here we are.”

He later added, “The Confederate flag of the defeated South was hoisted in the Capitol of the United States. I’m not sure the symbolism could be any clearer than that. I think it would be to our detriment to not recognize the seriousness of the moment we’re in. It’s important that we pay attention to this divide.”

Bobb told his virtual audience, consisting mostly of people engaged in the research enterprise, that it was irresponsible to hide in a lab and focus solely on research. He talked of responsibility and having courage.

“I think that because we’re this intellectual class with this specific set of skills that we have acquired, it’s more important for us to pay attention, to be involved,” Bobb said. “It hinges on our influence, whether we achieve the best of our American virtues, or retreat into the worst of its possibilities. This is our time, and I would argue that we are the frontier.”

Following his lecture, Bobb took a few questions before giving way to a panel discussion featuring Georgia Tech leaders from the institute, college, and school/department level: Chaouki Abdallah, executive vice president of research; Andrés García, executive director of the Petit Institute; Samuel Graham, chair, Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering; Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts; Susan Margulies, chair, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. Then Bobb met with trainees (students and postdocs) for a more intimate follow-up discussion.

“What we wanted out of this inaugural lecture was a challenge to our community, to apply our talents and experiences as problem solvers to address a social crisis,” said Botchwey, who was joined on the Petit Institute DEI Committee by García, Maria Coronel (postdoctoral trainee), Adeola Michael (postdoctoral student) Nettie Brown (graduate student), Lakeita Servance (staff representative), and Milan Riddick (undergraduate student).

In developing the lecture series, Botchwey said, “We hoped to create an experience that would familiarize faculty and trainees with how some of the intellectual thought leaders on issues of inclusion and diversity are grappling with what’s happening, with the issues of our time, while also placing a spotlight on what’s going in STEM, in the healthcare and bioscience community. We need to be engaged in the conversation.”

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1613096617 2021-02-12 02:23:37 1613138970 2021-02-12 14:09:30 0 0 news Kamau Bobb Delivers Inaugural Petit Institute Antiracism Distinguished Lecture at Georgia Tech

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2021-02-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-11T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-11 00:00:00 644166 644167 644166 image <![CDATA[Kamau Bobb]]> image/jpeg 1613096262 2021-02-12 02:17:42 1613096262 2021-02-12 02:17:42 644167 image <![CDATA[Diversity Panel]]> image/jpeg 1613096389 2021-02-12 02:19:49 1613096389 2021-02-12 02:19:49
<![CDATA[Two Georgia Tech Faculty, Two Alumni Elected to National Academy of Engineering]]> 27195 Four Georgia Tech engineers have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), one of the highest professional distinctions awarded to an engineer. Faculty members Andrés García and Glaucio Paulino, as well as alumni Christopher Jones and Roger Krone, join 103 new members and 23 international members based on their outstanding contributions to engineering.   

García's research efforts focus on integrating innovative engineering, materials science, and cell biology concepts and technologies to generate novel insights into the regulation of adhesive forces and using those insights to develop cell-instructive adhesive materials for tissue repair in regenerative medicine applications.

“This is a great honor and I am humbled to be joining the NAE,” said García. “I am very thankful to my family and friends for their support, my trainees for their hard work and dedication, and my colleagues at Georgia Tech and throughout the academic community who have served as collaborators, mentors, and endless sources of encouragement. Finally, thank you to Georgia Tech for giving me the opportunity to pursue my passion in such an incredible environment.”

Paulino is world-renowned for his contributions to topology optimization and applied mechanics. He created the first stable formulations of topology optimization using polygonal and mimetic-based virtual elements, including deep-learning enhanced multi-resolution and multiscale approaches connected to additive manufacturing processes that have been widely used. He was one of the early investigators to apply topology optimization to the medical field by designing patient-specific large craniofacial segmental bone replacements to help cancer patients and those with massive facial injuries and bone loss.

“Getting elected to NAE was such a great blessing and amazing surprise,” said Paulino, the Raymond Allen Jones Chair in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The idea of becoming an NAE member was always a dream, however, today the dream turned into reality.  I am humbled by this recognition and honored to join such a group of distinct colleagues from academia and industry.”

“I’d like to extend my deepest congratulations to our College faculty members Andrés García and Glaucio Paulino on their induction into the National Academy of Engineering,” said Raheem Beyah, dean and Southern Company chair of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech. “Their forward-thinking research in molecular engineering and topology optimization, respectively, is making an indelible mark on the future of engineering specific to medicine. This is a proud moment for the College, and I look forward to the advances they will make in their fields and the impact that will have on our nation.”

Christopher Jones, who graduated from the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering with a Ph.D. in 1986, currently serves as chief of operations for The Leadership Compass. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Jones served in the U.S. Airforce for nearly 30 years, as well as giving years of service to Northrop Grumman. Jones was elected to NAE for his leadership of defense logistics, sustainment, training, and system readiness in support of U.S. national security.

Roger Krone, who also graduated from the School of Aerospace Engineering in 1978, is chairman and CEO of Leidos, a Fortune 500® information technology, engineering, and science solutions and services leader working to solve the world’s toughest challenges in the defense, intelligence, homeland security, civil, and health markets. Krone has held senior program management and finance positions at The Boeing Company, McDonnell Douglas Corp., and General Dynamics.

“We are also proud of aerospace engineering alumni Christopher Jones and Roger Krone, for their impressive contributions to industry and government,” said Beyah. “Their induction into the Academy for technical leadership in industry engineering puts into practice the academic rigor of the College, acknowledging the impact that our engineers have on government and commercial enterprise.”

2021 NAE Inductees

Andrés García (Mechanical Engineering)
Andrés García is a Regents' Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the Executive Director of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience, as well as the Petit Director's Chair in Bioengineering and Bioscience.

García's research efforts focus on integrating innovative engineering, materials science, and cell biology concepts and technologies to generate novel insights into the regulation of adhesive forces and using those insights to develop cell-instructive adhesive materials for tissue repair in regenerative medicine applications. Garcia’s work has led to multiple biomaterials innovations, which were recognized when he was recently named a Fellow of the National Academy of Innovators.

García earned both his master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and was elected by the NAE for “contributions to molecular engineering of biomaterial surfaces and cell adhesion force technology to characterize stem and cancer cells.”

GARCÍA LAB

Glaucio Paulino (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Glaucio Paulino, the Raymond Allen Jones Chair in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering “for contributions to topology optimization and its applications to medicine and engineering."

Paulino is world-renowned for his contributions to topology optimization and applied mechanics. He created the first stable formulations of topology optimization using polygonal and mimetic-based virtual elements, including deep-learning enhanced multi-resolution and multiscale approaches connected to additive manufacturing processes that have been widely used. He was one of the early investigators to apply topology optimization to the medical field by designing patient-specific large craniofacial segmental bone replacements to help cancer patients and those with massive facial injuries and bone loss.

Paulino’s methods for topology optimization have been employed by industry, academia and national labs. His unique, interdisciplinary, work at the intersection of structural engineering, mechanics and materials has earned him elite recognition from professional societies in both civil engineering and mechanical engineering.

GLAUCIO PAULINO'S RESEARCH

Christopher Jones (Aerospace Engineering) 
Christopher Jones, who graduated from the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering with a Ph.D. in 1986, currently serves as chief of operations for The Leadership Compass. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Jones served in the U.S. Airforce for nearly 30 years, as well as giving years of service to Northrop Grumman. Jones was elected to NAE for his leadership of defense logistics, sustainment, training, and system readiness in support of U.S. national security.

AE MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

Roger Krone (Aerospace Engineering)
Roger Krone is chairman and CEO of Leidos, a Fortune 500® information technology, engineering, and science solutions and services leader working to solve the world’s toughest challenges in the defense, intelligence, homeland security, civil, and health markets. Before being named CEO in July 2014, Krone held leadership roles at some of the most prominent organizations in aerospace for nearly 40 years. Bringing both engineering and financial expertise to bear, Krone has held senior program management and finance positions at The Boeing Company, McDonnell Douglas Corp., and General Dynamics. He has an exceptional track record of building consensus, teams, business, and companies. He is widely recognized as a dynamic thought leader with an intense interest in technology.

HELEN B. AND ROGER A. KRONE FACULTY ENDOWMENT FUND

Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer.  Academy membership 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."

EXPLORE THE FULL LIST OF 2021 INDUCTEES

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1612981772 2021-02-10 18:29:32 1612984550 2021-02-10 19:15:50 0 0 news 2021-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-10 00:00:00 644081 644081 image <![CDATA[Glaucio Paulino, Christopher Jones, Andrés García, and Roger Krone]]> image/jpeg 1612981994 2021-02-10 18:33:14 1612984645 2021-02-10 19:17:25
<![CDATA[Vinayak Agarwal Wins 2021 Cottrell Scholar Award for Ocean Studies]]> 34434 Vinayak Agarwal calls them “alphabets in the language of life” – the small organic molecules, called marine natural products, that inhabit the oceans of the world. They’re what he researches as an assistant professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Biological Sciences.

“The Agarwal laboratory seeks to decipher this language of life,” he explains.

Agarwal and the scientists in his group will have more opportunities to conduct those studies and teach his methods to undergraduate students thanks to his new honor serving as a 2021 Cottrell Scholar through the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).

"Unlocking Marine Eukaryotic Natural Product Biosynthetic Schemes in Research and Education" wins Agarwal a $100,000 prize. He is one of 25 2021 Cottrell Scholars

Through the Cottrell Scholar program, RCSA champions the very best early career teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics, and astronomy by providing significant discretionary awards for research. The program honors and helps to develop outstanding teacher-scholars who are recognized by their scientific communities for the quality and innovation of their research programs and their potential for academic leadership. 

Recipients are chosen through a rigorous peer-review process of applications from top research universities, degree-granting research institutes, and primarily undergraduate institutions in the United States and Canada. Their award proposals incorporate both science education and research.

As their careers advance, Cottrell Scholars become eligible to compete for several additional levels of funding to further their academic careers. They meet each July at the annual Cottrell Scholar Conference to network, exchange ideas, and develop collaborative projects to tackle pressing educational issues with potential national impact.

“In these challenging times, more than ever, science needs young faculty with fresh ideas and a commitment to student success,” says RCSA President & CEO Daniel Linzer. “The 2021 class is a diverse, dedicated, and welcome addition to the Cottrell Scholar community.”

For Agarwal, that means more time and funding to unlock the mysteries of the ocean’s natural products, which he sees at the forefront of fighting the global epidemic of antibiotic resistant pathogens, and keeping the inventory of clinically applicable pharmaceuticals stocked up. As his lab site also points out, “some natural products are also potent human toxins and pollutants, and we need to understand how these toxins are produced to minimize our environmental exposure to them.”

The marine environment, particularly the seabed, is a site for intense biotic competition and presents numerous cases of intricate inter-organismal interactions, Agarwal explains. “It is also the site where some of the most chemically complex natural products are constructed using biological catalysts — gene encoded enzymes,” he adds. “The Cottrell Scholars award will enable the Agarwal laboratory to continue their work on interrogating the biogenetic routes that marine eukaryotic organisms such as marine sponges and seagrasses use to construct natural product.”

These eukaryotic organisms have traditionally missed widespread attention from geneticists and biochemists, as sequencing and mining their large and complex genomes weren’t compatible with contemporary technologies. “Using rationalized biosynthetic schemes that guide the mining of eukaryotic transcriptomes, the Agarwal laboratory is developing new workflows that can sidestep the eukaryotic genetic complexity and enable the discovery of genes and enzymes that construct complex natural products in marine eukaryotic metabolomes,” he says.

The Agarwal laboratory is also bringing the microbial ingenuity in natural product biosynthesis to the classroom, combining it with the latest technological tools for discovery. Agarwal’s Cottrell award will allow him to develop “new curricula in which undergraduates isolate new bacterial strains from marine matrices and pair the discovery of these new-to-science bacteria with cutting-edge mass spectrometry technologies to inventory which novel natural products are made by these bacteria. These efforts will enrich the exposure of the undergraduate community to research directions that have been out of reach of traditional curricula with the aim to enhance their retention in postgraduate STEM education and STEM-based career development.”

Agarwal joins four other College of Sciences researchers named as Cottrell Scholars: David Collard, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, 1994 (the first class of Cottrell Scholars); and three School of Physics scientists: Michael Schatz, 1999; Tamara Bogdanovic, 2016; and Elisabetta Matsumoto, 2020. School of Chemistry and Biochemistry alumnus Chad Risko was also named a Cottrell Scholar in 2018.

“Since the first class of Cottrell Scholars in 1994, this community has provided leadership and guidance that has made a big impact on science, on students, and across academia,” shares RCSA Senior Program Director Silvia Ronco.

Learn more about the Cottrell Scholar program.

]]> Renay San Miguel 1 1612886024 2021-02-09 15:53:44 1612907163 2021-02-09 21:46:03 0 0 news Vinayak (Vinny) Agarwal, an assistant professor with appointments in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the School of Biological Sciences, is named a 2021 Cottrell Scholar for his work on researching marine natural products. The honor helps Agarwal continue his marine research while developing related new curricula for undergraduates.

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2021-02-09T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-09T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-09 00:00:00 Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer II/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

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643732 643732 image <![CDATA[Vinayak Agarwal]]> image/png 1612211758 2021-02-01 20:35:58 1612211758 2021-02-01 20:35:58 <![CDATA[Agarwal, Warnke Named 2018 Sloan Research Fellows]]> <![CDATA[External Research Funding for FY2019 Ends on a High Note]]> <![CDATA[Elisabetta Matsumoto Is 2020 Cottrell Scholar for Research on the Math and Science Behind Knitting ]]> <![CDATA[Georgia Tech Alumnus Chad Risko Named 2018 Cottrell Scholar]]>
<![CDATA[2020 Petit Institute Annual Awards]]> 27195 Join us in congratulating these deserving members of the Petit Institute community for their hard work, accomplishments, and dedication throughout 2020.

2020 ABOVE & BEYOND AWARDS

FACULTY LEADERSHIP

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

TRAINEES

STAFF

SPECIAL RECOGNITION


2021 SUDDATH AWARDS
The F.L. "Bud" Suddath Memorial Award was established by Bud Suddath's family, friends, and colleagues in memory of his contributions to Georgia Tech. The award is given annually to graduate students at Georgia Tech who have demonstrated significant bio-research accomplishments while conducting biological or biochemical research at the molecular or cellular level.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1608069282 2020-12-15 21:54:42 1612885476 2021-02-09 15:44:36 0 0 news 2020-12-18T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-18T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-18 00:00:00 Colly Mitchell - Events Manager, IBB

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<![CDATA[Suddath Symposium Showcases Latest Research in Origins and Early Evolution of Life]]> 27561 The origins of life on Earth present some of the most intriguing questions of all time and have been a topic of active scientific research for almost a century. On January 28-29, 2021, the annual Suddath Symposium featured leaders in the field who shared their recent progress towards answering questions central to this field, including: How did RNA, polypeptides, and polysaccharides first emerge on the early Earth?

This annual symposium, in its 29th year, provides a forum for researchers to share the latest research in bioengineering and bioscience. Each year the symposium topic changes and is held to celebrate the life and contributions of F.L. “Bud” Suddath, a Georgia Tech professor who excelled at research, teaching, and in administrative roles.

The 2021 symposium “Origins and Early Evolution of Life” was co-chaired by Nicholas Hud and Loren Williams. Nicholas Hud, Ph.D., is a Regents’ professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, director of the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, and associate director of the Petit Institute. Loren Williams, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, director of the Georgia Tech Center for the Origin of Life, and researcher at the Petit Institute.

“This year's Suddath Symposium was the perfect opportunity for us to share our latest research on the origins of life and to celebrate 10 years of the Center for Chemical Evolution, said Nicholas Hud. “Our center has been focused on a grand challenge… to discover plausible prebiotic syntheses for the polymers of life or their predecessors. Now that our center has completed 10 years, the maximum number of years that can be supported by NSF, we have a cadre of early career scientists ready to take the reins on future research efforts. It’s exciting to see the impact we have made on the field, and to share these accomplishments through the Suddath Symposium with the broader scientific community.”

The 2021 Suddath Symposium was the first in this 29 year series of symposia to go virtual with 251 attendees from 18 countries around the world.

Each year, the symposium kicks off with a presentation from a Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate who has won the annual Suddath Memorial Award, which was established by the family, friends, and colleagues of Bud Suddath. This year’s 2021 award went to Cristian Crisan, a doctoral candidate advised by Brian Hammer, Ph.D., associate professor in the school of biological sciences at Georgia Tech.

Crisan’s presentation, “Antimicrobial Competition Dynamics of the Vibrio cholerae Type VI Secretion System,” began at 11 a.m. EST on Thursday, January 28th, and was followed by the 1 p.m. start of the 2021 Suddath Symposium on “Origins and Early Evolution of Life.”

VIEW PRESENTATION RECORDINGS

The lineup of “Origins and Early Evolution of Life” speakers included:



 

]]> Angela Ayers 1 1612203286 2021-02-01 18:14:46 1612294905 2021-02-02 19:41:45 0 0 news The annual symposium hosted by the Georgia Tech Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience provided a forum to celebrate the legacy of the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, which has been headquartered at Georgia Tech for the past 10 years.

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2021-02-01T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-01T00:00:00-05:00 2021-02-01 00:00:00 Angela Ayers
Director, Research Communications Services
Georgia Tech
 

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643722 643723 643731 643734 643722 image <![CDATA[Origins and Early Evolution of Life]]> image/png 1612206017 2021-02-01 19:00:17 1612206017 2021-02-01 19:00:17 643723 image <![CDATA[Suddath 2021 Award Winner]]> image/jpeg 1612206478 2021-02-01 19:07:58 1612206478 2021-02-01 19:07:58 643731 image <![CDATA[Suddath Symposium 2021 Nobel laureate speaker]]> image/jpeg 1612211727 2021-02-01 20:35:27 1612211727 2021-02-01 20:35:27 643734 image <![CDATA[Suddath Symposium 2021 Speakers]]> image/jpeg 1612212029 2021-02-01 20:40:29 1612212029 2021-02-01 20:40:29 <![CDATA[Suddath Symposium website]]>
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech and Akron Biotech Awarded BioFabUSA Project to Improve the National Supply Chain for Tissue Engineered Medical Products]]> 27513 BioFabUSA, a Department of Defense-funded Manufacturing Innovation Institute within the Manufacturing USA network, has awarded the Georgia Institute of Technology and industry partner, Akron Biotech, a project titled, “Supply Chain and Process Modeling Algorithms, Methods, and Tools for Tissue Manufacturing and Distribution”. This project will address significant national supply chain issues related to distributing tissue engineered medical products (TEMPs) to U.S. patients in need.

The project aims to create the first simulation-based supply chain model for the rapidly evolving and future facing TEMPs industry, to minimize manufacturing and logistics costs and risks, incorporate Department of Defense (DOD) and other stakeholders’ perspectives into supply chain modeling, inform standards development, and support workforce development. 

“Having a supply chain model will be instrumental in helping new and existing companies plan for the most efficient process flows, resource usage, and cost savings,” said Stephanie Robichaud, technical project manager with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute. “Many startup companies do not realize some of the intricacies in managing their supply chain and many established companies realize the importance of it after experiencing inefficiencies. Having a model that these companies can use will help advance the field of tissue engineering as they plan for scale-up.”

According to Ben Wang, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (GTMI) and professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, “hundreds if not thousands of patients are waiting for tissues and organs in order to have a normal healthy life. Our project is a bold initiative to democratize distribution of replacement tissues and organs by streamlining national supply chains. This project will develop simulation-based tools to enhance the efficiency and resilience of the TEMPs supply chain, making these personalized medicines more affordable and more accessible.”

The growth of the TEMP industry is going to change the supply chain of medical tissues disruptively. To embrace this change, a system-level decision support tool is essential for adopting more cost-effective manufacturing processes and making better investment decisions. To ensure successful commercialization and adoption of this new supply chain decision support tool, the project team will engage multiple stakeholders including DOD, government, regulatory bodies, standards setting organizations, patients, industry, academia, policy experts, education and workforce development experts.

Georgia Tech project leads include Ben Wang, Ph.D., Chelsea C. White III, Ph.D, and Kan Wang, Ph.D. Ben Wang is Gwaltney Chair in Manufacturing Systems, professor in the Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering and School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. In addition, he serves as executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (GTMI). Chelsea C. White III is the Schneider National Chair in Transportation and Logistics and professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech​. Kan Wang is lead researcher of additive manufacturing in the Bio-Engineering Research Laboratory at GTMI.

Leading the project for Akron Biotech is Ezequiel Zylberberg, Ph.D, who is vice president of product development and planning. According to Ezequiel, “the future of regenerative medicine depends on more than our ability to address the scientific challenges of generating the next generation of advanced therapies. Advancing these novel treatments in a way that is scalable will require significant advances in manufacturing innovation. We are eager to collaborate with our colleagues at Georgia Tech, at BioFab USA, and throughout the regenerative medicine industry to confront the challenge of scalability and supply chain resilience through this modelling effort.”  

 

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 — a university that embraces change while continually Creating the Next. The next generation of leaders. The next breakthrough startup company. The next lifesaving medical treatment.

Georgia Tech provides a focused, technologically based education to more than 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The Institute has many nationally recognized programs, all top-ranked by peers and publications alike, and is ranked among the nation’s top five public universities by U.S. News & World Report. It offers degrees through the Colleges of Computing, Design, 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. https://www.gatech.edu/


About Akron Biotech

Akron is a leading materials manufacturer and services provider to the regenerative medicine industry, accelerating the development and commercialization of advanced therapies. Founded in 2006, Akron is an ISO 13485-certified company that operates in line with cGMPs and international standards, enabling advanced therapy developers to de-risk their supply chains and facilitate regulatory approval. The company's unique business model emphasizes knowledge, flexibility and unparalleled service—from development through to commercialization. For more information, please visit www.akronbiotech.com.


About BioFabUSA

BioFabUSA, is a DOD-funded Manufacturing USA Innovation Institute (MII) sustained by the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) is a non-profit organization located in Manchester, New Hampshire. ARMI's mission is to make practical the scalable, consistent, cost-effective manufacturing of tissue engineered medical products and tissue-related technologies, to benefit existing industries and grow new ones.  https://www.armiusa.org/

 

Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute
813 Ferst Drive, NW
Atlanta, GA 30332 USA

Media Relations Contact: Walter Rich (walter.rich@research.gatech.edu)

]]> Walter Rich 1 1596736592 2020-08-06 17:56:32 1612186387 2021-02-01 13:33:07 0 0 news This project will address significant national supply chain issues related to distributing tissue engineered medical products.

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2020-08-06T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-06T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-06 00:00:00 Walter Rich

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637564 637564 image <![CDATA[BioFabUSA project to improve the national supply chain for tissue engineered medical products.]]> image/jpeg 1596734855 2020-08-06 17:27:35 1596827223 2020-08-07 19:07:03
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech and Rockwell Automation Awarded BioFabUSA Project to Develop Wireless Sensor Technology to Facilitate Scalable Production of Efficacious Tissue Engineered Medical Products]]> 27513 BioFabUSA, a Department of Defense-funded Manufacturing Innovation Institute within the Manufacturing USA network, has awarded the Georgia Institute of Technology and industry partner Rockwell Automation a project entitled, “Wireless Electrochemical Sensor Capsules for Real-Time Monitoring of Cell Secretomes and Culture Media in Tissue Growth Bioreactors.” Real-time bioprocess monitoring and control is needed for the scalable production and deployment of efficacious tissue engineered medical products (TEMPs) at reasonable cost.

Billyde Brown, the project's principal investigator, explained, “we are addressing this challenge by working with BioFabUSA, our partners at the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering, the Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing, as well as Rockwell Automation, to develop a fully integrated, wireless, 3D-printed sensor ‘capsule’ to be used for in-situ multiplexed monitoring of critical quality attributes (CQAs). The targeted CQAs include pH, glucose, lactate, and select secreted biomarker concentrations from human mesenchymal stem cells – one of the most common cell types used in tissue engineering.”

In both biopharmaceutical and regenerative medicine industries, an urgent need remains for in-line sensor technology for quantitative real-time bioprocess monitoring and control. Unfortunately, many key CQAs are still monitored off-line or at-line using destructive testing or technologies of significant complexity and cost. In at-line measurement, the sample is typically withdrawn from a single location in the bioreactor and analyzed in close proximity to the process stream, whereas in off-line measurements, the sample is taken to a laboratory and the results are usually not returned in a timely manner for process control.

The Georgia Tech team has previously developed potentiometric sensors based on an extended gate field-effect-transistor (FET) topology whereby a separate gold electrode surface is functionalized with an analyte-specific layer that selectively reacts or binds with the chemical or biomolecule of interest. The charge associated with the attached analyte results in a potential change of the gold electrode. These sensors have previously been used to detect chemicals such as pH and lactate, as well as specific proteins/antibodies in a laboratory environment with accuracy and dynamic range equivalent to Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) and Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). One of the unique aspects of this system is that each sensor surface can be individually functionalized permitting multiplexed (simultaneous) detection of almost any number of different chemicals/biomolecules of interest.

In this project, the Georgia Tech team will integrate these sensors into a “capsule” device smaller than the size of a golf-ball and packaged in a 3D-printed waterproof and biocompatible polymer. The capsule will contain a multiplexed sensor chip, with sealed opening to facilitate interaction between the sensor chip and tissue culture environment, Li-polymer battery, and electronics for micro-control, data acquisition and wireless transmission of sensor data to the smartphone of a technician in charge of monitoring the bioreactor process. In addition, Georgia Tech will work with Rockwell to develop an IoT platform such that other permitted internet-connected devices can securely access the data via a cloud server. Another unique aspect of this technology is that multiple “capsules” could be deployed within a stirred tank bioreactor during high volume production of medical products with the ability to move efficiently throughout the bioreactor due to the mechanical forces of the impellors. This would allow for unprecedented simultaneous measurements at various points within the bioreactor, giving accurate representations of the homogeneity of key parameters over time thus achieving in-situ monitoring of CQAs with high spatial and temporal resolution.

Georgia Tech project leads include Billyde Brown, Ph.D., Kan Wang, Ph.D., and Eric Vogel, Ph.D. Brown is research faculty and director of manufacturing education programs at the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute (GTMI). Wang is lead researcher of additive manufacturing in the Bio-Engineering Research Laboratory at GTMI. Vogel is a professor at the School of Materials Science and Engineering and deputy director for the Institute of Electronics and Nanotechnology at Georgia Tech. The Georgia Tech project leads will also receive support and assistance from Carolyn Yeago, Ph.D., and Krishnendu Roy, Ph.D. whom are directors of the Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing (MC3M). Leading the project for Rockwell Automation is Wayne Charest, who also serves as a liaison between Rockwell and BioFabUSA.

“Being able to obtain real-time data on relevant biomarkers will be critical in advancing the field of tissue engineering,” said Stephanie Robichaud, technical project manager with the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute. “Getting this important information and being able to react to it quickly will result in more consistent manufacturing of a final product that meets its critical quality attributes.”

 

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 — a university that embraces change while continually Creating the Next. The next generation of leaders. The next breakthrough startup company. The next lifesaving medical treatment.

Georgia Tech provides a focused, technologically based education to more than 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The Institute has many nationally recognized programs, all top-ranked by peers and publications alike, and is ranked among the nation’s top five public universities by U.S. News & World Report. It offers degrees through the Colleges of Computing, Design, 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. https://www.gatech.edu/


About Rockwell Automation

Rockwell Automation is the largest company in the world that is dedicated to industrial automation and information and is committed to enabling the next generation of smart manufacturing.  Rockwell’s mission is to improve the quality of life by making the world more productive and sustainable.

https://www.rockwellautomation.com

 

About BioFabUSA

BioFabUSA is a DOD-funded Manufacturing USA Innovation Institute (MII) sustained by the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), a non-profit organization located in Manchester, New Hampshire.  ARMI's mission is make practical the scalable, consistent, cost-effective manufacturing of tissue engineered medical products and tissue-related technologies, to benefit existing industries and grow new ones.  https://www.armiusa.org/

 

Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute
813 Ferst Drive, NW
Atlanta, GA 30332 USA

Media Relations Contact: Walter Rich (walter.rich@research.gatech.edu)

]]> Walter Rich 1 1596739608 2020-08-06 18:46:48 1612186318 2021-02-01 13:31:58 0 0 news Real-time bioprocess monitoring and control is needed for the scalable production and deployment of efficacious tissue engineered medical products at reasonable cost.

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2020-08-06T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-06T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-06 00:00:00 Walter Rich

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<![CDATA[Southeast Center for Mathematics and Biology introduces first wave of junior researchers]]> 34780 When the National Science Foundation and the Simons Foundation launched the Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems (MathBioSys) initiative two years ago, the idea was to bring two distinct disciplines together to enable creative, collaborative research, and ultimately to develop the next generation of researchers who would work seamlessly at interdisciplinary crossroads—researchers like Kelimar Diaz.

Diaz is a Ph.D. student in the Quantitative Biosciences (QBios) program at Georgia Tech, and part of the first wave of junior researchers in the Southeast Center for Mathematics and Biology at Tech, one of the four research centers funded by the NSF and Simons. She’s working in the lab of Dan Goldman, professor of physics, member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience and a team lead at SCMB. Diaz is exactly the kind of trainee that SCMB and the national endeavor needs, exemplifying the kind of interdisciplinary acuity necessary to do innovative research at the intersection of mathematics and molecular, cellular, and organismal biology.

Diaz comes by her wide-ranging interests naturally. Growing up in Puerto Rico, she used to follow her father around on his small farm, surrounded by animals and plants, “learning as much as I could,” she says. “Over time, I was convinced that I would eventually pursue undergraduate studies in biology.

“However, this plan changed abruptly when I took my first physics course in 12th grade,” Diaz added. “Physics felt like my ‘calling,’ but living systems remained at the core of what I care most passionately about. When it came to applying to graduate school, it seemed like an obvious choice: to join a Physics Ph.D. program with faculty that carry out research of physics of living systems.”

That made Goldman’s biomechanics lab and the QBioS program perfect fits for her interests. “Tackling biosciences questions with quantitative approaches is intuitive to me,” she says, adding that the SCMB is taking the integrative approach to another level. “Collaborating with people that have a background in math can bridge gaps between biology and math to develop and use mathematical tools to study underlying processes in biology. This is an opportunity to drive both fields forward. As math is further developed to study biology, a repertoire of tools will be available for researchers to use in the biomedical field.”

Diaz sees herself as part of the vanguard in one of the newest interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the depth and breadth of living systems. And she’s got some good company in the first cohort of SCMB junior researchers, an international group of eager, talented young investigators, like Margherita Maria Ferrari, a postdoctoral researcher from Italy with a classical mathematical training in analytics and statistics.

“During my Ph.D., I went to a conference and met a professor who was giving a talk about mathematics applied to biological processes and chemical processes, which I thought was very interesting, and unexpected,” says Ferrari, who had not been exposed to this kind of integrative research before. “I learned that there were people using tools that I was familiar with, but in a completely different research area.”

So after earning her Ph.D., she sought opportunities that would satisfy her growing interest in this kind of integrative research, and found her current post in the lab of Nataša Jonoska, professor at the University of South Florida and an SCMB team lead.

Ferrari, Diaz, and their fellow junior researchers had a chance to gather and formally meet each other, along with the fourteen faculty team leads and administrators of SCMB, at a center-wide meeting held on September 13 on the Georgia Tech campus. “It was nice to meet all the other researchers and have the chance to give informal presentations of our projects, and to really get an idea of what the center is doing, up close,” Ferrari said.

While the meeting at Tech provided a way for SCMB members to meet and work in person—and a number of junior researchers bonded on Tech’s leadership challenge course while on campus—they’ve been gathering on a regular basis virtually since the center was launched last year. Since this is a center comprised of institutions from across the Southeast, they meet monthly; Georgia Tech personnel gather in one room, and everyone else joins via video conference.

“It was fantastic to have everybody in one space, to hear directly from the junior researchers about the progress of each seed project,” said Annalise Paaby, an SCMB team lead and assistant professor of Biological Sciences at Tech, and a researcher in the Petit Institute. Each project is a collaboration between a faculty member and a trainee from the math side, and a faculty member and trainee from the bio side. “The seed projects have been cooking for a while now, and the trainee pairs gave short, pecha kucha style research reports—so we had a lot of fun with questions and discussion.”

For Kelimar Diaz, SCMB and its interdisciplinary opportunities represents the new leading edge of bioresearch, and will help provide a roadmap for her own future.

“I have not decided what kind of career path to take after I finish my Ph.D., but I believe that the way things are structured in SCMB, I will end up with a repertoire of skills that will allow me to pursue the career of my choosing,” she says. “I am contributing to driving biology and math forward. The Center and all of its members are advancing our knowledge of the living world quantitatively, while providing insight to biological applications and expanding math.”

Meet the first class of SCMB junior researchers who will be advancing that knowledge:

Hector Baños earned his bachelor degree in applied mathematics at Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Mexico, then earned a master’s degree in mathematics and statistics at then his Ph.D. in mathematics the University of Alaska (Fairbanks). Now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Christine Heitsch, mathematics professor at Georgia Tech and director of the SCMB (and also a Petit Institute researcher), he’s working on an SCMB seed project called “RNA structural ensembles in evolution,” a collaboration between Heitsch and Annalise Paaby, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Tech. As he and his fellow researchers work to uncover the processes behind evolution in the species and molecular levels, he’ll work on models for secondary structure inference.

Keisha Cook earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Alabama, where she stayed on to earn both a master’s and Ph.D. in applied mathematics. Now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Scott McKinley at Tulane University, she’s working on a SCMB seed project entitled “Stochastic modeling in cellular internalization and transport,” a collaboration between McKinley and the lab of Christine Payne at Duke University. “My ultimate research goal is to become well versed in many applications of mathematics and cell biology, in order to teach mathematics students how to speak the language of a scientist,” said Keisha, who will analyzing particle tracking data (collected in the Payne Lab) using probabilistic and statistical methods to provide greater insight into the functions of intracellular particle motion.

Daniel Cruz, who earned both his bachelor’s degree (mathematics with a minor in computer science) and Ph.D. (mathematics) at the University of South Florida, is now a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia Tech, though his primary advisor is Elena Dimitrova, currently at California Polytechnic State University but until recently at Clemson University. His SCMB seed project is a collaboration between Dimitrova and Petit Institute researcher Melissa Kemp, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech, and it’s entitled “Modeling emergent patterning within pluripotent colonies through Boolean canalizing functions.” He’s primarily interested in using discrete models to understand how self-assembly and self-organization arises from molecular and/or cellular interactions. “I’m a math postdoc studying how boolean networks and other discrete models can improve our understanding of pattern and structure formation resulting from the differentiation of pluripotent colonies,” he said.

Kelimar Diaz earned her bachelor degree in physics at the University of Puerto Rico (Rio Piedras campus). Now, as a Ph.D. student based in the lab of Dan Goldman, professor in the School of Physics at Georgia Tech, she’s working on an SCMB seed project called “Optimization of limbless locomotion via algebraic kinematics,” a collaboration between Goldman and Greg Blekherman at Georgia Tech. She plans to satisfy her interest in biomechanics an locomotion by exploring undulatory locomotion across length scales to understand control principles.

Margherita Maria Ferrari, a postdoctoral researcher, earned an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in mathematics at Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia in Italy, and her Ph.D. in mathematical models and methods in engineering at Politecnico di Milano. Based in the lab of Nataša Jonoska at the University of South Florida, her SCMB seed project, “Discrete and topological models for DNA-RNA interactions,” is a collaboration between that group and the lab of Petit Institute researcher biologyFrancesca Storici, an associate professor of biology at Georgia Tech. My goal is to develop and apply mathematical tools to advance our understanding of biological and chemical processes,” she said. “My role is modeling RNA structure formation and R-loop structures, which we feel will help us in describing the process of DNA double-strand break repair.”

Gemechis Degaga, who earned his Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry at Michigan Technological University, is currently based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the lab of Julie Mitchell, director of the Biosciences Division. His SCMB seed project, entitled “Identifying disorder-to-order transitions in post-translationally modified proteins,” is a collaboration between Mitchell and the lab of Matt Torres, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech (and a Petit Institute researcher). “My main research interest involves the use of machine learning models to understand protein folding,” he said, describing his role in the project as building “generative adversarial artificial neural networks to learn, predict, and generate new protein sequences which form beta-hairpin secondary structure.”

Youngkyu Jeon, who earned a bachelor of science in life sciences at Korea University, is a Ph.D. student currently based in the lab of Francesca Storici, associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech. He contributes to the seed project on DNA-RNA interactions with Storici, Jonoska and Ferrari. The goal is to understand the topology of RNA-mediated DNA modification and/or repair, which Youngkyu is studying through experiments based on mathematical modeling.

Wei Li, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Matt Torres at Georgia Tech, earned her Ph.D. from Wake Forest University. She’s contributing to the SCMB seed project on protein disorder-to-order transitions with Torres, Mitchell and Degaga. Wei’s role is to test candidate proteins using experimental spectroscopic methods, testing for impacts on biological function.

Bo Lin, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California-Berkeley, is now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Greg Blekherman, associate professor of mathematics at Georgia Tech, where he’s working on the SCMB seed project on limbless locomotion with Blekherman, Goldman and Diaz. Basically, Lin is using his expertise in math to analyze data generated from biological experiments.

Eunbi Park, who earned her undergraduate degree in agricultural science from Kyungpook National University in Korea, is now Park a Ph.D. student in Bioinformatics at Georgia Tech in the lab of associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, contributing to the seed project on modeling emergent patterning within pluripotent colonies with Kemp, Dimitrova, and Cruz. Park collects fluorescent microscopy images of live, dividing stem cells, generating time-lapse movies that capture the behavioral dynamics of the cells. With the input of Cruz and Dimitrova, she is using agent-based models to define that behavior mathematically.

Nathan Rayens earned two bachelor degrees at Miami University: one in mechanical engineering and manufacturing engineering, and another in music. Now a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering and materials science, he’s based in the lab of Christine Payne at Duke University. Now he is working with Payne, McKinley and Cook on the seed project modeling cellular internalization and transport. Rayens said, “this is the first time I’ve been involved in biological research, so my current goal is to learn as much as I can. I’m currently working on analyzing cell samples incubated with and without TiO2 to evaluate lysosome trajectories and see the effect of nanoparticles on cell transport.”

Ashleigh Thomas, who earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and math at the University of Pennsylvania, got her master’s and Ph.D. in mathematics at Duke University. Now based in the lab of Peter Bubenik at the University of Florida, she’s working on an SCMB seed project entitled, “Topological data analysis to understand genetic control of morphological phenotype,” a collaboration between Bubenik and Hang Lu, professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech.

Ling Wang, who earned both her bachelor and master’s degrees in biological science at Georgia State University, is a Ph.D. researcher in the lab of Annalise Paaby, assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech. Her work is in collaboration with Paaby, Heitsch, and Baños on the RNA folding seed project. Wang’s ultimate research interest is in combining computational and biological approach to study how RNA folding structure matters in biological evolution and she’s currently working with Paaby, “to design experiments to test if RNA’s secondary structure will have an impact on early-stop codon readthrough, and ultimately determine its impacts on biological functions.”

Keren Zhang earned his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. Now he’s a Ph.D. student in the lab of Hang Lu at Georgia Tech, where he’s working with Lu, Bubenik and Thomas on the seed project studying morphological phenotype with topological analysis. Zhang’s goal is to establish pipeline methods to quantify the developmental plasticity in the C. elegans connectome.

]]> apaaby3 1 1572122482 2019-10-26 20:41:22 1611260873 2021-01-21 20:27:53 0 0 news When the National Science Foundation and the Simons Foundation launched the Research Centers for Mathematics of Complex Biological Systems (MathBioSys) initiative two years ago, the idea was to bring two distinct disciplines together to enable creative, collaborative research, and ultimately to develop the next generation of researchers who would work seamlessly at interdisciplinary crossroads.

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2019-10-25T00:00:00-04:00 2019-10-25T00:00:00-04:00 2019-10-25 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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628144 628145 628144 image <![CDATA[SCMB Junior Researchers]]> image/jpeg 1572275154 2019-10-28 15:05:54 1572275154 2019-10-28 15:05:54 628145 image <![CDATA[SCMB Ropes Course]]> image/jpeg 1572275239 2019-10-28 15:07:19 1572275239 2019-10-28 15:07:19
<![CDATA[Andrés García Named 2020 Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors]]> 27195 Andrés García has been elected to the NAI Fellows Program, an honor bestowed upon the highest level of academic inventors. This distinction recognizes García’s work in biomaterials for biotechnological applications including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Currently, García serves as executive director of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, Petit director’s chair in Bioengineering and Bioscience, and Regents’ professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

García’s innovative work combines materials science, cell biology and engineering, with a focus on developing revolutionary new biomaterials and therapies for diseases such as type 1 diabetes, infections and bone repair. In addition to his election to the NAI Fellows, he has been recognized by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers as a top Latino educator, the International Union of Societies of Biomaterials Science and Engineering, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It is a great honor being recognized for our intellectual contributions being translated into biotechnological applications and therapies that could impact the lives of millions of individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said García. “This award recognizes the awesome contributions of my wonderful trainees and collaborators. With all the challenges this year, this honor is an important reminder for me that the research that we carry out is important and impactful and that life is a marathon and not a sprint.”

"With all the challenges this year, this honor is an important reminder for me that the research that we carry out is important and impactful and that life is a marathon and not a sprint.” -- Andrés García, Regents’ professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Founded in 2010, the National Academy of Innovators is focused on changing the culture of academic invention. Election to their Fellowship Program is bestowed upon the highest level of academic inventors to recognize their dedication to the welfare of society and improving general quality of life through exceptional inventions. This status is the highest professional distinction for academic inventors. For more information on the National Academy of Inventors, visit their webpage.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1611237435 2021-01-21 13:57:15 1611237435 2021-01-21 13:57:15 0 0 news 2021-01-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-12T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-12 00:00:00 Zoe Elledge

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<![CDATA[Stanley Named Founding Director of McCamish Parkinson’s Disease Innovation Program]]> 27446 The impact of a transformational gift from the McCamish Foundation is starting to take shape at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Garrett Stanley will be the founding director of the new McCamish Parkinson’s Disease Innovation Program led by the Coulter Department to create impact-amplifying partnerships across disparate disciplines, and to advance innovative ideas that will form the basis of future treatment and cure of Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders.

“The fact that Parkinson’s disease is so complex, affects people in different ways, and changes as the disease progresses, means that we need a comprehensive set of diverse approaches and tools that directly confront these complexities,” said Stanley, Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professor in the Department. “This ranges from using sensors to precisely measure movement, to technologies for interacting with the underlying brain circuits, to data analytics to capture things that are hidden in the wealth of data being collected, and beyond.”

Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s are complex diseases of neural circuits that impact virtually every aspect of a person’s life, from moving to sensing to cognition, and ultimately render even the most fundamental aspects of daily life a significant challenge. The cause of Parkinson’s remains unknown, to say nothing of curing the disease.

Stanley said understanding, treating, and ultimately finding a cure for such diseases requires a comprehensive, coordinated, and technology-driven effort at the intersection of fundamental neuroscience, neuroengineering and neurotechnology, data science, and clinical translation — an approach that goes well beyond traditional avenues of scientific research.

To accomplish such lofty ambitions, the McCamish Parkinson’s program will support “Blue Sky” multi-investigator, early stage research; research translation to commercialization; and the cultivation of a collaborative network with Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Georgia to position Georgia as a leader in Parkinson’s research.

“The Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering is uniquely positioned to catalyze this exciting, new interdisciplinary research effort,” Stanley said, “and we are grateful for the significant opportunity the McCamish Foundation has provided.”

Stanley is a leading expert in the control of the complex brain circuits that enable us to sense and move through the world. He has led multiple efforts focused on integrating neuroscience, neuroengineering, and neurotechnology and supported by the National Institutes of Health BRAIN Initiative. Over the past decade, Stanley has been a key driver in building interdisciplinary research in neuroscience and neurotechnology across Georgia Tech and Emory and is co-director of the Georgia Tech and Emory Neural Engineering Centers.

]]> Joshua Stewart 1 1611080634 2021-01-19 18:23:54 1611169591 2021-01-20 19:06:31 0 0 news Garrett Stanley will lead work under a landmark gift from the McCamish Foundation to revolutionize treatment of neurological diseases.

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2021-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-19T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-19 00:00:00 Joshua Stewart

404.385.2416

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643116 538581 643116 image <![CDATA[Neuron Illustration]]> image/jpeg 1611150106 2021-01-20 13:41:46 1611150106 2021-01-20 13:41:46 538581 image <![CDATA[Garrett Stanley, Ph.D.]]> image/jpeg 1464703200 2016-05-31 14:00:00 1475895326 2016-10-08 02:55:26 <![CDATA[Read More: McCamish Foundation Commitment Funds Research of Parkinson’s Disease at Georgia Tech and Emory]]> <![CDATA[Garrett Stanley]]>
<![CDATA[Robles Lab Expands Utility of 3D Tomography]]> 28153 Researchers in the lab of Francisco Robles are advancing optical technologies, bringing greater clarity and understanding to the biomolecular world. Their latest work improves the functionality and affordability of a powerful new imaging technique.

In recent years, three-dimensional refractive index (RI) tomography has emerged as an effective label-free imaging tool in biological studies. But, wrote Robles and colleague Patrick Ledwig, “its limitation to thin samples, resulting from a need of transmissive illumination, and small fields of view has hindered its utility in broader biomedical applications.”

They describe a new approach that enables RI tomography of arbitrarily thick samples with a large view in their paper, “Quantitative 3D Refractive Index Tomography of Opaque Samples in Epi-Mode,” published in the journal Optica.

“We’re enabling a technique that has previously been limited to thin samples,” said Robles, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The technology has been moving toward rendering more detailed 3D information, but it had been limited to individual cells.

“People have been trying to use the technique for various medical applications because you get these beautiful 3D tomographic images, but the fact that this was only possible on individual cells, and not at tissue-level structures, was really limiting,” Robles said.

Robles and Ledwig used a simple, low-cost microscope system with epi-illumination, which reflects light off the sample to create contrast. Existing techniques use transmissive illumination, which passes light through a sample. That works fine for translucent samples but not at all in thicker, more complex structures.

The approach they describe utilizes technology developed in the Robles lab — a quantitative oblique back illumination microscopy (qOBM) optical system — to extend the utility of 3D RI tomography for translational and clinical medicine.

“What we’re doing here is measuring the ubiquitous refractive and index properties in cells and tissues which yields unprecedented contrast for subcellular, cellular, and tissue-level structures,” Robles said.

He said the new approach allows researchers to perform label-free imaging, which is a non-invasive way to view a biological sample in its natural state. Many labs use chemical or fluorescent labels to track cellular activity. But the labeling process is invasive and can be toxic to cells, compromising research findings.

“This technique opens the door to many biomedical applications that were previously out of reach of refractive index tomography,” Robles said. “This will change the way in we do label-free imaging in complex 3D structures like human tissues, and enable new ways to extract biological information non-invasively.”

Robles described their solution as, “elegant and simple, providing near real-time information, without heavy computational processing. You don’t need an expensive laser — we actually used $8 LEDs for this system — and we can convert any basic brightfield microscope into this new tomographic imaging technology for a low cost.”

In their study, the researchers provide a theoretical analysis along with simulations and validation experiments using tissue-mimicking phantoms and thick tissue samples from animal and human brains. Their experiments showed a level of detail that Robles said isn’t possible with current, traditional optical methods.

“The level of cellular detail we are able to achieve now was only possible before with far more complex and expensive nonlinear microscopy systems which are not easily translatable to many important biomedical applications,” he said. “We’re very excited about the capabilities of this new refractive index tomography approach.”

This research was supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (1014540); Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization and Manufacturing; National Cancer Institute (R21CA223853); National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (R21NS117067); and the National Science Foundation (NSF CBET CAREER 1752011).

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1611010796 2021-01-18 22:59:56 1611169500 2021-01-20 19:05:00 0 0 news New research in Optica describes affordable new system for better advanced optical  imaging

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2021-01-18T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-18T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-18 00:00:00 643048 643048 image <![CDATA[Francisco Robles]]> image/jpeg 1611008910 2021-01-18 22:28:30 1611008910 2021-01-18 22:28:30
<![CDATA[Two Postdocs Win Excellence In Research Grants]]> 28153 Two Georgia Institute of Technology postdoctoral researchers whose work is focused on improving the odds against devastating disease are winners of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB) Excellence in Research Grants. María Coronel and Rebecca Donegan will each be awarded $22,000 to help support their projects.

Coronel, who works in the lab of Petit Institute Executive Director Andrés García, won her grant for a proposal entitled, “Engineering leaky gut on chip for studying Type 1 diabetes pathogenesis.”

It’s a new area of research exploring the connections between the gut and the pancreas in diabetes. “By applying microfluidics, stem cells, and immunoengineering, I’m looking to develop new platforms that can help improve early diagnosis, but also challenge our current knowledge of how the disease develops,” said Coronel, who is currently researching immunotherapies to improve insulin replacement as a treatment for type 1 diabetes.

People with the disease require insulin injections to regulate their blood sugars, a treatment that has dramatically improved lives. But it isn’t a cure, “which can be done now with a treatment called islet transplantation,” Coronel noted, adding that the procedure is basically an organ transplant, which means patients have to take potent drugs to suppress their immune system, making them susceptible to infections and other side effects.

“My work is focused on using synthetic biomaterials in the form of microgels for the local presentation of proteins that can control the patient’s immune cells, the surveillance army that keeps you safe from foreign agents like viruses and bacteria,” Coronel said. “By controlling these cells, we can allow insulin-producing beta-cells to engraft and function without being rejected when transplanted. This can minimize the need for immunosuppressive drugs and broaden the patient population that can benefit from this therapy.”

Her goal is to translate these therapies into pre-clinical models to find out if the technology is translatable to treat humans. But ultimately, she added, “I am working towards an independent faculty position to mentor the new generation of diverse scientists in STEM.”

Donegan’s research is aimed at developing a better understanding of how the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis) uses the iron-containing molecule heme to survive during infection.

“Mtb requires heme for survival and has the ability to both uptake heme and to synthesize its own heme,” noted Donegan, who works in the lab of Amit Reddi, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Donegan’s grant-winning proposal is entitled, “Imaging heme dynamics at the host pathogen interface.”

“Iron and heme are really interesting metallonutrients to study because they are both necessary for survival and potentially cytotoxic,” said Donegan, who will use the grant to learn more about how heme levels change throughout the course of infection.

“By combining our sensors with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, we will be able to build a more comprehensive picture of how Mtb uses host heme during infection,” she said. “And by clarifying how and when heme is used during Mtb infection, we will be better poised for identifying new targets for developing new anti-Mtb therapies that target heme homeostasis.”

Donegan’s career plan is to become an assistant professor, teaching undergraduate students. Eventually, she’d like to lead her own independent research, combining the skills she developed in Reddi’s lab with her graduate training in protein crystallography (in the lab of Petit Institute researcher Raquel Lieberman), to study how a nontuberculous mycobacteria [NTM], which she called an emerging threat, transition from being environmental bacteria to pathogenic bacteria. She plans to work toward the discovery of new anti-NTM therapeutic targets.

Meanwhile, she and Coronel are the beneficiaries of the first IBB Excellence in Research Grants, thanks to the generosity of the Beckman Coulter Foundation, as well as Georgia Tech graduate Karl F. Dasher (Industrial Engineering, 1993) and his wife, Erin Dasher, a member of the Petit Institute Advisory Board. The Karl F. Dasher Research Endowment supports research and educational initiatives at the Petit Institute.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1610722035 2021-01-15 14:47:15 1610722118 2021-01-15 14:48:38 0 0 news María Coronel and Rebecca Donegan helping to improve the odds against disease with assist Beckman Coulter Foundation and Dasher Endowment

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2021-01-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-15T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-15 00:00:00 642969 642969 image <![CDATA[Grant Winners]]> image/png 1610721779 2021-01-15 14:42:59 1610721779 2021-01-15 14:42:59
<![CDATA[Julie Champion Wins ACS Rising Star Award]]> 27195 Julie Champion, an associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is a recipient of a 2021 Rising Star Award from the American Chemical Society's Women Chemists Committee.

This award recognizes exceptional early- to mid-career women chemists across all areas of chemistry on a national level. The award was established in 2011 to help promote retention of women in science.

The winners will receive a stipend to cover expenses for an award symposium to highlight their work at the virtual National Meeting of the ACS on April 7, 2021.

The Women Chemists Committee (WCC) serves the membership of the American Chemical Society with its mission to be leaders in attracting, retaining, developing, promoting, and advocating for women in the chemical sciences.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 150,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences.

Champion, who earned her PhD at the University of California, Santa Barbara, joined the faculty of Georgia Tech's School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in 2009.

Her research interests include:

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1609963527 2021-01-06 20:05:27 1609963819 2021-01-06 20:10:19 0 0 news 2021-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-06T00:00:00-05:00 2021-01-06 00:00:00 Brad Dixon
ChBE Communications Manager

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642610 642610 image <![CDATA[Julie Champion, Ph.D. - Associate Professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering]]> image/jpeg 1609963784 2021-01-06 20:09:44 1609963784 2021-01-06 20:09:44
<![CDATA[FDA Enlists Georgia Tech to Establish Best Practices for RNA-sequencing]]> 27303 Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has emerged as an important high throughput technology in biomedical research and translation for its ability to accurately capture genetic information. But choosing proper analysis methods for identifying biomarkers from high throughput data remains a critical challenge for most users. 

For instance, RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) is an NGS technology that examines the presence and quantity of RNA in biological samples, and it requires bioinformatics analysis to make sense of it all. However, there are hundreds of bioinformatics tools with different data analysis pipelines that result in various results for the same dataset. This can significantly hinder the ability to reliably reproduce RNA-seq related research and applications, especially for the regulatory approval process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Choosing the right analysis model and tool to do the proper job for high throughput data analysis remains a great challenge. So the FDA invited a team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to conduct a comprehensive investigation of RNA-seq data analysis pipelines for gene expression estimation to recommend best practices. 

“No common standard for selecting high throughput RNA-seq data analysis tools has been established yet. This has been a huge challenge for studying hundreds of tools that form tens of thousands of analysis pipelines,” noted May Dongmei Wang, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University who led the investigation.

Wang and her colleagues presented their results in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. In their study, the researchers developed three metrics – accuracy, precision, and reliability – and systematically evaluated 278 representative NGS RNA-seq pipelines. 

“We demonstrate that those RNA-seq pipelines performing well in gene expression estimation will lead to the improved downstream prediction of disease outcome. This is an important discovery,” said Wang, corresponding author of the paper, “Impact of RNA-seq Data Analysis Algorithms on Gene Expression Estimation and Downstream Prediction.”

She added, “Because the FDA is a regulatory agency for approving novel medical devices for NGS-genomics to be utilized in daily clinical practices for personalized and precision medicine and health, it is critical to see whether gene expression generated from RNA-seq acquisition and analysis pipeline are reproducible and reliable.”

The team’s comprehensive investigation revealed that the high throughput RNA-seq data quantification modules – mapping, quantification, and normalization – jointly impacted the accuracy, precision, and reliability of gene expression estimation, which in turn affected the downstream clinical outcome prediction (as shown in two cancer case studies of neuroblastoma and lung adenocarcinoma).

“Clinicians and biomedical researchers can use our findings to select RNA-seq pipelines for their clinical practice or research,” Wang said. “And bioinformaticians can use these benchmark datasets, results, and metrics to develop and evaluate new RNA-seq tools and pipelines.”

But one size does not fit every need, as in any machine learning paradigm, Wang noted. 

“The machine learning and algorithms are heavily dependent on goals,” she said. “Thus, based on our extensive experience in biomedical big data analytics and AI for almost two decades, we suggested that the FDA identify top goals for clinical genomics applications first. Based on different needs, different RNA-seq pipelines will be selected to achieve the optimal performance.”

In addition to Wang, the research team included lead author Li Tong, Po-Yen Wu, John H. Phan, Hamid R. Hassazadeh, Weida Tong, and members of the FDA’s Sequencing Quality Control project (Wendell D. Jones, Leming Shi, Matthias Fischer, Christopher E. Mason, Sheng Li, Joshua Xu, Wei Shi, Jian Wang, Jean Thierry-Mieg, Danielle Thierry-Mieg, Falk Hertwig, Frank Berthold, Barbara Hero, Yang Liao, Gordon K. Smyth, David Kreil, Pawel P. Tabaj, Dalila Megherbi, Gary Schroth, and Hong Fang).

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (U54CA119338, R01CA163256, and UL1TR000454), the National Science Foundation (EAGER Award NSF1651360), Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Georgia Tech Partnership Grant, Giglio Breast Cancer Research Fund, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Faculty Fellow Research Fund.

CITATION: Li Tong, et al., “Impact of RNA-seq Data Analysis Algorithms on Gene Expression Estimation and Downstream Prediction.” (Nature Scientific Reports 2020)

Writer: Jerry Grillo

]]> John Toon 1 1607996720 2020-12-15 01:45:20 1607997091 2020-12-15 01:51:31 0 0 news Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has emerged as an important high throughput technology in biomedical research and translation for its ability to accurately capture genetic information. But choosing proper analysis methods for identifying biomarkers from high throughput data remains a critical challenge for most users. 

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2020-12-14T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-14T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-14 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

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642121 642122 642121 image <![CDATA[May Wang Portrait]]> image/jpeg 1607995842 2020-12-15 01:30:42 1607995842 2020-12-15 01:30:42 642122 image <![CDATA[Choosing right analysis model]]> image/jpeg 1607996015 2020-12-15 01:33:35 1607996367 2020-12-15 01:39:27
<![CDATA[Hydrogel Could Open New Path for Glaucoma Treatment Without Drugs or Surgery]]> 27303 Researchers have developed a potential new treatment for the eye disease glaucoma that could replace daily eyedrops and surgery with a twice-a-year injection to control the buildup of pressure in the eye. The researchers envision the injection being done as an office procedure that could be part of regular patient visits.

The possible treatment, which could become the first non-drug, non-surgical, long-acting therapy for glaucoma, uses the injection of a natural and biodegradable material to create a viscous hydrogel — a water-absorbing crosslinked polymer structure — that opens an alternate pathway for excess fluid to leave the eye. 

“The holy grail for glaucoma is an efficient way to lower the pressure that doesn’t rely on the patient putting drops in their eyes every day, doesn’t require a complicated surgery, has minimal side effects, and has a good safety profile,” said Ross Ethier, professor and Georgia Research Alliance Lawrence L. Gellerstedt Jr. Eminent Scholar in Bioengineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “I am excited about this technique, which could be a game-changer for the treatment of glaucoma.”

The research, which was supported by the National Eye Institute and the Georgia Research Alliance, was published Dec. 7 in the journal Advanced Science. The research was conducted in animals, and shows that the approach significantly lowered the intraocular pressure.

As many as 75 million people worldwide have glaucoma, which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Glaucoma damage is caused by excess pressure in the eye that injures the optic nerve. Current treatments attempt to reduce this intraocular pressure through the daily application of eyedrops, or through surgery or implantation of medical devices, but these treatments are often unsuccessful.

To provide an alternative, Ethier teamed up with Mark Prausnitz, professor and J. Erskine Love Jr. Chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech, to use a tiny hollow needle to inject a polymer preparation into a structure just below the surface of the eye called the suprachoroidal space (SCS). Inside the eye, the material chemically crosslinks to form the hydrogel, which holds open a channel in the SCS that allows aqueous humor from within the eye to drain out of the eye through the alternative pathway.

There are normally two pathways for the aqueous humor fluid to leave the eye. The dominant path is through a structure known as the trabecular meshwork, which is located at the front of the eye. The lesser pathway is through the SCS, which normally has only a very small gap. In glaucoma, the dominant pathway is blocked, so to lessen pressure, treatments are created to open the lesser pathway enough to let the aqueous humor flow out.

In this research, the hydrogel props open the SCS path. A hollow microneedle less than a millimeter long is used to inject a droplet (about 50 microliters) of the hydrogel-precursor material. That gel structure can keep the SCS pathway open for a period of months.

“We inject a viscous material and keep it at the site of the injection at the interface between the back of the eye and the front of the eye where the suprachoroidal space begins,” Prausnitz said. “By opening up that space, we tap a pathway that would not otherwise be utilized efficiently to remove liquid from the eye.”

The injection would take just a few minutes, and would involve a doctor making a small injection just below the surface of the eye in combination with numbing and cleaning the injection site. In the study, the researchers, including veterinary ophthalmologist and first author J. Jeremy Chae, did not observe significant inflammation resulting from the procedure.

The pressure reduction was sustained for four months. The researchers are now working to extend that time by modifying the polymer material — hyaluronic acid — with a goal of providing treatment benefits for at least six months. That would coincide with the office visit schedule of many patients.

“If we can get to a twice-a-year treatment, we would not disrupt the current clinical process,” Prausnitz said. “We believe the injection could be done as an office procedure during routine exams that the patients are already getting. Patients may not need to do anything to treat their glaucoma until their next office visit.”

Beyond extending the time between treatments, the researchers will need to demonstrate that the injection can be repeated without harming the eye. The procedure will also have to be tested in other animals before moving into human trials.

“The idea of having a ‘one-and-done’ treatment that lasts for six months would be particularly helpful for those whose access to healthcare is non-optimal,” Ethier said. “Having a long-acting therapy would have an additional advantage during times of pandemic or other disruption when access to healthcare is more difficult.”

This research was supported by a grant from the National Eye Institute (R01 EY025286) and by the Georgia Research Alliance. 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 funding agencies.

Mark Prausnitz serves as a consultant to companies, is a founding shareholder of companies, and is an inventor on patents licensed to companies developing microneedle-based products (Clearside Biomedical). These potential conflicts of interest have been disclosed and are being managed by Georgia Tech. J. Jeremy Chae, Jae Hwan Jung, Ethier, and Prausnitz are listed as co-inventors on an IP filing related to this study.

CITATION: J. Jeremy Chae, et al., “Drug-free, Non-surgical Reduction of Intraocular Pressure for Four Months After Suprachoroidal Injection of Hyaluronic Acid Hydrogel.” (Advanced Science, 2020) https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.202001908

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

Writer: John Toon

]]> John Toon 1 1607369225 2020-12-07 19:27:05 1607369444 2020-12-07 19:30:44 0 0 news Researchers have developed a potential new treatment for the eye disease glaucoma that could replace daily eyedrops and surgery with a twice-a-year injection to control the buildup of pressure in the eye. The researchers envision the injection being done as an office procedure that could be part of regular patient visits.

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2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-07T00:00:00-05:00 2020-12-07 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

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641902 641903 641902 image <![CDATA[Close-up of Eye]]> image/jpeg 1607368440 2020-12-07 19:14:00 1607368440 2020-12-07 19:14:00 641903 image <![CDATA[Microneedle and eye]]> image/jpeg 1607368518 2020-12-07 19:15:18 1607368518 2020-12-07 19:15:18
<![CDATA[Susan Margulies Elected to National Academy of Medicine]]> 28153 The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) has elected Georgia Tech Professor Susan Margulies to its prestigious 2020 class. Election to NAM is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Margulies was selected for her work "identifying how and why injuries occur in children’s brains and lungs through the development and use of novel platform technologies and models, and for translating basic discoveries of three therapies in pre-clinical trials," according to the Academy. She is only the second person from Georgia Tech to receive the honor. The late Bob Nerem, founding director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is the other.

Margulies is the Wallace H. Coulter Professor and Chair in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, a shared department between the two schools. She is also a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Injury Biomechanics. Her research interests center around traumatic brain injury in children and ventilator-induced lung injury with a focus in these areas on prevention, intervention and treatments.

“We are incredibly proud and offer our warmest congratulations to Susan Margulies as she is named to the 2020 class of the National Academy of Medicine,” said Steven W. McLaughlin, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Georgia Tech. “This well-deserved distinction is a testament to her as an exemplary scholar, leader, and collaborator.”

New NAM members are elected by current members through a process that recognizes individuals who have made major contributions to the advancement of the medical sciences, health care and public health.

Margulies came to Georgia Tech and Emory in 2017 from the University of Pennsylvania. She now leads a BME department that is consistently ranked as one of the nation's most prominent programs of its kind in both graduate and undergraduate education. In 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked BME’s graduate program (based at Georgia Tech) No. 2 in the U.S., and  the joint Georgia Tech/Emory BME graduate program was also ranked No. 2. It is the largest BME department in the country, with 68 faculty on two campuses and more than 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

Margulies, also a member of the Petit Institute, earned her BSE in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University and a PhD in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Mayo Medical School. Earlier this year, in February, Margulies was also elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which is among the highest professional distinctions conferred to an engineer.

Established originally as the Institute of Medicine in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine addresses critical issues in health, science, medicine and related policy and inspires positive actions across sectors.

National Academy of Medicine Elects 100 New Members

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1603120880 2020-10-19 15:21:20 1606941096 2020-12-02 20:31:36 0 0 news Coulter Department chair earns one of the highest honors in health and medicine

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2020-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-19T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-19 00:00:00 640314 640314 image <![CDATA[Susan Margulies]]> image/jpeg 1603111842 2020-10-19 12:50:42 1603111842 2020-10-19 12:50:42
<![CDATA[Industry Secrets]]> 27195 They are two worlds, culturally apart, different as night and day. One is viewed as a calling to the curious, a realm of enlightenment; the other, an answer to marketplace needs, an engine of economics.

Academia and industry. Campus vs. corporate. Exploration for new knowledge — or to move a company or industry forward.

But for many College of Engineering faculty, such shorthand dichotomies are false. Every day, they show up for work to conduct sophisticated research, teach classes, mentor students and serve on committees. They live the life of the scholar-instructor, yet they bring something extra: the experience of working in the private sector, in all its relentless pursuit of fast results and shareholder value.

This experience, they say, generated reward in several forms. Time spent in industry yields valuable lessons to share in classrooms and labs. Here are a few.

Emily Grubert
Assistant Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Right now: Big decisions are made in operating big infrastructure like energy, water and transportation systems. Grubert’s research combines decision-support tools with opinion research to improve how those big decisions are made. She generates a deeper, clearer picture of various options, making it easier to compare one against another.

Her time in industry: Stints at McKinsey and Pacific Gas & Electric gave Grubert an up-close look at massive infrastructure systems and helped her develop scenario-based models to guide decision making. “I chose McKinsey because I wanted to work with refineries, power plants, mining companies and other big infrastructure [entities] in a way that didn’t require me to go work for them,” she says. “So, in my interview, I let them know I would quit in a couple of years to get a Ph.D.”

Takeaways from the private sector: “On the academic side, we tend to under-value process and governance in decision-making,” Grubert says. “We focus on a few facts — we’ll do an analysis and say, ‘option X is 20% better.’ But that doesn’t mean that the 'better' option will be what someone in industry will choose because there are other considerations. There’s a whole lot more to decision making on the private sector side.”

The perfect-fit field: “Interdisciplinary” is an important word to Grubert, and she was glad to find that Georgia Tech embraced a multi-disciplinary view of research. “I view engineering as a way to apply science to help people thrive in the world, and that includes social science,” says Grubert. “Once you start working in civil and environmental engineering, it’s amazing how important social science is, because you’re working with so many people.”

David Frakes
Associate Professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and School of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Right now: The Frakes Lab at Georgia Tech is brand-new — he arrived at his alma mater in the summer of 2020 — but its focus is to explore and model new kinds of medical devices. One noteworthy niche: He aims to design devices that fit and work across a population of patients by testing the devices on thousands of virtual people. “Machine learning is in everything these days,” he says. “If you have data, you have a big advantage.”

His time in industry: In the early days, it was hedge fund management on Wall Street. Later came a five-year stop at Google, where he spearheaded mobile imaging projects. Most recently, Frakes led an Apple team that developed algorithms driving the camera software inside the iPhone 11. Along the way, he even started two companies.

Takeaways from the private sector: Frakes runs his lab like a startup: with quarterly objectives, “go and no-go” decisions and a sense of urgency. “In academia, there may not be a clear finish line on the calendar or work plan,” he observes, “but in a startup, your time is not infinite. You only have so much runway.” This entrepreneurial approach to research, he adds, is appealing to students. “It’s just fun to have skin in the game in the lab every day.”

The ‘village in the room’: At Arizona State, Frakes helped launch the BRAIN Center, an industry-university research collaborative to develop neurotechnologies. He’s applied for NSF funding to do the same at Georgia Tech. The new center would engage multiple companies with a large group of faculty from engineering and other disciplines. “It takes a village to go after certain problems,” he says. “With this center, we’ll be getting a lot of subject matter experts in the room to work on problems too big for any one of them to solve alone.”

Blair Brettmann
Assistant Professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and School of Materials Science and Engineering
Right now: Brettmann develops new technologies and materials to make it possible for products with many different components to be customizable quickly. “In industry, to make a small change to a product, you have to address many issues. So, just changing that one item can take huge amounts of time. A lot of what I’m doing is looking at ways to pair with a computational person to make it faster.” Her research has widespread implications for materials and processes in manufacturing.

Her time in industry: Working for the French materials company Saint-Gobain, Brettmann led R&D projects for new coatings, surface treatments and other functional materials. “I didn’t do much in the lab — it was really more managerial,” she says. A desire to stay engaged in technical work and to mentor students led her back to campus.

Takeaways from the private sector: “One of the best things to come out of my industry work is project management,” Brettmann says. “As a principal investigator, I now have seven different research projects. But as a postdoc I only had to focus on one or two things at a time. My industry experience helped me manage better.”

Some say the grass is greener: “I like to joke that when you’re in industry, you see academics as rich because of the fancy equipment they have. And academics see industry as rich because they have more money to pay people. Also, university researchers focus on getting their name out there, getting funding, helping students. In industry, there’s a lot of time pressure to get a product out the door.”

Mohit Singh
Associate Professor, H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering
Right now: Singh conducts research to improve decision making, employing a highly mathematical approach. A large part of his exploration involves designing algorithms to arrive at discrete decisions using fixed variables to decide this-or-that, very quickly. Significantly, he’s moving the field into new ways of using open-data variables to inform the algorithms, thus bridging the separate worlds of “discrete and continuous optimization.”

His time in industry: In a seven-year stint for Microsoft, Singh worked to optimize the process for deciding how data from cloud computing customers should be distributed across computer servers. Factoring in high-demand times, storage needs and other variables, he helped develop frameworks that determined server access, optimizing for both the client and server performance.

Takeaways from the private sector: Industry inspires much of Singh’s research. “I’m currently working on a lot of optimization problems,” he says, “and apart from being fundamental and theoretical in nature, so many of them are motivated by what comes in practice. I want to look at relevant problems.”

The difference is the students: A major motivating factor in Singh’s decision to come to Georgia Tech was the opportunity to guide and mentor students. Most undergraduates don’t do much research, “but you see them grow and develop their own vision.” Graduate students can work on problems for several years. However, in industry, “you only have interns, and you don’t get to see them grow over time.”

Joseph Oefelein
Professor, Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering
Right now: Oefelein uses ultra-powered computing and algorithms to create highly sophisticated simulations of propulsion and power systems such as liquid rocket engines. His simulations and models reveal the interplay between turbulence and the complex physical processes in combustion. The goal is to find new ways to optimize these systems.

His time in industry: Seventeen years with a national laboratory may sound like a government job, but Oefelein’s career with Sandia National Laboratories had him in constant partnership with private industry, working with researchers in energy science to improve the predictability of combustion models. During this time, he always kept an eye on how those models could inform the design of different types of piston, gas turbine and rocket engines manufactured for automobiles, trucks and aviation and space vehicles.

Takeaways from the private sector: “In the classroom, a lot of times I can just naturally answer a question like, ‘Why do I need to learn this?’” Oefelein says. “Not only can I share real-world experience and observations with students, I can give a perspective right away, and in a natural way.” Like the other engineering faculty, the ability to work with students was a motivating factor to return to a campus.

You can’t learn if you don’t share: Having experienced academia, government and industry, Oefelein has a perspective on how all three can work together to address some of the intractable problems facing humankind. “Understanding comes from sitting down with colleagues in different sectors and being able to appreciate all the pros, cons and constraints,” he says. “The more communication that occurs, the better off everyone will be.”

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1605646967 2020-11-17 21:02:47 1605702575 2020-11-18 12:29:35 0 0 news 2020-11-13T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-13T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-13 00:00:00 Michael Baxter - COE

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641392 641392 image <![CDATA[Petit Institute researchers, Blair Brettman and David Frakes]]> image/jpeg 1605646384 2020-11-17 20:53:04 1605647231 2020-11-17 21:07:11 <![CDATA[Brettman profile]]> <![CDATA[Frakes profile]]>
<![CDATA[Newly Devised Metachronal Artificial Cilia Have Nanotech Applications]]> 27195 Like tiny hairs waving together, cilia are microscopic organelles found throughout nature. In your nose and ears, their metachronal beating helps trap dirt and debris. In the reproductive system, they help the ovum progress through the body and assist the movement of sperm. Given how important they are to the biological world, researchers have wondered if they could reproduce them artificially to assist in microscale motions in a variety of applications.

Artificial cilia apparatus setupThat is where a team of Georgia Tech researchers, which includes Professor Alexander Alexeev, Professor Peter Hesketh, and recent Ph.D. graduate Srinivas Hanasoge, comes in. The group has successfully engineered synthetic biomimetic cilia, and developed a mechanism for manipulating them using magnetic fields in a way that mimics their natural motion. Their results were recently published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces in an article titled “Metachronal Actuation of Microscale Magnetic Artificial Cilia.

“Cells utilize highly complex biomechanical machinery to actuate cilia,” explains Alexeev. “Such machinery is inaccessible in synthetic systems, so the challenge was figuring out how to design relatively simple microscopic devices that can closely mimic the complex three dimensional motion of cilia that can still be fabricated using our current microfabrication technology.”

In their work, the group demonstrated several methods to create arrays of magnetic artificial cilia that are capable of producing metachronal waves. They also showed that they could control the direction of the waves using different types of magnetic actuation.

Cilia being activated by a magnetic field

“The most surprising result was that our relatively simple system that is composed of anchored magnetic filaments and a rotating magnet can produce complex motion that resembles the beating of biological cilia,” said Alexeev.

At large scales in everyday life, fluid mixing does not pose particular challenges, but at the microscale it is a significant obstacle. Alexeev and his collaborators are hoping their findings can be applied to micro and nano devices that operate with extremely small amounts of fluids, including organ-on-a-chip and lab-on-a-chip systems.

The group is also optimistic that their findings will lead to an improved understanding of how cilia functionthat they can be reproduced and manipulated artificially.

“The ability to produce different types of metachronal motion using our synthetic cilia opens a possibility to systematically investigate the effects of ciliary activity and metachrony on different functions performed by biological cilia such as fluid and particulate transport,” explains Alexeev. “This is important for better understanding the biological function of cilia and devising new ways to manipulate minute amounts of fluids at the microscale.“

This research was sponsored by the USDA NIFA (Grant #11317911) and the NSF (CBET-1510884). The cleanroom fabrication was assisted by the staff of Georgia Tech IEN.

CITATION: Srinivas Hanasoge, Peter J. Hesketh, and Alexander Alexeev, “Metachronal Actuation of Microscale Magnetic Artificial Cilia,” (ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2020, 12, 41, 46963–46971). https://doi.org/10.1021/acsami.0c13102

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1604594098 2020-11-05 16:34:58 1604594601 2020-11-05 16:43:21 0 0 news 2020-11-03T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-03T00:00:00-05:00 2020-11-03 00:00:00 Benjamin Wright - Communications Manager

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<![CDATA[Gates Foundation Supporting Wearable Tech in Ethiopia]]> 28153 Every semester a group of bioengineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology meets for lunch to play catch-up with each other, presenting their latest work, an informal show-and-tell. That’s how Rudy Gleason and W. Hong Yeo began a collaboration which has netted a $200,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

At this particular gathering, Gleason gave a presentation of his work – a safe, low-cost, easy-to-use (and develop) 3D camera (utilizing an X-Box gaming system) to assess the risk of obstructed labor for patients in Ethiopia. But after hearing Yeo’s presentation about wearable device technology, Gleason approached him and said, “’What if we use your technology to monitor the health of neonates in Africa?’ In a minute we came up with this idea.”

The idea is to use Yeo’s wireless, wearable device for continuous health monitoring of neonates (infants under four weeks of age), who have the highest risk of mortality, particularly in the developing world. Yeo is developing the soft electronic sensor system for the project.

“Over the last 20 to 30 years, we’ve done a pretty good job at reducing childhood mortality rates, but actually if you look at the neonatal mortality rates, they’ve almost flatlined,” said Gleason, an associate professor in both the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University and the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Tech.

“This first month of life period is when about half of all child mortality happens and most of these neonatal deaths occur in the first week of life,” Gleason adds.

Yeo, assistant professor in the Woodruff School and the Coulter Department, has developed a small, wireless, wearable electronic device that would adhere on an infant’s chest like a Band-Aid and communicate to a tablet or smartphone to offer real-time, continuous monitoring of temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen concentration, with alarms for high risk conditions. It could provide timely indication to mothers and health care workers regarding hypothermia, apnea, asphyxia, respiratory distress, hypoxemia, oxygen oversaturation, neonatal infections, and sepsis. 

“The hospitals we work with in Ethiopia really don’t monitor [the infants] very often – there are often too few probes, and healthcare workers must go to each neonate and take measurements of heart rate and blood/oxygen as they have time,” said Gleason. “So, I thought if we have a device like this that can continuously monitor four key parameters – heart rate, respiration rate, blood/oxygen level, and temperature – we could identify at-risk neonates while there is still time to intervene. This could reduce neonatal mortality in low-resource settings like Ethiopia.”

The funding will support a clinical pilot study among 50 neonates in the Neonatal Unit at Tikur Anbessa Specialized Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where Gleason and his research team will work with clinicians, engineers, and hospital staff to collect essential data, assess the efficacy, improve usability and participant acceptability, and assess the feasibility, market, and cost of local manufacturing of this all-in-one wearable device.

Leading the Ethiopian team are clinical researchers Asrat Demtse, who is a neonatologist, and Abebaw Fekadu, who heads up the Center for Innovative Drug Development and Therapeutic Trials for Africa (CDT-Africa, a sub-awardee on the Gates grant).

“We’re going to pilot this in hospitals, but I think the long-term version for this could be a first seven day-of-life baby monitor for at-risk newborns that a mother has connected to an app on her phone,” said Gleason. “That would be amazing. There’s a little bit of research between now and then to get that to work, but it can totally be an application. And even here in the U.S., we have sudden infant death syndrome, sleep apnea, etc. and this device could potentially catch all those things. I think this is an opportunity to save the lives of many babies.”

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1603216265 2020-10-20 17:51:05 1604509343 2020-11-04 17:02:23 0 0 news Rudy Gleason and Hong Yeo collaborating on device for continuous health monitoring of at-risk infants

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2020-10-20T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-20T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-20 00:00:00 640396 640395 640413 640396 image <![CDATA[Rudy Gleason]]> image/jpeg 1603205183 2020-10-20 14:46:23 1603205183 2020-10-20 14:46:23 640395 image <![CDATA[Neonates]]> image/png 1603205131 2020-10-20 14:45:31 1603205131 2020-10-20 14:45:31 640413 image <![CDATA[W. Hong Yeo]]> image/jpeg 1603215904 2020-10-20 17:45:04 1603215904 2020-10-20 17:45:04
<![CDATA[New Wave of Researchers Connecting Across the Miles]]> 28153 Last year, the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University launched the Computational Neural Engineering Program (CNEP). Supported by the National Institutes of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a collection of world class faculty researchers is training a new generation of multidisciplinary researchers working at the intersection of computational neuroscience, data science, and clinical neurophysiology.

They all gathered, from a distance, for the CNEP’s first annual online retreat (September 25-26). The online event – which drew 18 grad students (trainees), 11 faculty members, two staff members, and three advisory board members from the neurotech industry – was sponsored by the Georgia Tech and Emory Neural Engineering Centers, and the Laney Graduate School at Emory.

The wide ranging of retreat foci took in science, technology, neuro-ethics, diversity and inclusion, with time for a neuro-themed quiz show. Meanwhile, second year PhD students – that new generation – presented their research, which focused on, among other things, topics such as machine learning methods for decoding brain activity, and brain imaging techniques for understanding Alzheimer’s disease. And a neuro-ethics exercise sparked a lively discussion about the societal impact of brain-enhancing technologies, with real-world examples.

In spite of the physical distance between the attendees, they found a sense of community, with plenty of break-out sessions that promoted multiple interactions. This included a team Jeopardy event over home-delivered pizza (which took some nifty coordination), and an interactive session on identity development, intersectionality, and privilege, and the affect how these things can have on professional, academic, and personal lives.

The retreat is just one facet of the training program currently being carried out remotely, according to the CNEP leadership team: Garrett Stanley and Lena Ting, professors in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory; Chris Rozell, professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Michael Borich, assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy (all four also are members of the Petit institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech).

Trainees and faculty are also taking part in monthly workshops and weekly seminars that focus on technical training and professional development.

With an award from NIBIB of nearly $1 million, CNEP was designed to take advantage of the explosive development of new tools for measurement and manipulation of nervous system function, with the goal of addressing challenges posed by the growing threat of neurological diseases and disorders on an expanding senior population. The program supports the development of PhD students in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, as well as Bioengineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Machine Learning at Tech, leveraging  the growing strength of Neural Engineering at both universities.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1604026627 2020-10-30 02:57:07 1604026627 2020-10-30 02:57:07 0 0 news Computational Neural Engineering Program at Georgia Tech and Emory holds first annual online retreat

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2020-10-29T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-29T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-29 00:00:00 640788 640789 640788 image <![CDATA[CNEP Retreat]]> image/jpeg 1604026341 2020-10-30 02:52:21 1604026341 2020-10-30 02:52:21 640789 image <![CDATA[CNEP leaders]]> image/jpeg 1604026438 2020-10-30 02:53:58 1604026438 2020-10-30 02:53:58
<![CDATA[Annabelle Singer Wins Society for Neuroscience Award]]> 28153 WASHINGTON, D.C. — Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Annabelle Singer has been named a recipient of the prestigious Jannett Rosenberg Trubatch Career Development Award from the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). It is one of four awards that SfN gives to leading researchers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of women in neuroscience.

 

“SfN is honored to recognize this stellar group of neuroscientists for both their groundbreaking research and their leadership in advancing women in neuroscience,” said SfN President Barry Everitt. “These women are dedicated to both innovative, creative approaches to scientific questions and mentoring, advocating, and being role models for young female and minority scientists. They have all already made significant contributions to their fields, developing new tools for research or therapeutic approaches.”

 

The Trubatch Award recognizes early-career researchers who have demonstrated great originality and creativity in their work. Singer, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and a member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, was called out for her unique research in addressing Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Singer’s groundbreaking insights into the interaction between neural activity and immune function is providing a possible new therapeutic approach, utilizing flickering auditory and visual stimulation at specific frequencies to affect not only sensory areas but memory circuits, too. These oscillations trigger biochemical signals that mobilize the brain’s immune cells to help clean up molecular hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, like amyloid and hyperphosphorylated tau. Repeated stimulation also improved memory in mouse models.

 

Because of the non-invasive nature of the procedure, it is considered a promising candidate for treatment (Singer recently presented the results of a preliminary clinical trial in humans).

 

Also receiving a Trubatch Award was Markita Landry (assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley), who developed probes that can measure chemical communication between neurons. Winners of the Trubatch Award receive a $2,000 prize.

 

Other SfN award winners were: Carmen Maldonado-Vlaar (University of Puerto Rico) and Barbara Shinn-Cunningham (Carnegie Mellon University), who won the Bernice Grafstein Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Mentoring; Courtney Miller (Scripps Research Institute) and Ghazeleh Sadri-Vakili (Harvard Medical School), who won the Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award; and Kristen Harris (University of Texas-Austin) and Yasmin Hurd (Addiction Institute of Mount Sinai), who won the Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

The Society for Neuroscience is an organization of nearly 36,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and the nervous system.

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1603819179 2020-10-27 17:19:39 1603819287 2020-10-27 17:21:27 0 0 news Georgia Tech/BME assistant professor recognized with career development honor for original, creative work

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2020-10-27T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-27T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-27 00:00:00 634636 634636 image <![CDATA[Annabelle Singer, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory]]> image/jpeg 1587561629 2020-04-22 13:20:29 1587567475 2020-04-22 14:57:55
<![CDATA[‘Programmable Medicine’ is the Goal for New Bio-circuitry Research]]> 27303 In the world of synthetic biology, the development of foundational components like logic gates and genetic clocks has enabled the design of circuits with increasing complexity, including the ability to solve math problems, build autonomous robots, and play interactive games. A team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology is now using what they’ve learned about bio-circuits to lay the groundwork for the future of programmable medicine. 

Looking like any other small vial of clear liquid, these programmable drugs would communicate directly with our biological systems, dynamically responding to the information flowing through our bodies to automatically deliver proper doses where and when they are needed. These future medicines might even live inside us throughout our lives, fighting infection, detecting cancer and other diseases, essentially becoming a therapeutic biological extension of ourselves. 

We are years away from that, but the insights gained from research in Gabe Kwong’s lab are moving us closer with the development of ‘enzyme computers’ — engineered bio-circuits designed with biological components, with the capacity to expand and augment living functions.

“The long-term vision is this concept of programmable immunity,” said Kwong, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, who partnered with fellow researcher Brandon Holt on the paper, “Protease circuits for processing biological information,” published Oct. 6 in the journal Nature Communications. The research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

The story of this paper begins two years ago when, Holt said, “our lab has a rich history of developing enzyme-based diagnostics; eventually we started thinking about these systems as computers, which led us to design simple logic gates, such as AND gates and OR gates. This project grew organically and we realized that there were other devices we can build, like comparators and analog-digital convertors. Eventually this led to the idea of taking an analog-to-digital converter and using that to digitize bacterial activity.”

Ultimately, they assembled cell-free bio-circuits that can combine with bacteria-infected blood, “with the basic idea that it would quantify the bacterial infection — the number of bacteria — then calculate and release a selective drug dose, essentially in real time,” said Holt, a Ph.D. student in Kwong’s Laboratory for Synthetic Immunity and lead author of the paper. 

The researchers sought to construct bio-circuits that use protease activity to process biological information under a digital or analog framework (proteases are enzymes that break down proteins into smaller polypeptides and amino acids). The team built its analog-to-digital converter with a tiny device, made only of biological materials, that changed signals from bacteria into ones and zeroes. Then, the circuit used these numbers to choose the proper dosage of drugs needed to kill the bacteria without overdosing.

That’s the traditional approach — bio-circuits digitizing molecular signals, allowing operations to be carried out by Boolean logic. The second part of the team’s new paper takes a more nuanced approach, with a focus on analog circuits as opposed to digital. “We treat protease activity as multi-valued, signals between one and zero,” Holt said. 

That multi-valued approach led to yet another idea, and ultimately to the bigger picture of analog bio-circuits.

“We got tempted by this idea of fuzzy logic, where you can think about what happens if there’s a signal between zero and one,” he added. “That’s more like an analog circuit. We were really inspired by this concept, so we decided to build analog bio-circuits with the same basic materials as before — proteases and peptides. And we were able to solve a mathematical oracle problem, Learning Parity with Noise.”

The ability to process information from the biomolecular environment with an analog framework is critical, according to Kwong.

“Fuzzy logic is interesting because biology doesn’t think in zeroes and ones,” he said. “Biology operates as a spectrum. So if you think about enzymatic activity, it’s never just on and off. It’s on, and the activity can be anywhere between zero and one. So the long term goal is to recognize that biology is not as simple as a digital electronic circuit. You actually need some capacity to work with analog signals.” 

This work was funded by an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (Award No. DP2HD091793) as well as an R01 from the NCI (GR10003709). 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 NIH.

Competing interests: Gabe Kwong is co-founder of and consultant to Glympse Bio, which is developing products related to the research described in this paper. This study could affect his personal financial status. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Georgia Tech in accordance with its conflict of interest policies. Holt and Kwong are listed as inventors on a patent application pertaining to the results of the paper. The patent applicant is the Georgia Tech Research Corporation. The application 24 number is PCT/US19/051833. The patent is currently pending/published (publication no. WO 25 2020/061257). The biological analog-to-digital converter and the analog protease circuits are covered in the patent. 

CITATION: Brandon Holt, Gabe Kwong. “Protease circuits for processing biological information.” (Nature Communications, 2020)  (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18840-8)

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

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

Writer: Jerry Grillo

]]> John Toon 1 1602117018 2020-10-08 00:30:18 1603465783 2020-10-23 15:09:43 0 0 news In the world of synthetic biology, the development of foundational components like logic gates and genetic clocks has enabled the design of circuits with increasing complexity, including the ability to solve math problems, build autonomous robots, and play interactive games. A team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology is now using what they’ve learned about bio-circuits to lay the groundwork for the future of programmable medicine. 

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2020-10-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-07 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

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640002 640005 640002 image <![CDATA[Programmable drugs]]> image/jpeg 1602116274 2020-10-08 00:17:54 1602116274 2020-10-08 00:17:54 640005 image <![CDATA[Analog-to-digital converter]]> image/jpeg 1602116582 2020-10-08 00:23:02 1602116582 2020-10-08 00:23:02
<![CDATA[Petit Institute to Host Race and Racism Event on Covid-19]]> 27195 VIEW RECORDING - TOWN HALL 10.19.20

The Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience will host a conversation next week with two campus leaders on the topic of “Covid-19 Is a Health Disparity.” The event will feature Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean and Ivan Allen Jr. Chair in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, with an opening presentation by Manu Platt, associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering.

The conversation will take place Monday, Oct. 19, from 1 to 2 p.m. via Microsoft Teams, with a maximum capacity of 250 attendees, limited to those logged in with an active Georgia Tech account. Attendees will have the chance to ask questions, and a recording will be made available on the Petit YouTube Channel following the event.

In addition to the many research angles of Covid-19 — including therapeutics, diagnoses, co-morbidities, public health, public policy, and healthcare systems — this session will highlight the health disparities associated with Covid-19, providing an additional perspective into this public health crisis.

The discussion has been planned and organized by a committee for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Petit Institute. The group was formed in September following a June town hall and a collective desire within the community to take action following national race-related tragedies.

“The goal of our committee is to create a safer, more inclusive, and more highly prosperous environment for our historically underrepresented minority faculty, trainees, and staff,” said Ed Botchwey, committee chair and associate professor in the Coulter Department. “We hope to maintain a focus on anti-racism action within our Institute.”

In support of this goal, the group began hosting town halls within the Petit community on ways to think about systemic racism across disciplines.

“We must confront the routines, biases, and contradictions that preserve the status quo,” Botchwey said. “This town hall is a fresh call to antiracist action in the bioengineering and bioscience community. I’m looking forward to our conversation as we look for ways in which all of our members can answer the call.”

Other committee members include:

Nettie Brown, BME, predoctoral representative
María Coronel, ME, postdoctoral representative
Andrés García, ME, Petit Institute executive director
Milan Riddick, BME, undergraduate representative
Lakeita Servance, Petit Institute, staff representative

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1603208179 2020-10-20 15:36:19 1603214688 2020-10-20 17:24:48 0 0 news 2020-10-16T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-16T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-16 00:00:00 Kristen Bailey - Institute Communications

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<![CDATA[Smartphone App for Anemia Showcased in NTAC Challenge]]> 28153 By Janat Batra

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded $100K to the startup company Sanguina Inc., co-founded by Wilbur Lam, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. The startup received the award, coming in third place in the 2020 NIH Technology Accelerator Challenge (NTAC), for its smartphone anemia app.

NTAC awards are specifically given to designs and developments of non-invasive, handheld, digital technologies to detect and diagnose sickle cell disease, malaria and anemia. Receiving the award means that the Lam and his team can inject more capital into their efforts to launch a new app and develop other diagnostic tools.

Lam, a pediatric hematologist, takes care of children with blood diseases like anemia. His familiarity with the disease drives his clinical and research interests.

“I see kids and teens suffer and deal with anemia all the time,” said Lam, who also is a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.  “A tool like this could really improve the quality of their lives and perhaps even improve their clinical outcomes by enabling those patients to take control of their own health using a simple tool that requires only their smartphones.”

The app, AnemoCheck Mobile, is a smartphone platform designed for noninvasive anemia diagnosis and underlying etiology screening. The app can estimate the user’s blood hemoglobin levels and help them track any changes over time. The technology of the app relies on using a picture of the user’s fingernail beds to evaluate anemia and its unique algorithm to screen for sickle cell disease.

Members of the Sanguina team also include Georgia Tech alumni Erika Tyburski (BME ’12), and Rob Mannino (BME ’13 and Emory/GT BME Ph.D. ’18), the CEO and CTO of the startup, respectively. Both Tyburski and Mannino, in addition to Lam, share personal ties to the smartphone app and Sanguina’s mission.

“Rob has a genetic blood disorder called beta thalassemia, which causes him to suffer severe anemia,” said Lam. “His lifelong struggle with anemia is what motivates him to develop tools to help patients like himself.”

Tyburski, on the other hand, has suffered from iron deficiency anemia her whole life.

“But Rob and Erika aren’t alone, there are two [billion] people worldwide suffering from anemia for many different reasons. As such, hemoglobin level has the potential to be treated as a new vital sign for indication of wellness or illness on a global scale,” said Lam.  

Out of those two billion living with anemia, 83 million are in the United States. The startup’s team of engineers, clinicians, scientists and regulatory professionals are currently hard at work to turn the app into a commercial product.

“We have recently been funded by and partnered with The Seed Lab as a strategic investor to round out our team with marketing, branding and positioning expertise,” said Lam.  “Together, we plan to launch the first version of our consumer-facing app this year.”

Ultimately, Lam and his team hope to deliver affordable hemoglobin testing to populations who need it the most.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1601325444 2020-09-28 20:37:24 1602775090 2020-10-15 15:18:10 0 0 news Wilbur Lam and startup company Sanguina receive $100K to accelerate technology

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2020-09-28T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-28T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-28 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Communications officer

Georgia Tech (EVPR/BME)

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<![CDATA[Blockade of Immune Checkpoints in Lymph Nodes through Locoregional Delivery Augments Cancer Immunotherapy]]> 27195 Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great promise against multiple types of cancer, but they are still not sufficiently effective to help many patients.

In a study published in Science Translational Medicine this week titled “Blockade of immune checkpoints in lymph nodes through locoregional delivery augments cancer immunotherapy,” Susan N. Thomas, Woodruff Associate Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discusses the potential for directing these cancer immunotherapy drugs to lymph nodes to improve treatment efficacy at lower doses and reduce side effects.

“Immunotherapy has transformed medical oncology. The opportunities for engineers to impact this field are expansive and continue to grow every day. We were delighted to contribute to the understanding of how immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs can be more effectively used in order to someday soon improve the lives of cancer patients,” said Thomas.

These findings offer new insights into the mechanisms of these immunotherapy drugs, which have been used to treat cancer patients including Georgia’s very own Jimmy Carter and for which the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded in 2018. The study also provides rationale for innovations in drug delivery technologies to be developed for and applied to cancer immunotherapy to improve cancer patient outcomes.

“We continue to innovate drug delivery technologies that will improve cancer patient outcomes,” said Thomas. “This work forms the foundation for some of those technologies to build upon.”

Thomas has co-founded a company focused on innovations in cancer immunotherapy related to this study and other collaborative work with study co-author Edmund K. Waller, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., a professor in the Departments of Medicine, Pathology, and Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Together they also serve as two of the three co-directors of the Center for Regenerative Engineering and Medicine at Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Department of Defense.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1601899931 2020-10-05 12:12:11 1601900318 2020-10-05 12:18:38 0 0 news 2020-10-01T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-01T00:00:00-04:00 2020-10-01 00:00:00 Benjamin Wright
Communications Manager

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<![CDATA[IBB’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion]]> 27195 Since its inception, the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB) has been an example of how spaces and behaviors in bioengineering and biosciences can be reimagined to facilitate interdisciplinary research at the highest levels. The members of the IBB community are leaders, and through our collective leadership we create the future not only for our disciplines but also for the society as a whole. The repeated failures of our society to address the challenges of police violence and systemic racism are extending an opportunity to us to collectively lead in the effort in creating a safer, more inclusive, and more highly prosperous environment for our historically underrepresented minority faculty, trainees, and staff.
 
The message from our most recent town hall forum is that now is a time for action. As such, we have established a new IBB committee for diversity, equity, and inclusion to help coordinate our work.

The committee is constituted of our IBB members including:

This committee is now meeting regularly to plan activities and new events in the coming months. Our committee has several immediate areas of focus:

We are also committed to re-examining the roster of speakers in our ongoing seminar series to recruit perspectives from underrepresented minorities. Recent events in Kenosha (Jacob Blake) and Rochester (Daniel Prude) have led us to plan another town hall forum this fall, and we hope to introduce the committee formally where we will solicit additional ideas and suggestions from our community.
 
One thing that is clear to the IBB community is that the time to change is now. We’re here, we're listening. Let's talk.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1600345703 2020-09-17 12:28:23 1601041692 2020-09-25 13:48:12 0 0 news 2020-09-15T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-15T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-15 00:00:00 639246 639246 image <![CDATA[Diversity]]> image/jpeg 1600372061 2020-09-17 19:47:41 1600372061 2020-09-17 19:47:41 <![CDATA[Petit Institute website]]>
<![CDATA[May Wang Inducted as IAMBE Fellow]]> 28153 May Dongmei Wang, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, was one 31 newly inducted Fellows of The International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (IAMBE) that were welcomed on September 18, 2020 during the Virtual Meeting of 2020 Carnegie Mellon Forum on Biomedical Engineering and Annual Symposium of International Academy of Medical and Biological Engineering (BME Forum).
 


The IAMBE, affiliated with the International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering (IFMBE), is made up of fellows who are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the profession of medical and biological engineering.

 

Wang, a Kavli Fellow and Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Cancer Scholar, is also a researcher in both the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and the Institute for People and Technology at Georgia Tech. She also is director of the Biomedical Big Data Initiative, co-director of the Georgia Tech Center for Bio-Imaging Mass Spectrometry, and principal investigator of the Biomedical Informatics and Bio-Imaging Laboratory (Bio-MIBLab) at Georgia Tech and Emory.

 

Bio-MIBLab research focuses primarily on translational biomedical informatics with the goal of developing software applications and algorithms that solve real-world clinical problems – essential tools for personalized, predictive, and preventive medicine. Recently, Wang and her team were involved in an international study providing insight on mHealth data collection and analysis, and provided key insights in identifying technologies to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Her election to IAMBE was initiated by nominations (from current Fellows) that were then screened by the membership committee. Election is conducted by a vote of Fellows (there currently are less than 200, world-wide).

 

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1600807103 2020-09-22 20:38:23 1600824035 2020-09-23 01:20:35 0 0 news BME professor recognized for outstanding contributions to medical and biological engineering

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2020-09-22T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-22T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-22 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Writer/Communications

Georgia Tech (EVPR/BME)

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639403 639404 639403 image <![CDATA[May Wang]]> image/jpeg 1600806773 2020-09-22 20:32:53 1600806773 2020-09-22 20:32:53 639404 image <![CDATA[IAMBE Fellows]]> image/jpeg 1600806847 2020-09-22 20:34:07 1600806847 2020-09-22 20:34:07
<![CDATA[Nanoparticles Target Pediatric Cancer Tumors]]> 27195 Treatment of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant childhood brain tumor, includes surgery, whole brain and spine radiation, and chemotherapy, which leads to serious side effects, including profound neurocognitive deficits. In particular, the sonic hedgehog subtype of medulloblastoma, which represents approximately 30% of medulloblastoma, is associated with treatment failure and poor outcome in older children and those with metastatic disease.

In a recent paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) titled “Engineered biomimetic nanoparticle for dual targeting of the cancer stem-like cell population in sonic hedgehog medulloblastoma,” YongTae (Tony) Kim, Associate Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discusses biomimetic nanoparticle technology for advanced targeted drug delivery to medulloblastoma cells as a promising alternative strategy to treat the pediatric tumor. 

Kim, whose research primarily leverages biomimetic microengineering and nanotechnology for the development of therapeutics for neurological diseases including Alzheimer’s and brain tumors, started the research project in 2014 in collaboration with Dr. Tobey MacDonald, Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and Director of the Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Program at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

“When I met patient families of this fatal hard-to-cure pediatric tumor after I gave a seminar at Emory and Children’s hospital of Atlanta, I could not help deciding to do something to support the kids,” said Kim. “It is a blessing for engineers to help patients, which motivated me to work on these challenges.”

Current treatment strategies that utilize whole brain radiation therapy result in deleterious off-target effects on the normal developing childhood brain. Most conventional chemotherapies remain limited by ineffective blood-brain barrier penetrance. These challenges signify an unmet need for drug carriers that can cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver drugs to targeted sites with high drug-loading efficiency and long-term stability.

Kim’s research demonstrates that innovative bioinspired nanotechnology able to incorporate multiple agents into one nanocarrier can provide a solution to notorious brain tumors with minimal adverse side effects.

The study shows that an engineered biomimetic nanoparticle decorated with a targeting ligand and loaded with a sonic hedgehog inhibitor maintains its stability in the circulation, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and delivers drug molecules to the cancer stem-like cell population in sonic hedgehog medulloblastoma. Leveraging the natural capabilities of high-density lipoprotein, the nanoparticle enables the facilitated and targeted cellular uptake of drugs and receptor-mediated intracellular cholesterol depletion in medulloblastoma cells.

“This successful in vivo validation of our biomimetic nanoparticle performance will bring up a new viable strategy by which to effectively deliver many other drug candidates, which have been reportedly unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, have low bioavailability, or off-target effects for the treatment of brain tumors including medulloblastoma,” said Kim.

Kim, in collaboration with Dr. MacDonald, plans to apply the biomimetic nanotechnology to test many other potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of brain tumors in the near future. They will also extend their approach and apply for opportunities focused on other brain diseases including neurodegenerative diseases.
 

This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) R21NS091682 (Y.K.), NIH Director’s New Innovator Award 1DP2HL142050 (Y.K.), National Institutes on Aging (NIA) R21AG056781 (Y.K.), and Ian’s Friends Foundation (T.J.M.). We also thank the core facilities at the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology at Georgia Institute of Technology, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure, which is supported by the National Science Foundation (ECCS-1542174).

 
 

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1600261410 2020-09-16 13:03:30 1600363802 2020-09-17 17:30:02 0 0 news 2020-09-14T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-14T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-14 00:00:00 Ben Wright
Communications Manager

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639144 639144 image <![CDATA[GFP-expressing medulloblastoma organotypic tumor slice culture]]> image/png 1600261046 2020-09-16 12:57:26 1600261046 2020-09-16 12:57:26 <![CDATA[Kim profile]]>
<![CDATA[RNA Information Transfer Could Be Used in Repairing DNA]]> 27303 Genomes are routinely subjected to DNA damage. But most cells have DNA repair systems that enforce genome stability and, ideally, prevent diseases like cancer. The trouble gets serious when these systems break down. When that happens, damage such as unrepaired DNA lesions can lead to tumors, and genomic chaos ensues.

“Double-strand breaks are one of the most dangerous types of DNA damage a cell can experience,” said Chance Meers, a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University who earned his Ph.D. in molecular genetics in 2019 in the lab of Francesca Storici at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “They inhibit the cell’s ability to replicate its DNA, stalling cell division until the damage is repaired.”

The most accurate pathway of DNA-break repair is by using a homologous DNA sequence to template the re-synthesis of the damaged DNA region. Researchers in the Storici lab previously showed that a homologous RNA sequence could also mediate this break repair, and sought to understand the molecular mechanisms that control this process. They wrote about it in a recently published paper for the journal Molecular Cell.

“This is really about RNA’s capacity to transfer information to DNA that could be used in repairing damage,” explained Storici, professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech.

In a 2014 article published in Nature, her team explained how transcript-RNA could serve as a template for the repair of a DNA double-strand break. In this new study, according to lead author Meers, “we found that not only can RNA serve as a template for the repair of double-strand breaks, but that it was modifying genomic information in the absence of double-strand breaks.”

This modification of DNA even in the absence of an induced double-strand break was very surprising to the team. Also unanticipated, said Meers, was that the process of transferring information depended on the presence of an unexpected enzyme, DNA polymerase Zeta. 

“This is quite surprising, because DNA polymerase Zeta is part of a large class of enzymes known as DNA polymerases characterized by their ability to catalyze the synthesis of DNA molecules from a DNA template,” Meers said.

Polymerase Zeta is part of a subset of DNA polymerases known as translesion DNA polymerases, which have unique properties that allow them to synthesize damaged DNA caused by mutagens like UV radiation. Translesion DNA polymerases also are important in cellular processes like the diversification of B-cell receptors used to recognize foreign elements like viruses.

Meers explained that RNA molecules can be thought of as the cache on a computer – or a short-term memory that is not stably maintained. 

“We use a novel assay in which the yeast chromosomal DNA was genetically engineered to contain a piece of DNA sequence that allows it to be removed only in the RNA that is actively transcribed from the chromosomal DNA, generating a change in the RNA sequence but not in the DNA,” he said. 

If this “short-term memory,” in the form of RNA, is transferred back into the DNA sequence during the process of RNA-templated DNA repair, it becomes “long-term memory” stored in the DNA, which can be thought of as the hard drive.  

“We placed this system into a particular gene in yeast, which gives an observable characteristic trait if this process occurred, allowing us to track the repair process,” Meers said. 

Exploiting such an assay, along with the discovery of a new role for DNA polymerase Zeta in RNA-templated DNA repair and modification, the study contains a series of new findings that helped the team better understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms by which RNA can change DNA sequences in cells.  

This research essentially lays the groundwork for exploring the role that RNA can play in modifying genomic sequence and should allow future studies to more directly explore the role of RNA in genomic instability and, in particular, in other organisms, like humans.

This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the NIH (grant numbers CA188347, P30CA056036 and GM136717 to A.V.M.), Drexel Coulter Program Award (to A.V.M.), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the NIH (grant number GM115927 to F.S.), the National Science Foundation fund (grant number 1615335 to F.S.), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Scholar (grant number 55108574 to F.S.), and grants from the Southeast Center for Mathematics and Biology (NSF, DMS-1764406 and Simons Foundation, 594594 to F.S.). 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 NSF.

CITATION: Chance Meers, Havva Keskin, Gabor Banyai, Olga Mazina, Taehwan Yang, Alli L. Gombolay, Kuntal Mukherjee, Efiyenia I. Kaparos, Gary Newnam, Alexander Mazin, and Francesca Storici. “Genetic characterization of three distinct mechanisms supporting RNA-driven DNA repair and 3 modification reveals major role of DNA polymerase Zeta.” (Molecular Cell, 2020) (https://www.cell.com/molecular-cell/fulltext/S1097-2765(20)30554-2

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: Jerry Grillo

]]> John Toon 1 1600200624 2020-09-15 20:10:24 1600200730 2020-09-15 20:12:10 0 0 news Genomes are routinely subjected to DNA damage. But most cells have DNA repair systems that enforce genome stability and, ideally, prevent diseases like cancer. The trouble gets serious when these systems break down. When that happens, damage such as unrepaired DNA lesions can lead to tumors, and genomic chaos ensues.

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2020-09-15T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-15T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-15 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

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639132 639133 639132 image <![CDATA[New insights into RNA as a template]]> image/jpeg 1600199845 2020-09-15 19:57:25 1600219655 2020-09-16 01:27:35 639133 image <![CDATA[New insights into RNA as a template - 2]]> image/jpeg 1600199950 2020-09-15 19:59:10 1600199950 2020-09-15 19:59:10
<![CDATA[Cassie Mitchell Honored for Disability Advocacy]]> 28153 Cassie Mitchell, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, was named winner of the 2020 Faculty Diversity Champion Award at the 12th annual Diversity Symposium at Georgia Tech.

The symposium was held virtually on Wednesday (Sept. 9) and hosted by Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (IDEI) at Georgia Tech. This year’s theme was “Understanding Accessibility as Inclusion: Georgia Tech’s Pathway to Accessibility.” The Diversity Champion Awards recognize members of the faculty, staff, and student body, and a unit (office, department, school, or lab) who are advancing the principles of accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Georgia Tech community.

Mitchell, a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is a Paralympics medalist (discus, and club throw). At Georgia Tech she co-founded and co-advises the ABLE Alliance, an organization dedicated to improving on-campus disability inclusion via access and resource sharing, community and social support, as well as professional and career development.

Other Diversity Champion Awards went to Johan “John” Rembel (staff award, UX/ICT Quality Assurance Manager, Center for Inclusive Design); Nandita Gupta (student award, grad student studying human-computer interaction); Writing and Communication Program, School of Literature, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts (unit award).

Click here for more information on the 12th Annual Diversity Symposium.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1599844449 2020-09-11 17:14:09 1599844449 2020-09-11 17:14:09 0 0 news BME assistant professor wins a 2020 Georgia Tech Diversity Champion Award

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2020-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-11T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-11 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Writer/Communications Officer

Georgia Tech (EVPR/BME)

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638990 638990 image <![CDATA[Cassie Mitchell]]> image/jpeg 1599844190 2020-09-11 17:09:50 1599844190 2020-09-11 17:09:50
<![CDATA[Seeking a Simple Solution]]> 28153 The resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is a global challenge that has been exacerbated by the financial burdens of bringing new antibiotics to market and an increase in serious bacterial infections as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers in the lab of Kyle Allison, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University are tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance not by creating new drugs, but by enhancing the safety and potency of ones that already exist.

Aminoglycosides are antibiotics used to treat serious infections caused by pathogenic bacteria like E. coli or Klebsiella.  Importantly, bacteria haven’t developed widespread resistance to aminoglycosides, as compared to other types of antibiotics.  These antibiotics are used sparingly by doctors, in part because of the toxic side effects they can sometimes cause.

In new research published recently in the journal PLOS One, authors Christopher Rosenberg, and Allison (who is also a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech) that lower doses of aminoglycosides could be used to treat bacteria when combine with specific metabolic sugars.  Low concentrations of antibiotics alone often cannot eliminate dormant, non-dividing bacterial cells, but the researchers hypothesized, based on a past study, that combining aminoglycosides with metabolites such as glucose, a simple sugar, or mannitol, a sugar alcohol often used as sweetener, could stimulate antibiotic uptake.

The authors tested these treatment combinations against Gram-negative pathogens E. coli, Salmonella and Klebsiella. The results showed that aminoglycoside-metabolite treatment significantly reduced the concentration of antibiotic needed to kill those pathogens.  Of note, the authors also demonstrated that this treatment combination did not increase bacterial resistance to aminoglycosides and was effective in treating antibiotic-tolerant biofilms, which are bacterial communities that act as reservoirs of infection.

Authors also found that one metabolite, mannitol, could reduce the kidney cell toxicity caused by aminoglycosides, independent of its effect on bacteria. This indicates that certain metabolites can exploit the metabolism of bacteria while also protecting human cells from toxicity.

The study suggests that there may be simple strategies to boost the safety and effectiveness of the drugs already available, and that this type of approach could be a useful alternative to developing new antibiotics.

 

Link to paper: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0237948

Link to lab: https://sites.gatech.edu/kyle-allison-lab/

Writer: Quinn Eastman, Emory

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1599625710 2020-09-09 04:28:30 1599625844 2020-09-09 04:30:44 0 0 news BME researchers tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance

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2020-09-09T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-09T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-09 00:00:00 638865 638865 image <![CDATA[Kyle Allison]]> image/jpeg 1599625206 2020-09-09 04:20:06 1599625206 2020-09-09 04:20:06
<![CDATA[Le Doux Appointed Executive Director for Learning and Training ]]> 28153 Joe Le Doux, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory (BME), has been appointed executive director for learning and training. In this new leadership position, Le Doux is responsible for programs designed to enhance teaching and learning of undergraduate and graduate students, and also for translating the Coulter Department’s innovative teaching methods into formalized training programs for faculty and students.

Le Doux, who has been with the Coulter Department since 1999, is a scholar in the science of engineering pedagogy and he’s made a significant impact, publishing papers and securing grants for improving student education and learning. He was honored (along with BME colleagues Paul Benkeser and Wendy Newstetter) for his work in 2019 with the NAE’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

He’s held several different leadership role in his years with the BME department at Georgia Tech: associate chair of undergraduate studies (2011-2013), executive director for undergraduate learning and experience (2013-2015), associate chair of undergraduate learning experience (2015-2020). Additionally, Le Doux’s experience in creating and conducting national faculty workshops focused on effective teaching methods makes him the ideal candidate to launch this new BME leadership position.

“My vision is that the Coulter Department becomes the leader in pioneering and operating, at scale, new approaches to engineering education, and that I infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion in engineering education and in the engineering workforce,” said Le Doux, who also is a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Tech.

Ranked last year as the No. 2 graduate and No. 4 undergraduate department for biomedical engineering in the country, the Coulter Department has more than 70 primary faculty, 300 graduate students and 1,150 undergraduate students.

“We are confident that Professor Le Doux has both a visionary perspective of how Coulter BME can serve our academic programs, as well as the practical experience to accomplish our strategic goals of developing and disseminating student and faculty learning methodologies,” said BME Chair Susan Margulies.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1599072344 2020-09-02 18:45:44 1599080898 2020-09-02 21:08:18 0 0 news Appointment focuses on translating BME’s innovative teaching methods into formalized training programs for faculty and students

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2020-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-02T00:00:00-04:00 2020-09-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Writer/Communications Officer

Georgia Institute of Technology

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638722 638722 image <![CDATA[Joe Le Doux]]> image/jpeg 1599072097 2020-09-02 18:41:37 1599072097 2020-09-02 18:41:37
<![CDATA[Microgel Immuno-acceptance Method Could Improve Pancreatic Islet Transplant Success]]> 27561 Pancreatic islet transplants, which revive insulin production to treat type 1 diabetes, only last an average of three years.

By learning from a groundbreaking cancer treatment strategy based on a recent Nobel Prize-winning discovery, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Missouri developed a new microgel drug delivery method that could extend the effectiveness of pancreatic islet transplantations — from several years to possibly the entire lifespan of a recipient. 

Working across multidisciplinary teams using an animal model, the labs of Professors Andrés García at Georgia Tech and Haval Shirwan at the University of Missouri have developed a new biomaterial microgel that could deliver safer, smaller, and more cost-effective dosages of an immune-suppressing protein that could lead to better long-term acceptance of islet transplantations within the body. 

The study was published August 28, 2020, in the journal Science Advances. The research was led by Maria Coronel, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of García, the Parker H. Petit Chair and executive director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. García is also a Regents Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.

In 2018, the Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded for discovering how cancer cells send molecular signals to suppress immune response, thus hiding and protecting those cancer cells from the body’s immune system. Researchers soon developed pioneering treatment methods to signal and “turn on” the immune system (such as T cells) so the invading cancer would once again be recognized, allowing a patient’s own immune system to more effectively eliminate their cancer cells. 

“The work we are doing is taking a page from that discovery and using immunotherapy in the opposite sense used by cancer treatments to control and ‘turn off’ an immune response to transplant a graft,” Coronel said. “When you get a transplant, like an islet transplant or organ transplant, even if it’s matched, you will have an immune response to that graft, and your immune system will recognize it as non-self and will try to reject and attack the site of the graft.”

After islet transplant surgery, traditional postoperative treatments use immune-suppressing systemic drugs that affect the entire body, and can be toxic — creating numerous, unwelcome side effects, whose severity often limits the number of candidates for islet and other organ transplants. 

“A unique aspect of our method is that we have greatly reduced the dosage needed, which will significantly reduce or eliminate side effects currently caused by today’s systemic drug treatments,” said Coronel. 

The research team developed a new “immune-acceptance” method, which inserts an engineered biomaterial — in this case a microgel — with the islets at the time of the transplantation. The microgels, which resemble clusters of micro-sized fish eggs, held and delivered a protein (SA-PD-L1) to a specific transplant area that successfully signaled the immune system to hold back an immune response, protecting a transplanted islet graft from being rejected. This locally delivered molecular signal, using SA-PD-L1, was designed to quietly suppress any immune response and was effective for up to 100 days with no additional systemic immune-suppressing drug intervention.  

“We wanted to use PD-L1 for the prevention of allogeneic islet graft rejection by simulating the way tumor cells use this molecule to evade the immune system, but without resorting to gene therapy,” said Shirwan, professor of child health and molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. 

To achieve this goal, Shirwan worked with Esma Yolcu, professor of child health, also at the University of Missouri School of Medicine. Both were previously at the University of Louisville, where they generated the SA-PD-L1, a novel form of the molecule that can be positionally displayed on the surface of islet grafts or microgels for delivery to the graft site. 

“Microgels presenting SA-PD-L1 represent an important technological development that has potential not only for the treatment of type 1 diabetes, but also other autoimmune diseases and various transplant types,” Shirwan said. 

In addition to engineering this specific biomaterial microgel, the team tested its lifespan durability and dosage release possibilities. They also looked at its longer-term effects on both the graft and the immune response and function of the recipient — evaluating its long-term biocompatibility potential.  

“One of the major goals in the diabetes field over the past two decades has been to allow the immune-acceptance of grafts and avoid the toxic drugs used to induce immune suppression, which affect the entire body,” García said. 

“Generally speaking, organ transplantation is very successful at dealing with a variety of chronic conditions. These are very exciting results as proof of principle that demonstrate this engineered biomaterial and procedure may provide a platform technology that is applicable to other transplantation settings and may enlarge the pool of candidates who can safely receive transplants.”

These researchers also coauthored the study: Karen E. Martin, Michael D. Hunckler, Graham Barber, Eric B. O’Neill, Juan D. Medina, Claire A. McClain, Jessica D. Weaver, Hong S. Lim, Peng Qiu, and Edward A. Botchwey from the Georgia Institute of Technology; Enrico Opri from Emory University; and Lalit Batra from the University of Louisville. 

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (R21EB020107, R01AI121281, U01AI132817, and S10OD016264), the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Biotechnology Training Program on Cell and Tissue Engineering (T32GM008433), the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Any findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and not necessarily of the funding agencies.

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: Walter Rich

]]> Angela Ayers 1 1598643066 2020-08-28 19:31:06 1598643919 2020-08-28 19:45:19 0 0 news By learning from a groundbreaking cancer treatment strategy based on a recent Nobel Prize-winning discovery, researchers developed a new microgel drug delivery method that could extend the effectiveness of pancreatic islet transplantations — from several years to possibly the entire lifespan of a recipient. 

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2020-08-28T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-28T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-28 00:00:00 John Toon

Research News

(404) 894-6986

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638537 638542 638537 image <![CDATA[Transplanted islet cells]]> image/jpeg 1598636536 2020-08-28 17:42:16 1598637612 2020-08-28 18:00:12 638542 image <![CDATA[Engineered biomaterial microgels]]> image/jpeg 1598637206 2020-08-28 17:53:26 1598637515 2020-08-28 17:58:35
<![CDATA[Healing Under Pressure]]> 28153 The natural processes of wound or bone healing rely on the growth of new blood vessels, or angiogenesis. If someone breaks a bone, it is standard practice to apply a cast and immobilize the broken bone, so that healing can proceed without mechanical distortion.  

After those initial stages of healing, applying surprising amounts of pressure can encourage angiogenesis, according to a new paper in Science Advances from Nick Willett’s lab. 

“These data have implications directly on bone healing and more broadly on wound healing,” says Willett, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “In bone healing or grafting scenarios, physicians are often quite conservative in how quickly patients begin to load the repair site.” 

Former BME graduate student Marissa Ruehle was the first author of the paper. She and her colleagues investigated how mechanical strain affects angiogenesis, when microvascular fragments are cultured in a collagen hydrogel.  

Researchers applied pressure to the growing blood vessels to a degree that created five, 10 or 30 percent strain. The pressure, either early (zero to five days) or late (five to 10 days), was applied rhythmically in a way that simulated walking. Willett says he and his team expected (based on previous research) that 30 percent strain would hinder healing. Instead, the highest amount of strain pushed blood vessels to grow longer and branch more – but only when applied in the later stages. 

“We originally hypothesized that 30 percent strain would be inhibitory both early and delayed, because it is such a large magnitude,” says Willett, a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. “This finding highlights the differences in strain sensitivity between the early stage, when vessels are still forming, and more established networks.” 

Ruehle and the other researchers were able to discern the effects of the mechanical strain on proliferation, and on the extracellular matrix – the mesh of proteins outside the cell. They also could take a peek at some of the genes whose activity was affected by high amounts of mechanical strain. 

The authors say that modulating the timing of mechanical strain could be relevant for several scenarios of healing or regeneration, where rehabilitation and mechanical therapy could be used to enhance repair. 

They write, “While we were initially motivated by bone tissue regeneration, a number of other tissues also experience ECM [extracellular matrix] forces; for example, ligaments and tends undergo tension, venous ulcers are often treated with compression bandages, and even cutaneous wounds experience tension during closure.” 

 

CONTACT:

Quinn Eastman

Science Writer

Emory University School of Medicine

Visit the Emory Lab Land blog!

Twitter: @Eastman, Quinn

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1598490452 2020-08-27 01:07:32 1598490494 2020-08-27 01:08:14 0 0 news From Nick Willett lab: Delayed mechanical strain promotes angiogenesis in bone/wound healing

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2020-08-26T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-26T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-26 00:00:00 638471 638471 image <![CDATA[Nick Willett]]> image/jpeg 1598490023 2020-08-27 01:00:23 1598490023 2020-08-27 01:00:23
<![CDATA[Don Giddens Receives ASEE Lifetime Achievement Award]]> 28153 Don Giddens has never been particularly fond of inertia, as it applies to himself or his long career as a leader in academic research. And that sustained expression of energy has paid off for him, the students and faculty he has worked with, and the institutions he has led, including the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

In his nine years as dean (2002-2011), the college grew to become the largest engineering school in the nation. Before that, as founding chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory. With that, he helped launch an innovative, collaborative academic enterprise that has resulted in the largest BME program in the nation, and one of the most respected.

In other words, Giddens is good for whatever team he happens to be part of. So, for his many years of leadership and contributions, the American Society for Engineering Education gave him its 2020 ASEE Lifetime Achievement Award in Engineering Education.

“If you live long enough and keep moving, hopefully good things happen,” Giddens quipped after receiving the news. “But truly, this is really a great honor. It recognizes and appreciates the role of education and the affect it has on young people, from K-12, through college and post-graduate training. It’s been a pleasure to have seen so many of them grow in their lives and careers. There is a propagation effect at work in engineering education. That’s one of the main purposes of the ASEE.”

He oughta know. He was president of the organization from 2011 to 2012, after retiring as dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering. During his time at the helm there, Giddens granted almost 13,000 undergraduate, 7,700 masters, and 2,500 doctoral degrees, and research funding coming into the college grew dramatically, from $77 million in 2002 to $204 million in 2010.

“I was committed to growing the college, because I really felt like we were able to take advantage of our sheer size to have an impact,” says Giddens, who also is a longtime member of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech. “A large number of minorities and women were granted degrees, and our college was recognized as a top five school. All of that, I think, spoke to our quality and diversity, as well as size. Those are things that I fondly look back on.”

And Giddens says he got something out of his earlier experience as chair of the Coulter Department that influenced his efforts as dean of Tech’s college of engineering: a core belief in interdisciplinary research.

“The interaction with Emory, serving on the Engineering Deans Counsel with ASEE, it all had an influence. But it’s something that I tried to incentivize as dean at Georgia Tech, interdisciplinary programs,” he says. “Not just in the College of Engineering, but with other units across campus. I felt it was important to stimulate interdisciplinary work, which is largely based on research, but spills over into education.”

Giddens first arrived at Georgia Tech in 1958 and received all of his degrees (in aerospace engineering) from Tech, joining the faculty in 1968. Eventually, he became director of the School of Aerospace Engineering at Tech (1988-1992).

He left that post to become dean of the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins, but was lured back to Georgia Tech in 1997 to help establish and lead the Coulter Department, which links the breadth and scope of the College of Engineering with Emory University’s School of Medicine, a unique combination of public and private institutions.

“Helping to get that department up and going is one of the things that I am proudest of, career wise,” Giddens says. “Look at the trajectory and impact of the department – it was a remarkable opportunity to create an interdisciplinary program, and we started with a blank sheet of paper.”

Giddens believes he was merely in the right place at the right time with the right people (colleagues such as Ajit Yoganathan and Bob Nerem, all part of BME’s human foundation at Georgia Tech).

He says one of the most significant moves of his career was bringing Wendy Newstetter, a learning scientist, into the department. “I’d become aware of the cognitive and learning scientists that were working at Georgia Tech in the College of Computing and thought that since we were going to build a curriculum, maybe we could get them interested in collaborating and using us as guinea pigs,” Giddens recalls.

With Newstetter showing the way, the Coulter Department adopted the problem-based learning approach (which was being used in medical schools) as its education foundation, creating an environment for students that emphasized collaboration over competition, immersing students in real-world, complex problems.

So began a culture of engineering education that still drives the department – the movement that Giddens facilitated more than 20 years earlier is still moving, energetically. In 2019, Newstetter (now assistant dean for educational research and innovation in the College of Engineering), Joe Le Doux (associate chair for undergraduate learning and experience in the Coulter Department), and Paul Benkeser (senior associate chair of the Coulter Department) won the National Academy of Engineering’s Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

“Don had the foresight and vision for what BME could become as a major and as a discipline,” Le Doux says. “And he made a statement that education and learning was a top priority in our program.”

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1598280545 2020-08-24 14:49:05 1598280747 2020-08-24 14:52:27 0 0 news Former engineering dean and founding Coulter Department chair recognized for sustained contributions to engineering education at Georgia Tech

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2020-08-24T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-24T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-24 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Writer/Communications Officer

Georgia Institute of Technology

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<![CDATA[Johnna Temenoff named 2020 BMES Fellow]]> 28153 The Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) awards Fellow status to members who had demonstrated exceptional achievement while maintaining a consistent record of participation within the society. It’s a designation generally given to some of the most accomplished leaders in the field of biomedical engineering.

Johnna Temenoff, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, is among this year’s 27 BMES Fellows, nominated by their peers, who will be recognized this year at the BMES 2020 Virtual Meeting (Oct. 14-17).

“It is a great honor to be elected as a BMES Fellow this year,” said Temenoff, associate chair for translational research in the Coulter Department, where she holds the Carol Ann and David D. Flanagan Professorship II. “All of my training has been in biomedical engineering and the first national conference I went to as an undergraduate was BMES. So the society has a special place in my heart.”

Temenoff, principal investigator of a lab that designs synthetic and naturally-derived biomaterials for orthopedic applications, also is deputy director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT) at Georgia Tech.

This year’s class of BMES Fellows, Temenoff says, “comprises peers whom I have admired for years, so I am deeply grateful to be included. I look forward to many more years of engagement with the Society to promote the rich exchange of scientific ideas, but also as a way to introduce a wide and diverse audience to the exciting and impactful things biomedical engineers can do.”

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1597887946 2020-08-20 01:45:46 1597888563 2020-08-20 01:56:03 0 0 news Coulter Department professor among 27 honorees to be honored at annual meeting

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2020-08-19T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-19T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-19 00:00:00 638120 638120 image <![CDATA[Johnna Temenoff]]> image/jpeg 1597887797 2020-08-20 01:43:17 1597887797 2020-08-20 01:43:17
<![CDATA[New Flexible Electronics Research Shows Promise for Spinal Therapies]]> 27863 Patients recovering from spinal cord injuries or who have mobility disorders related to spinal nerve compression are frequently treated by the conditioning of the Hoffmann’s reflex via non-surgical electrostimulation therapy. To track the progress of the treatment, electromyography (EMG) is used to record the amplitude of the patient’s muscle twitch response.

Accurate EMG recording requires precise positioning of electrodes; thus, the existing systems have to use too many electrodes to cover the target skin. In addition, the current systems are relying on rigid and bulky metal electrodes, strong adhesives, and skin-irritable conductive gels. These system constraints increase error instances across sessions in experimentation, as well as requiring lengthy set-up times.

To address these issues, The Bio-Interfaced Translational Nanoengineering Group, under the direction of Assistant Professor W. Hong Yeo, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Wallace Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech, have created a nanomembrane electrode EMG array for use on large epidermal areas that has the potential to reduce greatly these problems in critical therapeutics for rehabilitation. 

This new large-area epidermal electronic system (L-EES) provides greater patient comfort through enhanced skin-compatibility via a stretchable and breathable composite. For researchers and therapists, the system could provide a reliable recording of electromyographic muscle signal activities (M-waves and H-reflex) from patients that are comparable to those recorded using conventional EMG systems.
 
Read the Research Here: Breathable, large-area epidermal electronic systems for recording electromyographic activity during operant conditioning of H-reflex

Media Relations Contact: Christa Ernst (christa.ernst@research.gatech.edu)

]]> Christa Ernst 1 1596826652 2020-08-07 18:57:32 1597081339 2020-08-10 17:42:19 0 0 news 2020-08-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-07 00:00:00 637646 637646 image <![CDATA[L-EES W. H. Yeo Lab]]> image/png 1596826308 2020-08-07 18:51:48 1596826308 2020-08-07 18:51:48
<![CDATA[Dasi Appointed Associate Chair for BME Undergraduate Studies ]]> 28153 Lakshmi Prasad Dasi, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory (BME), has been appointed as the department’s associate chair for undergraduate studies.

Dasi, who has been with the Coulter Department since 2020, is also a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. His studies are focused on prosthetic heart valves, cardiovascular biomechanics, biomaterials, and devices. In addition to his work at Coulter BME, Dasi is also engaged in an international effort to develop low cost heart valves in low-resource countries and has received special funding from the NIH as well as Indian government in this effort.

He also has a track record of developing undergraduate degree programs, designing problem-based learning curriculum, advising students at all levels.

“I am incredibly excited and honored to serve the Coulter BME department in this new leadership role,” says Dasi, an advocate for undergraduate students who has served on the college-level retention committee to understand issues related to underperforming undergraduates, developing recommendations for improving retention rates. He is also head of Coulter BME’s undergraduate student committee which evaluates courses and degree requirements for the department.

“Our department has pioneered in undergraduate biomedical engineering education in that it engineered itself into existence as a highly innovative program with the goal of developing thinkers and leaders in biomedical engineering,” says Dasi, a problem-based learning facilitator for almost 15 years. “I was captivated by the authentic and highly effective approach of learning through problems.”

As the largest BME department in the country, the Coulter Department has more than 1,200 undergraduate students (60% are female and 22% are unrepresented minorities). “In the Coulter Department, we have created an award winning undergraduate program and I’m excited to welcome Prasad Dasi’s leadership for our students,” said BME Chair Susan Margulies.

Dasi says he plans to work with the BME leadership team to expand the department’s innovative spirit, adding, “I look forward to facilitating the expansion of our foot print through new programs, including developing an NSF funded REU center with the focus of instilling translation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization in diverse students. While the challenges ahead are uncertain, with the current pandemic situation, I am confident in our collective spirit as one BME across two campuses to come out stronger as we continue to innovate and lead.”

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1596807233 2020-08-07 13:33:53 1596809379 2020-08-07 14:09:39 0 0 news Professor plans to expand BME’s footprint through new programs and university-wide initiatives

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2020-08-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-08-07 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Writer/Communications Officer

Georgia Tech (EVPR/BME)

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<![CDATA[Bending Light for Better Imaging]]> 28153 A team of researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Harbin Institute of Technology in China have developed a novel imaging system using light beams that can bend, curving around objects and getting brighter as they travel, enhancing image quality and imaging depth.

They call it “Airy-beam Tomographic Microscopy” – which is the name of the technology, and the title of a paper published recently in the journal Optica.

“Normally, optical beams move along a straight line in free space, but there’s a special type of optical beam, an Airy beam, which is self-accelerating and non-refracting which can move along a bending trajectory,” explains Shu Jia, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and the paper’s corresponding author.

Jia’s lab aims to make an impact on biological and translational research through innovative imaging science. Toward that end, the researchers have advanced their expertise in a wide range of imaging instrumentation and techniques, such as super-resolution, adaptive optics, light-field, miniaturized, light-sheet, computational microscopy and endoscopy.

With Airy beam tomographic microscopy (ATM), they have introduced high-resolution, volumetric, inertia-free imaging for biological specimens. Exploiting the highly-adjustable Airy trajectories in the 3D space, the system transforms the conventional telecentric wide-field imaging scheme (which requires sample or focal-plane scanning to acquire 3D information). And the results are dramatic.

“We demonstrate that this system can achieve near-diffraction-limited resolution – so there is no compromise in resolution in all three dimensions, with 10 times improvement in depth of focus,” says Jia, who also is a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech.

It’s because the Airy-beam is non-spreading, or non-diffracting, “which means you can capture information from a much deeper range in the biological sample,” according to Jia. “Also, this system can be very stable, so it would work well for live imaging.”

The work builds on the development of self-accelerating Airy beams over the past decade or so, which has led, in recent years, to the emergence of Airy-beam-enabled optical imaging. But these methods haven’t fully explored the highly adjustable Airy trajectories in the entire 3D space for volumetric imaging. The Jia lab’s work changes that, utilizing the self-accelerating propagation trajectory of an Airy beam to form a perspective view of the object.

Therefore, given sufficient perspective views by manipulating the Airy trajectories, the entire volume can be computationally synthesized in a tomographic manner – a scheme that exploits the self-acceleration and maneuverability of Airy beams.

“Interestingly, here we’re just talking about an optical method, but this scheme can be generalized to other wave physics,” Jia says. “It can be translated to non-optical waveforms, such as acoustic, plasmonic, and electronic waves. We anticipate this system will achieve applications in a wide range of biological systems, spanning molecular, cellular, and tissue levels, offering a promising paradigm for 3D optical microscopy.”

In addition to Jia, the authors included lead author Jian Wang (researcher at the Harbin Institute of Technology, China; former postdoc in Jia lab), Changliang Guo (research fellow at UCLA; former postdoc in Jia lab), Xuanhen Hua and Wenhao Liu (graduate student researchers in Jia lab).

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1596227355 2020-07-31 20:29:15 1596227355 2020-07-31 20:29:15 0 0 news Georgia Tech researchers introduce cutting edge Airy-beam tomographic microscopy

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2020-07-31T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-31T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-31 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo

Writer/Communications Officer

Georgia Institute of Technology

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<![CDATA[Costas Arvanitis receives MERIT Award]]> 28153 Costas Arvanitis, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Tech, has received an R37 Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award (up to $3.5 million) from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He’s the first MERIT awardee at Georgia Tech.

Created by the NIH in 1986, the MERIT Award is designed to provide longer-term grant support to creative, productive Early Stage Investigators (ESIs). The program aims to provide a stable funding source to investigators whose research skills and productive are deemed “distinctly superior,” and who are likely to continue to perform at a high level. MERIT awardees are nominated by NIH from a large pool of competing award recipients and then endorsed by an institute’s advisory council.

With the MERIT Award, NCI is giving Arvanitis the flexibility to pursue innovative research, as well as additional time to successfully launch his career. After the initial five-year $2.5 million award the Arvanitis team will have the opportunity for an extension of up to two additional years of support based on an expedited NCI review.

 “I am thrilled to receive this award," said Arvanitis, a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience. "It will not only support my lab but also an exceptional team of investigators that I am privileged to be working with."

Arvanitis and his team will combine novel closed-loop image guidance methods with quantitative assessment of the secretion of cancer soluble biomarkers (such as circulating tumor DNA) in body fluids, to longitudinally assess Focused Ultrasound (FUS) targeted drug delivery and monitor the response to therapy. The proposed work, which will critically advance FUS technology, aims to address critical barriers to the progress of noninvasive delivery of anticancer agents in brain tumors while facilitating the translation of this potentially transformative technology to clinics.

In addition to Arvanitis, the research team includes co-investigator Levent Degertekin (professor in the Woodruff School) who will lead efforts in designing the next generation FUS systems, with two clinical collaborators: Chetan Bettegowda of Johns Hopkins University, a world expert in the rapidly advancing field of liquid biopsy, and Tobey Macdonald, director of the pediatric neuro-oncology program at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute. The team is complemented by research scientist Anton Bryksin, who will provide technical expertise in gene sequencing as director of the Molecular Evolution Core at Georgia Tech. The project will also utilize other core facilities within the Petit Institute.

This project builds on the K99/R00 award that Arvanitis received in 2014 from NIH and a 2016 seed grant for ultrasound liquid biopsy by the Giglio Family funds. The effort brings together expertise in mechanical and electrical engineering, acoustics, drug delivery, gene sequencing, and cancer therapy to enable more precise, more targeted, and more effective therapies against brain tumors, such as glioblastoma, the most prevalent and most aggressive glioma variant with a median survival of only 15 months.

Arvanitis, who joined Georgia Tech in August 2016, focuses his research on ultrasound biophysics, and his lab’s overarching goal is the discovery of novel therapeutic interventions against human disease and their successful translation to clinics. His lab is particularly active in the field of cancer research, conducting fundamental investigations on ultrasound and microbubble-meditated mass transport in brain tumors, and developing computational tools to support the more rational design of focused-ultrasound-based treatment of brain cancer.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1596143385 2020-07-30 21:09:45 1596143385 2020-07-30 21:09:45 0 0 news Georgia Tech researcher will address critical barriers to the progress of noninvasive delivery of anticancer agents in brain tumors

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2020-07-30T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-30T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-30 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II

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637409 637409 image <![CDATA[Costas Arvanitis]]> image/jpeg 1596143253 2020-07-30 21:07:33 1596143253 2020-07-30 21:07:33
<![CDATA[Unselfish Molecules May Have Given Rise to Life]]> 28153 It’s a question older than science: How did life begin? In modern biology, life depends on life to live. But how did the mutualistic relationship between different molecules – which led, eventually, to complex biological systems, like human beings, for example – actually come to be?

For many researchers, the answer lies within the ‘RNA World,’ a widely-accepted hypothesis in which self-replicating RNA proliferated, serving a dual role as both genetic polymer and catalytic polymer, long before the evolution of DNA and protein.

The RNA World model is an attractive cradle-of-life premise, according to Georgia Institute of Technology researcher Moran Frenkel-Pinter, “because it avoids the extreme improbability of simultaneous independent origins of two different types of polymers. According to that theory, over time the RNA World incrementally invented the ribosome, giving rise to the current biological system comprised of RNA, DNA, and protein.”

She adds, “it’s kind of a parsimonious idea, basically saying that RNA made everything. But there is a much simpler solution.” Frenkel-Pinter and her research partners have offered an alternative – the concerted evolution of polymers – of nucleic acids and proteins. “A Ribonucleoprotein World,” quips Frenkel-Pinter, a research scientist and former NASA Postdoctoral Fellow who works in the labs of Nick Hud and Loren Williams at Georgia Tech, and is the lead author of a recently published paper that provides experimental support for this model.

The paper, “Mutually stabilizing interactions between proto-peptides and RNA,” in the journal Nature Communications, describes the chemical linkage that could have been at play during the origins of biopolymers. Their results suggest that neither nucleic acids or proteins came first, but that RNA and proteins were selected together through a process of co-evolution. In other words, it wasn’t a single selfish gene competing for survival that drove evolution; it was the rising tide of collaboration between molecules from the very beginning.

“People have wondered, ‘was it protein first, was it nucleic acid first?’ This work says is, they were connected from early on,” says co-author Hud, regents professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, director of the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, and associate director of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

So, there was more interdependence than independence underlying the machinery of early life. Or as co-author and Petit Institute researcher Williams puts it, “it isn’t really an independent dog eat dog world. You have systems working together – birds that eat the bugs off zebras, microbes in our gut, plants that make the oxygen we breathe.”

The researchers hypothesized that positively-charged (cationic) proto-peptides might functionally interact with nucleic acids, and then experimentally prove it. The cationic proto-peptides (either produced as mixtures from plausibly prebiotic dry-down reactions or synthetically prepared) directly interact with RNA, resulting in mutual stabilization: The proto-peptides significantly increase the thermal stability of folded RNA structures, and in turn, RNA increases the lifetime of the proto-peptide.

“There are all kinds of mutualistic relationships in biology, and we’re saying that maybe molecules work this way, too – the origin of life was matter of molecules working together,” says Williams, professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and director of the NASA Center for the Origin of Life at Tech.

Ultimately, the research team determined that collaborative molecules are the molecules that survived.

“It’s like the difference between a jungle and a cornfield,” says Williams. “The RNA World model is kind of like a cornfield in Ohio. Under certain circumstances, it works well – for example, Ohio grows a lot of corn. We’re looking at the origin of life like it was a jungle – a jungle of molecules interacting, working together for mutual benefit.”

 

In addition to Frenkel-Pinter, Hud, and Williams, the other authors were: Jay Haynes (graduate researcher in Williams lab); Ahmad Mohyeldin (graduate researcher in Williams lab), Martin C (graduate researcher in Hud lab), Alyssa Sargon (undergraduate researcher in Hud lab), Anton Petrov (research scientist, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry), Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy (associate professor, Scripps Research Institute), Luke Leman (assistant professor, Scripps Research Institute). The work was supported by the NSF and NASA Astrobiology Program under the Center for Chemical Evolution (based at Georgia Tech).

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1595853593 2020-07-27 12:39:53 1595862068 2020-07-27 15:01:08 0 0 news New research from Center for Chemical Evolution experimentally evaluates alternative model to ‘RNA World’ hypothesis, emphasizing collaboration and co-evolution

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2020-07-27T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-27T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-27 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II

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637275 637275 image <![CDATA[Frenkel-Pinter, Hud, Williams]]> image/jpeg 1595853371 2020-07-27 12:36:11 1595853371 2020-07-27 12:36:11
<![CDATA[Georgia Tech Researchers Develop Printed Flexible Electronics]]> 27195 Flexible electronics and wearable electronics are emerging areas, but their widespread adoption is hampered by manufacturing processes that are unreliable, suffer from low-throughput, and are high-cost. Those processes have involved complicated, multi-step microfabrication, material transfer printing, high-vacuum processes, and highly skillful personnel for the integration of multiple components.

That could be coming to an end, thanks to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology who have developed a novel nanomanufacturing process to create all-printed, wireless, flexible wearable electronics.

As explained in a recent article published in Nature Communications titled “All-printed nanomembrane wireless bioelectronics using a biocompatible solderable graphene for multimodal human-machine interfaces,” their process involves printing of nanostructured sensors and circuits on a soft elastomeric membrane that can be applied to human skin. Unlike the conventional wearable biosystems, the printed nanomembrane system does not require the use of skin-irritable gels and aggressive tapes, while offering Bluetooth-based wireless data recording and control of external robots.

The research was led by Woon-Hong Yeo, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, who also has an appointment in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech. Also contributing were postdoctoral researchers Young-Tae Kwon and Yunsoung Kim.

Yeo and his team demonstrated the performance of the printed electronics by using real-time control of external systems via muscle activities called electromyograms. Placing three wirelessly linked sensors on a forearm, they were able to control the motions of the fingers on a robotic arm with an accuracy rate of about 99% with seven commands. View video

In another demonstration video, the electronics were used to control the movements of a small robotic vehicle.

In the article Yeo and his colleagues highlight the benefits of their method over existing manufacturing processes for printed flexible electronics.

“The ability to manufacture stretchable hybrid electronics entirely based on additive manufacturing methods is particularly attractive due to decreased material consumption, fast turnaround, scalable fabrication based on parallel printing, and, most importantly, the fact that only a single piece of equipment is needed,” says Yeo. “With advances in novel printing methods and soft materials, wearable electronics are transitioning from rigid modalities based on metals and plastics to soft form factors, which offer comfortable, seamless integration with the skin.”

In the future, Yeo sees the research having a range of applications, from healthcare and lifestyle electronics to robotics and prosthetics. The next step in his research is to find clinical applications of wearable bioelectronics for biofeedback-enabled prosthetic development and enhanced rehabilitation training.

Yeo’s research in nanomembrane sensors, stretchable electronics, and human–machine interfaces was recently recognized by Sensors when they awarded him the 2020 Young Investigator Award.

Acknowledgements:

This work was supported by the Georgia Research Alliance based in Atlanta, Georgia. This work was partially supported by the National Institutes of Health under award number (NIH R21AG064309). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. Device preparation was partially supported by the Nano-Material Technology Development Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning (2016M3A7B4900044). This work was performed in part at the Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, a member of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), which is supported by the National Science Foundation (ECCS-1542174).

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1595521509 2020-07-23 16:25:09 1595521509 2020-07-23 16:25:09 0 0 news 2020-07-23T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-23T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-23 00:00:00 Benjamin Wright
Communications Manager
The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering 

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637225 637225 image <![CDATA[Woon-Hong Yeo, Assistant Professor in The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering]]> image/png 1595521092 2020-07-23 16:18:12 1595521092 2020-07-23 16:18:12
<![CDATA[Singh Awarded $2.3 Million National Cancer Institute Grant for Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma Research]]> 27195 Ankur Singh, an Associate Professor of George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, has been awarded a five-year, $2.3 million RO1 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as PI. The R01 focuses on developing engineered experimental therapeutics technologies to understand the mechanism of resistance in diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) and enable the translation of a new therapeutic to treat cancer patients better.

Approximately 40% of patients with activated B cell (ABC) subtype of DLBCL relapse or are not curable with current therapies. Singh, a new hire at Georgia Tech, has been working for the past 7 years to understand how the resistance to current therapies is linked to the spectrum of cancer cell mutations in these tumors and their concert with complex growth signals provided by the tumor microenvironment. Singh and his long-time collaborator, Ari Melnick, the Laurel Gebroe Family Professor of Hematology/Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, have been investigating the effect of tumor microenvironment on a unique therapeutic target, Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma translocation protein 1 (MALT1) protein, in DLBCLs. The R01 will elucidate a better understanding of MALT1 therapeutic response in patient samples and enable its translation.

"Prior targeted therapies, such as Ibrutinib, the Bruton Tyrosine Kinase (BTK) inhibitors, only work in a fraction of patients. We believe MALT1 has a stronger potential, and as the first-in-human MALT1 targeting clinical trial recently began accruing patients, identifying putative resistance and feedback mechanisms against MALT1 inhibitor is critically important," says Singh.

Singh is developing lymph node-like organoids and on-chip technologies, which provide a unique platform to study patient tumors. He has combined his biomaterials engineering and immune-engineering expertise with Melnick's translational cancer therapy to innovate Lymphoma-on-chip and organoid technology, which can grow patient tumors in a controlled lymph node-like microenvironment. The technology includes an organoid growing chamber connected to a media (fluid) chamber by narrow resistance channels, which slowed the fluid to mimic the flow inside lymph vessels and parts of the lymph node. The proposal further integrates expertise in the immunology of Cynthia Leifer, imaging of Chris Xu, and systems biology of Benjamin Cosgrove, all at Cornell University where Singh was previously an associate professor. 

"We are truly grateful to the NIH/NCI for the funding support," said Singh. "The grant support allows us to define how the underlying biology of lymphoma cells is linked to the host microenvironment's immunological and biophysical properties, which is poorly understood in hematological malignancies."

Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Singh was an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. At Cornell, he was a member of the Englander Institute for Precision Medicine at Cornell Medicine (NYC). He had affiliations with Cornell's Immunology and Infectious Disease Program. He served on the Executive Council of Cornell Center for Immunology. He was on Cornell's advisory council for academic integration across Ithaca and NYC campuses. He joined Cornell University in 2013 after his postdoctoral training in cell mechanobiology, cell-matrix interactions, and stem cell engineering at Georgia Tech and Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

His "Immunotherapy and Cell Engineering" laboratory at Georgia Tech is developing strategies to engineer adaptable, designer immune organoids and enabling technologies for the mechanistic understanding of healthy and diseased immune cells. He has received funding from the National Institute of Health (NIAID, NCI), National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, and the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, among others. He is a recipient of several scientific awards (including the NSF CAREER, 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, and the DoD Career award) and Cornell Engineering 's Teaching Excellence Award. His immune organoids research has been identified among Top 100 Discoveries of 2015 by the Discover Magazine. he Discover Magazine.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1595436988 2020-07-22 16:56:28 1595472107 2020-07-23 02:41:47 0 0 news 2020-07-22T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-22T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-22 00:00:00 Ben Wright

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637179 637179 image <![CDATA[Ankur Singh (left) with researcher Shivem Shah (right) in his laboratory. Photo credit: Dave Burbank]]> image/jpeg 1595437249 2020-07-22 17:00:49 1595437249 2020-07-22 17:00:49
<![CDATA[Hello Robot Launches Stretch]]> 28153 Martinez, CA – After three years in stealth, Hello Robot is unveiling the Stretch Research Edition, a slender robot that heralds a future where robots help people in their homes and workplaces. Created by a team that includes Georgia Tech robotics researcher Charlie Kemp and Google’s former director of robotics, Aaron Edsinger, Stretch boasts a simple and capable design that makes it adept at performing a variety of useful tasks.

“What sets this robot apart is its extraordinary reach, which is why we named it Stretch,” says Edsinger, Hello Robot CEO, who adds that the device’s unique design, “makes possible a range of applications such as assisting an older parent at home, stocking grocery shelves, and wiping down potentially infectious surfaces at the workplace. We see Stretch as a game-changing platform for researchers and developers who will create this future.”

With its compact wheeled base and slender telescoping arm, Stretch reaches important places, picking up objects on the floor or at the backs of countertops. The device’s small size lets it navigate tight spaces, such as through the clutter of real homes. In addition, it is sensitive to even light contact, enabling it to physically interact with people and its surroundings. Videos on Hello Robot’s show a person using Stretch to pick up toys, move laundry, and play games with kids.

So, in addition to its design, Stretch brings a whole new utilitarian vibe to robotics, according to Kemp, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emorhy, and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, and the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines (both at Georgia Tech).

“When it comes to mobile robots with arms, we’ve been in the age of toys and monstrosities,” says Kemp, Hello Robot’s CTO. “Stretch changes that.”

The device comes with everything needed for a user to get started, including a compliant gripper, 3D camera, laser range finder, onboard computer, and other sensors to support autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI). Videos on Hello Robot’s website give a window to its future. Stretch autonomously grasps objects, wipes down a bedside table, hands an object to a person, and more.

All of Stretch’s software is open source. It includes a ROS interface with a calibrated model of the robot, as well as a low-level Python interface to the hardware. The robot has numerous mount points and expansion ports, allowing customers to easily extend the robot with their own hardware. Stretch also includes an open-hardware library of accessories that researchers can 3D print, such as a tray with a cup holder for delivering objects, and a phone holder that can be used to take pictures.

Previous robots with comparable capabilities have been prohibitively expensive, awkwardly large, complex machines. At just over 50 pounds, Stretch is a highly-capable mobile manipulator that can be easily maneuvered in living or work environments, and be transported in the back of a car. The device is also designed as a cost-effective cutting-edge tool for other researchers, according to Kemp, who owns equity in and works for Hello Robot, which is commercializing robotic assistance technologies developed in his lab.

“A research group can purchase a Stretch ‘6 pack’ for the price of one comparable robot,” he says.

Hello Robot, founded by Kemp and Edsinger in 2017, has offices in Atlanta and Martinez, California. 

 

LINKS

Videos of Stretch in action

Stretch's open-source software

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1594727891 2020-07-14 11:58:11 1594735400 2020-07-14 14:03:20 0 0 news Georgia Tech researcher Charlie Kemp co-creator of revolutionary research robot designed for home and work

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2020-07-14T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-14T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-14 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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636924 636923 636924 image <![CDATA[Hello Robot]]> image/jpeg 1594727279 2020-07-14 11:47:59 1594727279 2020-07-14 11:47:59 636923 image <![CDATA[charlie kemp]]> image/png 1594727158 2020-07-14 11:45:58 1594727158 2020-07-14 11:45:58
<![CDATA[Global Pandemic Sparks Low-Cost Innovation]]> 27195 With global cases of Covid-19 on the rise, many developing nations lack access to healthcare and the medical infrastructure to help those suffering from the virus. It’s critical that low-cost medical devices with parts that can be locally sourced are available to these countries – devices such as ventilators, respirators and a wide variety of PPE.

Over the past few months, Devesh Ranjan, professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering, and his team of researchers have created a low-cost ventilator with parts that can be sourced in most any country. Kumuda Ranjan, an Atlanta-based physician and wife of Devesh, helped with the development of the ventilator as well.

“We looked at the worldwide data and the global pandemic in terms of how people are facing this ventilator shortage,” said Kumuda. “Devesh asked for my input and together we came up with a solution that includes a patient monitoring system. We also worked alongside Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta doctors to ensure the correct functionality.”

With the design in place, Devesh is focused on manufacturing and how the ventilator can be rolled out to other countries that lack medical infrastructure. And he started with his home country of India, reaching out to 12 companies who could make the low-cost ventilator. Devesh’s goal is to make sure the technology transfer happens in a way that local companies can make the ventilators on their own with easily sourced and interchangeable parts.

“I’m in discussion with three of the 12 companies I reached out to right now,” said Devesh. “We need to make sure the device can be commercialized in these countries in order to see a real impact. We want to see the devices being used.”

One of the challenges in getting the devices rolled out globally is that countries like India don’t have clear guidelines or a government body like the FDA. Devesh is working closely with Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Indian Consul General in hopes to find a pathway to commercialization. This includes building relationships with manufacturers as well.

Kumuda adds that she sees the low-cost ventilator being used in other countries across the world due to easily available parts that are inexpensive.

“These ventilators can be assembled anywhere without having to build a unique factory,” said Kumuda. “I feel these ventilators can be used for Covid-19 but also for other treatments in rural areas that lack medical infrastructure. When you look at usability, we need to scale up and get these devices to the remote places that need them.”

According to Devesh, in his state of Bihar, India, 36 percent of people live below the poverty line, and there might be one hospital with 40 to 50 beds for an area the size of Atlanta, presenting a real challenge as Covid-19 cases rise. Regular ventilators are very expensive, but if the low-cost ventilator is able to be deployed at less than $1,000, hospitals can afford to have multiple devices on hand. And when a virus spike happens, the hospitals can be ready.

In India, there are a few large companies that can provide parts, including patient tubing, bag valve masks and the control panel that monitors the patient’s respiratory vitals. Other countries in places like South America have trouble sourcing the control panel, but Devesh is working with a company in Peru to help them manufacture the circuit boards or even ship them there from Georgia Tech.

“Covid-19 numbers are also going up in Brazil, so we are looking to see what they will need to create the low-cost ventilator,” said Devesh. “The idea is to get the royalty-free design of the ventilators to these countries asap, and then let them build it on their own so it’s sustainable and scalable.”

In Africa, countries like Nigeria and Ghana are also looking to adopt the low-cost ventilator. Nigeria could feasibly use its KIA Motors supply chain as an assembly line. Ghana is looking at the product and trying to figure out what they need to do with their local group to get manufacturing started. The interest came from a recent talk Devesh gave at the World Economic Forum (WEF), where they discussed putting Devesh’s design on their file sharing platform so manufacturers would be able to download his design. While at WEF, Devesh also connected to the Lighthouse Network Group, a group of manufacturers trying to respond to the pandemic and very open to creating solutions by working with industry and universities.

“The World Economic Forum is the best way to push out the ventilator design to African countries because the forum has many connections with companies that are trying to build and work with a wide variety of suppliers there,” said Devesh. “The Forum enables us to make things happen a lot faster.”  

Devesh is doing his best to fast track the manufacturing of the ventilators.

“For Covid-19, the challenge wasn’t to make the best ventilator, but rather it was to make something that could be adopted the by hospital systems that is safe and able to be manufactured in large numbers very quickly,” said Devesh. “And you want to make sure mass manufacturing is done correctly.”

From the start of the pandemic, Devesh and Kumuda saw the challenges that the US healthcare system was experiencing and knew it would be even more challenging for India where poor hygiene and high density populations create a faster spread of infection.

“It really hit me once we started working on this project on a daily basis with frequent team calls to learn what was going on at Emory Hospital in Atlanta,” said Devesh. “It was our partnership with the hospitals here that made us aware of what was going on in a real system and what we needed to do to address the challenges that other countries are up against.”

Developing nations will continue to need access to low-cost healthcare devices, and Devesh and his team are already thinking about what to create next. 

More on Devesh’s group:
Gokul Pathikonda, a postdoctoral fellow in Ranjan’s lab led the engineering development of the device. In addition to Ranjan and Pathikonda, the multidisciplinary research team includes Stephen Johnston, Dan Fries, Cameron Ahmad, Benjamin Musci, Chang Hyeon Lim and Prasoon Suchandra, graduate students in the School of Mechanical Engineering; Kyle Azevedo, a research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute; Prithayan Barua, a graduate student in the College of Computing working with Prof. Vivek Sarkar; Chris Ballance, a research engineer in the School of Aerospace Engineering; and Richard Bedell, Manager of Equipment Engineering and Support Services in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. They are also being assisted by Kyle French and Biye Wang at the Electronics Shop in the School of Mechanical Engineering.
 

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1594671411 2020-07-13 20:16:51 1594671748 2020-07-13 20:22:28 0 0 news 2020-07-10T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-10T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-10 00:00:00 Georgia Parmelee

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636919 636919 image <![CDATA[This low-cost ventilator has parts that can be sourced in most any country.]]> image/png 1594671596 2020-07-13 20:19:56 1594671596 2020-07-13 20:19:56 <![CDATA[Devesh lab]]>
<![CDATA[Collaborative Covid-19 Research Receives National Science Foundation RAPID Grant]]> 34528 Joshua Weitz, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences and director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences Program, will expand Covid-19 research on shield immunity thanks to a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant.

Weitz shares that the NSF support is important for a newly developed collaborative effort with Benjamin Lopman, a professor of epidemiology in Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health

The partnership builds on a recent study that Weitz and a dozen scientists from Georgia Tech, McMaster University, and Princeton University published in Nature Medicine, modeling the potential impacts of serological tests to reduce Covid-19 epidemic spread.

Serological tests, or antibody tests, examine blood for traces of antibodies that could indicate past exposure to the virus, and potential levels of immunity. Identifying recovered Covid-19 patients could help cut the risk of expanding economic activity and help minimize infection rates as stay-at-home restrictions are lifted.

“The core idea of 'shield immunity' is to facilitate interaction substitution enabling recovered individuals to substitute for otherwise risky interactions with infectious individuals," says Weitz, a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech. “This could potentially reduce transmission risk and foster a safer return to economic activity. This NSF award will be catalytic to our efforts to learn more about the intervention benefits of shield immunity, even as we learn more about the extent to which recovery implies protection from reinfection.”

The NSF’s RAPID grant program “allows NSF to receive and review proposals having a severe urgency with regard to availability of or access to data, facilities or specialized equipment, as well as quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and similar unanticipated events,” according to the NSF website.

The agency sent an April 3 “Dear Colleague” letter to the science community, in which it announced it would accept proposals to conduct non-medical, non-clinical-care research that could be used immediately “to explore how to model and understand the spread of Covid-19, to inform and educate about the science of virus transmission and prevention, and to encourage the development of processes and actions to address this global challenge.”

The Georgia Tech and Emory project combines epidemic models of Covid-19 with antibody testing modules to develop approaches to enable shield immunity in practice. “We are particularly grateful for the expedited support by NSF of Covid-19 research at the dynamic interplay between disease dynamics and serological testing,” Weitz says.

Weitz’s lab, the Weitz Group at Georgia Tech, researches how viruses transform human health and the fate of the planet. Weitz is also the founding director of the Quantitative Biosciences Ph.D. Program. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the group has created various models and figures to explain the virus' spread and epidemiology. 

Weitz and two other professors, Philip Santangelo with Tech’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Travis Bedford with the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Division of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, held a Georgia Tech forum in early February on what scientists were saying then about the potential strength, speed, and size of the pandemic.

On April 15, Weitz led an online nonlinear science talk on “Dynamics of Covid-19: Near- and Long-Term Challenges.” In the talk, he shared a preview of the research in the Nature Medicine study, focusing on the need for accurate antibody tests to determine who may have recovered from the disease and may have levels of immunity. “The scale and type of testing matters,” Weitz said then. “PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing provides a snapshot: Are you shedding virus now? Serological testing, when accurate, provides a history: Have you been infected recently or in the past?”


Editor's note: In keeping with changes to Georgia Tech's editorial guidance, on June 1, 2020 we transition from "COVID-19" to "Covid-19" in our stories and posts.

]]> jhunt7 1 1591070790 2020-06-02 04:06:30 1594579486 2020-07-12 18:44:46 0 0 news Antibody testing research, led by Biological Sciences’ Joshua Weitz and Emory University professor Benjamin Lopman, earns an NSF urgent funding grant to further study Covid-19 ‘shield immunity’.

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2020-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-01T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-01 00:00:00 Jess Hunt-Ralston
Director of Communications
College of Sciences at Georgia Tech

Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

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635886 632658 635045 635886 image <![CDATA[Serological tests, or antibody tests, examine blood for traces of antibodies that could indicate past exposure to Coronavirus.]]> image/jpeg 1591070535 2020-06-02 04:02:15 1591070535 2020-06-02 04:02:15 632658 image <![CDATA[Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Source: cdc.gov]]> image/png 1582141316 2020-02-19 19:41:56 1582141316 2020-02-19 19:41:56 635045 image <![CDATA[Joshua Weitz, professor, School of Biological Sciences ]]> image/jpeg 1588625892 2020-05-04 20:58:12 1588625892 2020-05-04 20:58:12 <![CDATA[Immunity of Recovered COVID-19 Patients Could Cut Risk of Expanding Economic Activity]]> <![CDATA["Dynamics of COVID-19: Near- and Long-Term Challenges" with Joshua S. Weitz]]> <![CDATA[Georgia Tech: Covid-19 Helping Stories]]>
<![CDATA[Machelle Pardue Appointed Associate Chair for Faculty Development]]> 28153 Machelle T. Pardue, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory (BME), has been appointed as the department’s first associate chair for faculty development.

Pardue, who has been with the Coulter Department since 2015, is a research career scientist at the Atlanta VA Healthcare System and also serves as executive associate director of the Atlanta Veteran’s Association (VA) Center for Visual and Neurocognitive Rehabilitation. Her research program is focused on understanding the mechanisms of vision loss and developing treatments, with the ultimate goal of restoring visual function. She has a track record of creating professional development programs, faculty mentoring, grant review working groups, faculty community groups, and disseminating pilot programs at Emory, Tech and the Atlanta VA, with experience in recruiting and retaining a diverse corps of faculty and staff. 

The new leadership position was created, according to BME Chair Susan Margulies, “to achieve our goals of increasing faculty diversity; helping all faculty develop and thrive as leaders, scholars and educators; and enriching our cohesive culture of community.”

Margulies adds, “we have created a one-department culture across two campuses, and we promote faculty diversity and equity and inclusion. While we are proud have 24 percent women, six percent Black, and three percent Latino faculty evenly distributed across campuses, we have more work to do in the Coulter Department.”

Pardue says it’s an honor to fill an inaugural position focused on faculty development.

“I am passionate about mentoring and building a strong community of support for our faculty to succeed in all their endeavors,” she explains. “Dr. Margulies has already created several important initiatives for faculty development, like mentoring teams for junior faculty. I intend to continue to build upon these initiatives, being a strong advocate for each faculty member to reach tenure and promotion at all levels.  I look forward to hearing ideas and feedback on ways to support faculty development.”

The Coulter Department is a unique and flourishing public-private partnership between Emory University’s School of Medicine and Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering. As the largest Biomedical Engineering department in the U.S., Coulter has 70 tenure path faculty across two campuses, including 23 Assistant Professors.

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1594129957 2020-07-07 13:52:37 1594132812 2020-07-07 14:40:12 0 0 news New post created in Coulter Department of BME to achieve goals of increasing diversity

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2020-07-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-07T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-07 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Georgia Tech/Coulter Department

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636767 636767 image <![CDATA[Machelle Pardue]]> image/jpeg 1594129930 2020-07-07 13:52:10 1594129930 2020-07-07 13:52:10
<![CDATA[An Inside-Out Biomedical Discovery]]> 28153 Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are developing new tools of discovery with the creation of inverted ‘organoids’ – three-dimensional, complex, self-organized collections of cells that can recapitulate the processes of a patient’s own tissues.

Working with collaborators from the University of Michigan, investigators in the lab of Shuichi Takayama, professor in the Wallace H. Coulter of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Tech, describe their work in a new article. The paper, “Cancer Cell Invasion of Mammary Organoids with Basal-In Phenotype,” was published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials.

Organoids, which basically are miniature organs cultured in a lab and usually derived from stem cells, provide biomedical researchers a comprehensive way to study human development and disease, offering a sharper view of drug interaction and a novel approach to personalized medicine. In short, organoid cultures allow the study of tissue function and development in vitro. And the new paper describes slightly different kinds of organoid.

Lead author Eric Parigoris, Ph.D. student researcher in the Takayama lab, explains, “Typically, people refer to organoids as 3D structures grown from stem cells or primary human tissue. We refer to our structures, which are created from cell lines, as organoids for their ability grow very large – up to one millimeter in diameter; to hollow out, and show multiple heterogeneous markers, which distinguishes them from more traditional three-dimensional cultures derived from cell lines.”

There's something else about these new organoids: they are inside-out. The researchers describe mammary organoids with a basal-in phenotype – the basement membrane is located on the organoid’s interior surface, as opposed to the outside. This was a fortuitous discovery, somewhat accidental, according to Parigoris. But next time it won’t be.

“Once we discovered this inverted phenotype, we did more of an analysis to determine what materials and methods induce this, and now we have a robust, reproducible protocol to intentionally induce an inverted or basal-in phenotype in our organoids,” Parigoris says.

But why would they want to do that? The answer is in the results: the researchers discovered that the basal-in phenotype enables a better vantage point for studying breast cancer progression. In spite of advances in organoid development, there are a number of challenges for practical applications. This includes the difficulty of accessing the organoid lumen – cancer cells accumulate within the lumen of ducts on the epithelium, or the side opposite the basement membrane. Invasive breast cancer cells are characterized by their foray out from the lumen, first through the epithelial cells, and then the basement membrane.

But with the basal-in phenotype organoids, the researchers write, “the study of cancer invasion through the epithelium first, followed by the basement membrane to the basal side, is realized in an experimentally convenient manner where the cancer cells are simply seeded on the outside of the pre-formed organoids, and their invasion into the organoid is monitored.”

Parigoris was preparing to finalize data for the manuscript in fall 2019 when the team discovered the inverted geometry organoids. “One last staining revealed the exact opposite of what we expected and it changed the whole trajectory of the project and paper,” Parigoris says.

If there are dramatic moments in the course of a long experiment, this was it. An unexpected discovery that Takayama says at first left the team feeling horrified, “but that turned into feeling fantastic and ecstatic. That was the dynamic, that’s what was going on.”

Here was something unprecedented, Takayama adds, “a new and different biological structure, but very useful for studying cancer.”

In addition to lead author Parigoris and corresponding author Takayama, other authors included:

Soojung Lee, David Mertz, Madeleine Turner, Amy Liu, Jason Sentosa, and Hao Chen Chang from the Coulter Department; Kathryn Luker, Gary Luke, Celina G. Kleer, and Sabra Djomehri from the University of Michigan Medical School. This work was supported by NIH (R01CA196018, U01CA210152, and R50CA221807) and NSF EBICS (CBET-0939511). Article material is also based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program to EP (Grant Number: DGE-1650044).

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1593724134 2020-07-02 21:08:54 1593725742 2020-07-02 21:35:42 0 0 news Takayama lab develops a better tool for studying cancer, new geometrically-inverted organoids

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2020-07-02T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-02T00:00:00-04:00 2020-07-02 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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636723 611744 636723 image <![CDATA[Eric Parigoris]]> image/jpeg 1593723950 2020-07-02 21:05:50 1593723950 2020-07-02 21:05:50 611744 image <![CDATA[Professor Shu Takayama Coulter BME]]> image/jpeg 1537465570 2018-09-20 17:46:10 1537465570 2018-09-20 17:46:10
<![CDATA[Emory, Georgia Tech Participating in Six-Year Exercise Research Study]]> 28153 Scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University are participating in the largest exercise research program of its kind as investigators from institutions across the country are poised to collect and turn data from nearly 2,600 volunteers into comprehensive maps of the molecular changes in the body due to exercise.

The health benefits of physical activity are well known, but we do not fully understand why, especially at the molecular level. The National Institutes of Health-funded Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium (MoTrPAC) aims to increase understanding by measuring molecular changes in healthy adults and children before, during, and after exercise.

“There have been a lot of studies and there is plenty of information out there about exercise and its benefits, but what is truly unique about this study is the magnitude and depth,” says Facundo Fernández, professor and Vasser-Woolley Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, where he is a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.

Emory and Georgia Tech are two of nine MoTrPAC chemical analysis sites around the country. Together they comprise the Georgia Comprehensive Metabolomics and Proteomics Unit. Fernández is one of two principal investigators for the group. The other principal investigator and unit project leader is Eric Ortlund, professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Emory’s School of Medicine.

Fernández, Ortlund, and Georgia Tech research scientist David Gaul are co-authors of a paper that MoTrPAC researchers published in the journal Cell detailing their approach to this ambitious research project. They are currently reviewing lessons from an initial phase with a smaller group of adult volunteers and multiple rounds of preclinical animal model studies to optimize their protocols and prepare to scale-up for full recruitment.

“Preclinical and clinical studies will examine the systemic effects of endurance and resistance exercise across a range of ages and fitness levels by molecular probing of multiple tissues before and after acute and chronic exercise,” the authors write. “From this multi-omic and bioinformatic analysis, a molecular map of exercise will be established. Altogether, MoTrPAC will provide a public database that is expected to enhance our understanding of the health benefits of exercise and to provide insight into how activity mitigates disease.”

While the Georgia Tech team is focusing on abundant lipids, using non-targeted lipidomics (with the goal of discovering new lipids involved in the effects of physical exercise), the Ortlund lab at Emory is targeting low abundance bioactive lipids, which play a key role in stress response and inflammatory signaling pathways, “to understand how they change during exercise and potentially drive exercise adaptation,” says Ortlund. “Though lipid metabolism is complicated, bioactive lipids are generated by well-defined biochemical pathways permitting straightforward integration with other ‘omics such as transcriptomics and proteomics. Such tight integration is critical for deriving actionable scientific insight from the MoTrPAC consortium.”

MoTrPAC set the goal at its 11 clinical sites to recruit about 2,600 healthy volunteers across a wide age range (10 to 60-plus years-old) and with balanced participation by gender. Part of the study will test how the response to exercise changes after generally inactive participants complete a 12-week supervised exercise regimen. Sedentary adults will be randomly assigned to an endurance training regimen (treadmill, cycling), a resistance training regimen (weightlifting), or an inactive control group. Low-activity children will be randomly assigned to an endurance training regimen, or to a control group where they pursue their normal activities.

Meanwhile, a separate group of highly-active adults and youths will contribute to the overall size of the study, helping researchers understand what exercise looks like at the molecular level in those who have exercised vigorously and consistently over an extended period.

Another unique facet of MoTrPAC is that volunteers provide samples – or biospecimens – before, during, and after exercise that will go through a complex array of molecular assays. MoTrPAC researchers implemented an early study phase with a limited number of adult volunteers that is meant to ensure the complex study design is feasible both for the researchers and the participants before scaling up. The researchers and their data and safety monitoring board are reviewing lessons learned, so that recruitment may continue under optimized protocols. Recruitment currently is on-hold due to safety concerns over COVID-19.

Preclinical studies in an animal model also set the stage for full-scale MoTrPAC clinical studies, enabling researchers like Gaul (the metabolomics lead of the Systems Mass Spectrometry core facility at the Petit Institute) to generate data from tissues that cannot be collected from humans, expanding the scope of the consortium.

Researchers at three preclinical animal study sites conducted both a single round of exercise and an exercise training regimen in young and aged rats. Following the exercise round or training, 19 biospecimens were collected per animal, which gives a nearly whole-body look at the effects of exercise, which has never been done before. The biospecimens also provided raw material for the nine chemical analysis sites (such as those at Emory and Georgia Tech) to generate data on exercise responsive biomolecules like genes, indicators of gene activity, proteins, molecules involved in metabolism, and molecular signals in cell-to-cell communication.

Some data from the preclinical studies is available through the MoTrPAC Data Hub, and more is expected soon – MoTrPAC researchers alone cannot answer every question about the molecular basis of the health benefits of exercise. Making the data widely available brings new perspectives to the topic than would be otherwise possible.

Ultimately, MoTrPAC aims to have a positive impact on human health. The information gathered about endurance and resistance exercise in a wide range of individuals and in different tissues may influence exercise guidelines, making them more tailored for specific groups of people. One day, a doctor may be able to prescribe a personalized exercise routine based on what is likely to create the best outcome for an individual. Other researchers may use the data to identify drugs that mimic the molecular signals of exercise, so-called exercise-mimetics, which could help people who are unable to exercise.

It's a massive six-year study that Fernández calls, “a once in a lifetime opportunity. We know that the changes you see following exercise are nothing short of dramatic. And the data that we will be generating is something that will probably be analyzed for generations to come.”

MoTrPAC is funded by the NIH Common Fund and overseen in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging , the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. A list of funded MoTrPAC projects is at https://motrpac.org/aboutUs.cfm. MoTrPAC’s adult and pediatric clinical studies are registered with clinicaltrials.gov under NCT03960827 and NCT04151199, respectively.

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1593099743 2020-06-25 15:42:23 1593180990 2020-06-26 14:16:30 0 0 news NIH-funded program to recruit thousands of participants to reveal impact of physical exercise at the molecular level

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2020-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-25T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-25 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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636490 636491 636490 image <![CDATA[Fernandez and Ortlund]]> image/jpeg 1593099266 2020-06-25 15:34:26 1593101757 2020-06-25 16:15:57 636491 image <![CDATA[David Gaul]]> image/jpeg 1593099349 2020-06-25 15:35:49 1593099349 2020-06-25 15:35:49
<![CDATA[Petit Institute Expands Its Ranks by 23]]> 27195 The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at the Georgia Institute of Technology sees continued growth in its faculty ranks with the addition of 23 new members in recent months. The group covers a wide swath of bioengineering and bioscience research fields, representing Georgia Tech, Emory, and Morehouse College.

This brings the total number of Petit Institute faculty to 244 members; meet the newest cohort below. 

Guy Benian, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, Emory University School of Medicine. The Benian lab focuses on the functions and structures of giant multi-domain proteins, and the mechanism by which myofibrils are attached to the muscle cell membrane and transmit force.

Ahmet Coskun, assistant professor, Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech and Emory University. Coskun is a systems biotechnologist and bioengineer, working at the nexus of multiplex imaging and quantitative cell biology. His lab aims to deliver biotechnologies for spatial multi-comics profiling vision at the single cell level.

Prasad (Lakshmi) Dasi, professor, Coulter Department. Dasi's research is in translational cardiovascular engineering, pushing engineering to better treat and/or manage structural heart diseases in both adults and children. 

Thomas DiChristina, professor, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech. His Environmental Geomicrobiology Lab focuses on fundamental and applied aspects of microbial metal respiration.

Liang Han, assistant professor, School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech. Han’s research is focused on using a combination of molecular, cellular, immunohistochemical, electrophysiological, genetic and behavioral approaches to understand how the nervous system receives, transmits and interprets various stimuli to induce physiological and behavioral responses. 

Karmella Haynes, associate professor, Coulter Department. The Haynes’ lab aims to identify how the intrinsic properties of chromatin, the DNA-protein structure that packages eukaryotic genes, can be used to control cell development in tissues.

Shella Keilholz, associate professor, Coulter Department. Keilholz's lab studies network dynamics in the brain using a combination of MRI, electrophysiology, and optical imaging.

Pinar Keskinocak, professor, H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Tech. Keskinocak's research focuses on the applications of operations research and management science with societal impact, particularly health and humanitarian applications, supply chain management, and logistics/transportation.

Adam Klein, professor of laryngology, otolaryngology, Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Klein’s research interests include vocal cord reanimation, laryngeal papillomatosis, and designing a surgical trainer for phonomicrosurgery (voice surgery). 

Sakis Mantalaris, professor, Coulter Department. The Biomedical Systems Engineering Laboratory focuses on providing integrated in vitro/in silico platforms for clinical translational biomedical applications, specifically delivering an interdisciplinary program on bioprocess engineering for the production of high-value products for precision healthcare applications.

David Myers, assistant professor, Coulter Department. Myers’ Sensors for Living Systems Lab (SL2) seeks to improve healthcare measurements and learn how to extract information from biological systems.

Tianye Niu, associate professor, George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech. The research interests of Niu’s Advanced Imaging Laboratory for Radiation Therapy focus on conebeam CT scanner design and spectral CT algorithm development, connected by the current need for clinical onboard and high-volume data analysis. 

Christopher Porter, associate professor in hematology and oncology, Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Porter's lab studies mechanisms of carcinogenesis and treatment resistance, with the goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies to improve the care of children with cancer.

Felipe Quiroz, assistant professor, Coulter Department. Quiroz’ lab engineers self-assembling materials that are genetically-encoded and stimuli-responsive.

Arijit Raychowdhury, professor, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Tech. Raychowdhury’s Integrated Circuits & Systems Research Lab studies low power digital and mixed-signal circuit design, design of power converters, sensors and exploring interactions of circuits with device technologies.

Christopher Saldana, assistant professor, Woodruff School. Saldana's current research interests are centered on establishing the processing science needed to realize next generation material systems (alloys, composites, bio-inspired) and manufacturing processes.

Britney Schmidt, associate professor, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech. The Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab works to understand how icy ocean worlds form, evolve, and ultimately could give rise to life. 

Nicoleta Serban, professor, Stewart School. Serban’s research focuses on model-based data mining for functional data, spatio-temporal data with applications to industrial economics with a focus on service distribution and nonparametric statistical methods motivated by recent applications from proteomics and genomics. 

Vahid Serpooshan, assistant professor, Coulter Department. Serpooshan Tissue Manufacturing & Analysis Lab uses a multidisciplinary approach to design and develop micro/nano-scale tissue engineering technologies with the ultimate goal of generating functional tissues and organs.

Jennifer Singh, associate professor, School of History and Sociology, Georgia Tech. Singh's research investigates the intersections of genetics, health and society, which draws on her experiences of working in the biotechnology industry in molecular biology and as a public health researcher at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jonathan Stiles, professor of microbiology, biochemistry, and immunology, Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Stiles’ research interests are in molecular pathogenesis of neglected diseases that affect the central nervous system (CNS) with emphasis on cerebral malaria and African trypanosomiasis ("Sleeping Sickness").

Amanda Stockton, assistant professor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Tech. The Stockton group's research centers around three related astrobiological themes: the analysis of extraterrestrial organic molecules in the search for life beyond Earth, fingerprinting life at Earth’s extremes, and exploring the origins of biomolecules and the emergence of life.

Gleb Yushin, professor, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Tech. Yushin’s Nanotech Lab focuses on finding nanotechnology-driven solutions to enable the next generation of lighter, more energy dense, more cost-effective energy storage devices by studying their materials structure-property relationships.

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1593015863 2020-06-24 16:24:23 1593020269 2020-06-24 17:37:49 0 0 news 2020-06-24T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-24T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-24 00:00:00 Colly Mitchell

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312351 312351 image <![CDATA[Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience]]> image/jpeg 1449244929 2015-12-04 16:02:09 1475895022 2016-10-08 02:50:22 <![CDATA[Petit Institute faculty web page]]>
<![CDATA[Building a Better Blood Test]]> 28153 For most of us, it happens at least once a year – a complete blood count, or CBC, a hematological analysis in which the clinician takes a sample of your blood to evaluate your overall health.

A CBC usually coincides with your annual physical examination, but may also be administered as needed by your health care provider. It measures your red blood cells, which carry oxygen, and hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in your red blood cells. It tallies your white blood cells, which fight infection, and platelets, which help with blood clotting. And it calculates hematocrit – the proportion of red blood cells to plasma in your blood. And it can be used to detect a wide range of disorders, like anemia, infection, or leukemia.

“It’s the most common medical test performed, and one of the most critical for screening, diagnosing, and monitoring blood conditions or diseases,” says Francisco Robles, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Tech.

“But right now, in order to do these tests, you need very large, complex systems,” he adds. “You need multiple reagents, expensive equipment, and high-trained technical personnel to count the number of blood cells. It requires a lot of calibration and it’s problematic because even though this is the most common test, you can’t just go into a CVS or any clinic to have it performed. You have to send it to a specialized lab and the process can take days.”

So Robles and his research team set out to improve this most common of medical tests – to simplify and improve CBC and blood smear analysis, towards the development of a faster, more affordable, easy-to-use point-of-care device for clinical settings and in regions with limited resources. And they explain it all in their recently-published paper, “Label-free Hematology Analysis Using Deep-Ultraviolet Microscopy,” in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The latest research builds on the lab’s previous work in ultraviolet hyperspectral interferometric (UHI) microscopy, a cost-efficient system for molecular imaging that overcomes challenges typically associated with UV spectroscopy (subpar cameras and light sources, phototoxicity, chromatic aberration, etc.).

In the latest paper, the Robles team introduces a novel label-free optical assay enabling major advancements in hematological analysis, circumventing the limitations of the current standard-of-care, while achieving equivalent diagnostic power for peripheral blood and bone marrow analysis. This new approach provides analysis of tens of thousands of live cells in minutes, instead of waiting for days, without any sample preparation.

The work brought together the labs of two BME and Petit Institute researchers – Robles and Wilbur Lam, associate professor in the Coulter Department and a physician at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Department of Pediatrics in Emory’s School of Medicine. The lead author of the paper, Ashkan Ojaghi, is a Ph.D. student in Robles’ lab. The paper’s other authors were Gabriel Carazzana and Assad Abas (undergraduate researchers in Robles and Lam’s labs, respectively), Christina Caruso (pediatric hematologist, Children’s and Emory), and David Myers (assistant professor, Coulter Department).

As part of the study, the researchers validated the clinical utility of their wide-field pseudo-colored UV images by performing a quantitative molecular and structural analysis, and a blind visual analysis. In the latter, a panel of hematologists studied blood smears from healthy donors and patients with thrombocytopenia and sickle cell disease and found that new system provides feedback equivalent to the gold standard.

Ultimately, Robles says, the team managed to unify two different tests, “the complete blood count and the microscopic analysis. We can combine these two into something that is small, compact, portable, and easy to use, and we basically need just a few microliters of blood to get all of the information we need. This can potentially be used as an at-home device, so patients can monitor their own blood counts at home, eventually.”

 

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1592844141 2020-06-22 16:42:21 1592855757 2020-06-22 19:55:57 0 0 news Robles team develops a new tool to improve CBC and blood smear analysis

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2020-06-22T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-22T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-22 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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636384 636384 image <![CDATA[Ojaghi and Robles]]> image/jpeg 1592843739 2020-06-22 16:35:39 1592843739 2020-06-22 16:35:39
<![CDATA[Recommended Diversity and Inclusion Resources from Petit Institute Town Hall]]> 27195 The Petit Institute recently hosted a nearly 200 guest virtual town hall for an open conversation about the challenges faced by people of color today and ways that we can come together to create a more inclusive and supportive community at Georgia Tech. The event was open to all on campus, and students, faculty, and staff shared a wealth of important resources for people to educate themselves on these important matters. 

Compiled here is a list of the those recommended, essential books, movies, articles, podcasts, videos and television shows.

Books/Articles

Links

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1592571684 2020-06-19 13:01:24 1592576678 2020-06-19 14:24:38 0 0 news 2020-06-19T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-19T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-19 00:00:00 Colly Mitchell

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<![CDATA[Biomedical Engineering Faculty Battling Against Covid-19]]> 27195 Numerous faculty members in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University have actively assisted or transformed their research focus to help battle against the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Scott Hollister’s lab (Center for 3D Medical Fabrication) joined with Dr. Ian Wong, Dr. Jenny Han, Dr. Greg Martin and Dr. Colin Swenson with Emory’s Pulmonary/Critical Care service at Grady Memorial Hospital to 3D print multiple replacement parts for a BPAP breathing circuit for Covid-19 respiratory care. These parts were re-designed to accommodate multiple use, re-sanitizing, and adaptability to the BPAP breathing circuit—they are being evaluated for clinical use.

Susan Margulies, professor and chair of the Coulter Department, assisted with the creation of a simple, low-cost ventilator based on the resuscitation bags carried in ambulances – and widely available in hospitals. A small batch of the devices were assembled for bench testing and shared with Georgia hospitals for evaluation.

Krishnendu Roy, professor and Robert A. Milton Chair in the Coulter Department, and his  research team received NIH funding to screen and evaluate certain molecules known as adjuvants that may improve the ability of coronavirus vaccines to stimulate the immune system and generate appropriate responses necessary to protect the general population against the virus.

“The adjuvants that we are studying, known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), are molecules often found in viruses and bacteria, and can efficiently stimulate our immune system,” explained Roy. “Most viruses have several of these molecules in them, and we are trying to mimic that multi-adjuvant structure.”

Adjuvants are used with some vaccines to help them create stronger protective immune responses in people receiving the vaccine. His research team will screen a library of various adjuvant combinations to quickly identify those that may be most useful to enhance the effects of both protein- and RNA-based coronavirus vaccines under development.

Cheng Zhu, Regents’ Professor who also holds the J. Erskine Love Jr. Endowed Chair in Engineering, is studying the interactions of the spike (S) protein on the SARS-COV-2 surface with ACE2, the cell surface receptor the coronavirus targets for viral entry into host cells. His lab is performing biophysical measurements to characterize the in situ binding kinetics and affinity on the cell surface. He is collaborating with a team of Emory researchers led by Dr. Guido Silvestri, a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, who is providing reagents for the experiments.

Professor Philip Santangelo is leading a team that includes James Dahlman, an assistant professor in the Coulter Department. Together, this Coulter biomedical engineering team with a strong background in DNA and RNA research, is developing RNA-based drugs with the goal of treating Covid-19.

Edward Botchwey, associate professor, is conducting research that will contribute to the critical science of infectious disease prevention. One aspect of his study will visualize virus and bacteria structural changes on aligned carbon nano tube (CNT) surface(s), verifying the ability of the surface to render pathogens inactive. Another aspect in his research will be the first study of silver (Ag) nanoparticles grafted on aligned CNT forests as a passive contact virucidal. His research will contribute to efforts to understand the synergistic effect of combining mechanical antiviral mechanism(s) of aligned CNT arrays and the role of CNTs enhancing the surface area and dispersion of Ag nanoparticles to optimize the effectiveness.

Manu Platt, associate professor, is exploring the Covid-19 virus at the cellular level. According to Platt, “there are many remaining questions about how the virus enters cells. It actually uses enzymes called proteases produced by human cells that are able to cut the spike protein on the virus surface, once it is cut, the virus is then able to fuse with human cells.” 

While investigators are targeting a few known enzymes capable of doing this activation step, the Platt lab is taking an unbiased approach to identify multiple other proteases that are able to activate this viral spike protein using bioinformatics analyses based on the protein sequence, and then will validate those predictions experimentally. “Many of these enzymes are also overexpressed in diseases that are preconditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, that increase the risk of Covid-19 death, so this work will also provide clues as to why these patients are especially vulnerable,” said Platt. “This research effort has involved undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs in our lab.”

Annabelle Singer, assistant professor, is testing whether her lab’s recently developed innovative approach to manipulate brain cytokines reduces neuroinflammation from systemic infections including in animal models of Covid-19.

“About ten percent of Covid-19 patients have severe neurological complications, like seizure or stroke, which can lead to death or long-lasting disability, and these neurological problems are hypothesized to result from cytokines in the nervous system,” said Singer.

The first therapeutics for Covid-19, such as antiviral or immune suppression therapies, are unlikely to cross the blood brain barrier to treat neurological effects of Covid-19 (e.g. Remdesivir or Tocilizumab). Thus, there is an unmet need to treat the effects of Covid-19 infection in the nervous system. Her research has previously shown that specific patterns of sensory stimulation rapidly activate or suppress cytokines in the brain and her team will determine if this approach is useful to treat neurological complications of Covid-19.

Assistant professor Aniruddh Sarkar stated, “current worldwide challenges in scaling Covid-19 diagnosis underscore the need for developing inexpensive point-of-care diagnostic tools for infectious diseases. The heterogeneity of the disease – a large number of mild or asymptomatic cases coupled with the relatively rapid degradation in symptoms in some patients – pose a challenge for the healthcare system and emphasize the need for developing predictive biomarkers of disease severity.”

The Sarkar lab is harnessing microscale technology to solve these challenges by developing devices for high-throughput discovery and inexpensive electronic detection of biomarkers for Covid-19. His research work is being done with collaborators at Emory University and at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.


Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program

In April, it was announced that Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Emory University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, and the Georgia Institute of Technology were selected to lead the national effort in Covid-19 testing validation through the Atlanta Center for Microsystems Engineered Point-of-Care Technologies (ACME POCT). All are participants in the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program. RADx is a federal initiative designed to rapidly transform early, innovative technologies into widely accessible Covid-19 diagnostic testing.

ACME POCT will use a $31 million supplement provided to the three institutions from the National Institutes of Health to lead testing validation and work closely with partners across the country. The goal of the project is to make millions of accurate and easy-to-use tests per week available by the end of summer 2020 and in time for flu season. Wilbur Lam, M.D. and associate professor in the Coulter Department, is one of the three principal investigators leading ACME POCT. Lam and his team will lead testing validation for the NIH as they urgently solicit SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests that will assist the public’s safe return to normal activities.
 

Covid-19 BME Seed Grant Awardees

The Coulter Biomedical Engineering Department also awarded four seed grants in April for BME faculty doing COVID-related research to help advance their efforts: Gabe Kwong, Shuichi Takayama, Cassie Mitchell, and Frank Hammond.

Kwong, an associate professor, is pursuing paper tests for rapid SARS-CoV-2 detection. According to Kwong, “the lack of rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2 has significantly impeded efforts to track the virus and contain its spread.” Currently, a diagnosis is performed by collecting a patient sample followed by quantitative PCR analysis at a certified CLIA laboratory. (Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique used to "amplify" small segments of DNA. The Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) establishes quality standards for laboratory testing).

Kwong said, “the PCR process can take several days to return results, which remains a challenge as 40-50% of cases may be attributable to spread by presymptomatic people.” His lab is developing a rapid antigen test where CoV-2 signals are amplified without the need for PCR, and test results are read using a paper test strip similar to a home pregnancy test within one hour. If successful, his approach will provide a low-cost and scalable paper test to markedly increase current abilities to test large segments of the population for SARS-CoV-2.
 

Takayama, a professor, believes the quickest path to an anti-Covid-19 drug is using an existing FDA-approved therapy. His lab is working to narrow the pool to a few promising candidates for clinical trials, and says we need rapid, high-throughput screening in cell culture models that replicate conditions in infected lung tissue. “Our high throughout, 96-well lung model helps screen therapeutics that interrupt mechanisms of inflammation and disease that contribute to Covid-19 morbidity and mortality,” said Takayama. His project is still in its early phases and is a collaboration with Emory School of Medicine and other Emory University researchers.
 

Mitchell, an assistant professor, runs the Laboratory for Pathology Dynamics at Georgia Tech, which is using its novel and nationally recognized machine learning platforms to text mine millions of peer-reviewed scientific articles with the goal of identifying hidden patterns relevant to Covid-19. “Information and relationships mined from articles are constructed into a ‘knowledge graph’ or network that links symptoms, drugs, antecedent diseases, genes, proteins, and much more, to Covid-19 or similar coronaviruses,” said Mitchell. “Relationships with coronavirus are quantitatively ranked to find the most promising research avenues, with the intent of expediting successful translational research.” Her current project phase focuses on ranking the most promising repurposed drugs for Covid-19 and identifying a list of collective factors that best define patient Covid-19 risk categories.

Assistant Professor Hammond’s Covid-related project is titled “Soft Pneumatic Vest for Trans-Thoracic Manipulation of Ventilation/Perfusion (VQ).” The objective of his project is to develop a wearable, low-cost device for the treatment of acute respiratory distress syndromes (ARDS) caused by Covid-19.

The proposed vest works by applying localized pressures to the chest and back to simulate "proning" – a process used in pulmonary function assessments, where ARDS patients are flipped onto their chests to redistribute blood to uninflamed regions of the lungs where oxygen is more efficiently uptaken, increasing their ventilation and potentially improving patient outcomes. The simulated proning enabled by this device will eliminate hours of clinical staff effort normally required for conventional proning while reducing the risk of adverse cardiac events induced by the physical stress.


Researchers across the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University will continue to explore solutions to battle the Covid-19 pandemic and are making every effort to keep their research teams operating efficiently and safely.

 

 

 

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

]]> Colly Mitchell 1 1592421149 2020-06-17 19:12:29 1592423002 2020-06-17 19:43:22 0 0 news 2020-06-17T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-17T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-17 00:00:00 Walter Rich

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636297 636297 image <![CDATA[Professor Philip Santangelo (BME) and his Covid-19-focused lab team convene inside the Krone Engineered Biosystems Building.]]> image/jpeg 1592411485 2020-06-17 16:31:25 1592411485 2020-06-17 16:31:25
<![CDATA[Characterizing Ribonucleotides in DNA]]> 28153 Ribonucleotides, units of RNA that can become rooted in DNA during processes such as replication and repair, generally are associated with genomic instability, an increase in mutations, and DNA fragility.

Researchers have been aware of the abundance of ribonucleotides for about a decade, and the lab of Francesca Storici at the Georgia Institute of Technology has been at the forefront, researching the relationship between RNA and DNA in genome stability and instability, and DNA modification. 

“There is much that is unknown about the phenomenon of ribonucleotides in DNA, andit needs to be uncovered,” says Storici, professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a researcher in the Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, where her lab’s previous studies have led to the development of new-age tools and techniques, to collect and analyze data and answer some of the questions surrounding ribonucleotides.

“It’s important to establish a framework for better directing future studies to uncover physiological roles of ribonucleotides in DNA,” she says. And that’s exactly what she and her colleagues have done in their latest research paper, “Ribonucleotide incorporation in yeast genomic DNA shows preference for cytosine and guanosine preceded by deoxyadenosine,” published recently in the journal Nature Communications.

Namely, they use the tools and techniques they’ve developed over the past few years to characterize sites of ribonucleotide incorporation in DNA, demonstrating clearly that ribonucleotides in yeast DNA are not randomly distributed but show preferences for being incorporated in specific DNA sequence contexts. “We specifically reveal a bias for ribonucleotide incorporation both in yeast mitochondrial and nuclear DNA,” Storici says.

In a previous study published in January 2015, the lab introduced ribose-seq, a high-throughput sequencing technique that allows researchers to establish a full profile of ribonucleotides embedded in genomic DNA, generating large, complex data sets. In late 2018, the lab published its work on a new bioinformatics toolkit called Ribose-Map, which effectively and efficiently transforms the massive amounts of raw sequencing data obtained from the ribose-seq process into summary datasets and publication-ready results.

For their latest work described in Nature Communications, the team deployed ribose-seq to generate the data and Ribose-Map to analyze it, identifying sites of ribonucleotides in yeast DNA and explore their genome-wide distribution. Consequently, the paper’s four co-lead authors included Sathya Balachander (part of the ribose-seq development team and co-author of that paper, now licensing associate for the Bill Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship/University of Alabama-Birmingham) and Alli Gombolay (lead author of the Ribose-Map study).

Contributing equally as co-lead authors of the new research were Taehwan Yang and Penghao Xu, who, like Gombolay, are Ph.D. students in Storici’s lab (where Balachander was a Ph.D. student and postdoctoral researcher).

The team studied three different yeast species and detected a number of similar patterns. In all three species, the deoxyribonucleotide that is immediately upstream of the ribonucleotide was shown to have the greatest impact on the incorporation of ribonucleotides in DNA. “This rule was not clear before,” Storici says. “The study also highlights hotspots of ribonucleotides in DNA sequences containing di- and tri-nucleotide repeats, showing that specific sequence contexts have higher likelihood of ribonucleotide incorporation in DNA. This might be associated with ribonucleotide physiological/pathological functions that are yet to be discovered.”

The lab is now working toward better understanding of how cells control and benefit from ribonucleotide incorporation in DNA by uncovering the patterns and hotspots of incorporation in yeast cells of different genotypes, as well as cells from other species and organisms.

“Now we are interested to see if the rule that we have discovered for yeast applies to other cell types beyond yeast, like human cells for example, and to what extent,” says Storici. “As long term goal, we aim to determine whether there is a sort of language of ribonucleotide incorporation that cells utilize for regulating different cell metabolic functions.”

In addition to those mentioned, other authors of this multi-institutional study were Fredrik Vannberg (former professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech and former Petit Institute researcher), Gary Newnam (manager of the Storici Lab), Anton Bryksin (director of the Petit Institute’s Molecular Evolution Core), Havva Keskin (former Storici grad student, now a researcher with Omega Bio-tek), Kyung Duk Koh (former member of Storici lab, now a researcher at the University of California-San Francisco),  Waleed M. M. El-Sayed (former visiting scholar in the Storici’s lab, now researcher at the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Egypt), and Sijia Tao, Nicole Bowen, Raymond Schinazi, and Baek Kim from the Emory School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics.

  

]]> Jerry Grillo 1 1591794316 2020-06-10 13:05:16 1592268065 2020-06-16 00:41:05 0 0 news Researchers utilize tools and techniques developed in Storici lab to unravel new features of genomic DNA

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2020-06-10T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-10T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-10 00:00:00 Jerry Grillo
Communications Officer II
Parker H. Petit Institute for
Bioengineering and Bioscience

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636153 636122 636123 636255 636153 image <![CDATA[Francesca Storici, professor in the School of Biological Sciences and a researcher in the Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech]]> image/jpeg 1591843191 2020-06-11 02:39:51 1591843191 2020-06-11 02:39:51 636122 image <![CDATA[Sathya Balachander and Alli Gombolay]]> image/jpeg 1591793788 2020-06-10 12:56:28 1591797972 2020-06-10 14:06:12 636123 image <![CDATA[Francesca Storici]]> image/jpeg 1591793848 2020-06-10 12:57:28 1591798010 2020-06-10 14:06:50 636255 image <![CDATA[Penghao Xu and Taehwan Yang]]> image/jpeg 1592268040 2020-06-16 00:40:40 1592268040 2020-06-16 00:40:40
<![CDATA[James Dahlman Wins Gene Delivery and Gene Editing Focus Group Young Investigator Award]]> 27513 James Dahlman, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech, received the Gene Delivery and Gene Editing Focus Group (GDGE) Young Investigator Award given by the Controlled Release Society.

This is his second gene-related new investigator award in 2020 as he previously won the Outstanding New Investigator Award given by the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) earlier this year. He is also the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in Early Career Research 2020 award given by the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Dahlman's laboratory works at the interface of drug delivery and genomics by applying "big data" and "technology development" approaches to nanomedicine. Dahlman and his students have developed DNA barcoded nanoparticles to measure how hundreds of nanoparticles deliver mRNA and siRNA in multiple cell types in vivo, all from a single animal. Since late 2016, the lab has used this approach to quantify more than 4,500 nanoparticles in vivo, thereby identifying nanoparticles that target new cell types without ligands. His lab hopes to apply systems biology approaches to nanomedicine, in order to improve the efficacy of gene therapies and identify genes acting as master regulators of nanoparticle delivery in vivo.

Dahlman explained that using DNA barcodes allows researchers to overcome what had been a laborious and time-consuming process. Now hundreds of different nanoparticle types can be tested at once to see which are more effective to safely deliver drugs. His research has spawned the creation of a new company called GuideRX.

 

About the Gene Delivery and Gene Editing Focus Group in CRS:
The Gene Delivery and Gene Editing Focus Group (GDGE) focuses on creating a better fundamental understanding of the barriers of gene delivery and editing, designing improved carriers, and realizing opportunities for therapeutic intervention. Relevant topics include nucleic acid-based approaches for generating therapeutic proteins (e.g. mRNA, pDNA), eliminating disease-causing proteins (e.g. SiRNA, miRNA, ASOs), and precisely editing the genome (e.g. CRISPR/Cas, TALENs, ZFNs).


About the Controlled Release Society:
The Controlled Release Society (CRS) is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the science and technology of controlled release. The field of controlled release encompasses scientific and technical efforts to regulate the spatial and temporal effects of agents in diverse areas including human and animal health as well as non-pharmaceutical areas.

 

 

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

]]> Walter Rich 1 1591639338 2020-06-08 18:02:18 1591715236 2020-06-09 15:07:16 0 0 news 2020-06-08T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-08T00:00:00-04:00 2020-06-08 00:00:00 Walter Rich

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636026 636026 image <![CDATA[James Dahlman, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory]]> image/jpeg 1591639252 2020-06-08 18:00:52 1591639252 2020-06-08 18:00:52
<![CDATA[Coskun and Sarker Awarded Bernie Marcus Early Career Professorships]]> 28153 Ahmet Coskun and Aniruddh Sarkar, assistant professors in the Wallace Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, have both been awarded the Bernie Marcus Early Career Professorship.

Established in 2019 to celebrate Home Depot co-founder Marcus on his 90th birthday, the professorship supports faculty that have been recruited to support Georgia Tech’s Marcus Center for Therapeutic Cell Characterization, providing invaluable discretionary funding to advance their research.

“I’m very grateful to Bernie Marcus for creating this professorship. It will support our research in the development of cutting-edge, single-cell an