Engineering Diversity

Author Archive

Accurate integrated imaging and projection system for oral cancer diagnosis
Rebecca Richards-Kortum | January 19, 2023

Oral cancer is a globally prevalent disease with an astonishingly low five-year survival rate of less than 50%. A key factor for its poor prognosis is delayed diagnosis resulting in more late-stage oral cancers. At these later stages, treatment becomes less effective and harsher on the body. Hence, many scientists aim to develop and improve diagnostic techniques for the early detection of oral cancer. At present, the gold standard for the diagnosis of most oral cancers is biopsy of suspicious oral lesions and pathologic analysis of the extracted small amounts of tissue. However, it is extremely important that clinicians biopsy the areas within the abnormal lesion with the worst disease. Currently, the decision whether or not to perform a biopsy, and the optimal biopsy site, are based on clinical examination, which greatly depends upon the experience of the examining clinician. To help identify high-risk regions, clinicians can also use commercially available imaging techniques based on autofluorescence to detect abnormal tissue at the macroscopic level, although current autofluorescence technologies suffer from low specificity for neoplastic disease.

University of Toronto scientists use machine learning to fast-track drug formulation development
Christine Allen | January 10, 2023

Scientists at the University of Toronto have successfully tested the use of machine learning models to guide the design of long-acting injectable drug formulations. The potential for machine learning algorithms to accelerate drug formulation could reduce the time and cost associated with drug development, making promising new medicines available faster.

The study was published today in Nature Communications and is one of the first to apply machine learning techniques to the design of polymeric long-acting injectable drug formulations.

Mechanism Behind Osteoarthritis Could Lead to New Treatments
Fabrisia Ambrosio | January 10, 2023

Researchers in the United States and Japan have discovered a new mechanism that links age-related cartilage tissue stiffening with the repression of a key protein associated with longevity. These findings enhance the understanding of mechanisms that lead to the deterioration of joints that causes osteoarthritis, according to the authors of a new study, published January 10th in Nature Communications.

In the study, researchers showed that increased stiffening of the extracellular matrix – a network of proteins and other molecules that surround and support tissues in the body – led to a decrease in a so-called “longevity protein” called Klotho (α-Klotho) in knee cartilage brought about by epigenetic changes. This Klotho decrease then damaged the cells in healthy cartilage called chondrocytes. Conversely, exposing aged chondrocytes to a softer extracellular matrix restored the knee cartilage to a more youthful state.

Harriet Nembhard named president of Harvey Mudd College
Harriet Nembhard | December 6, 2022

Harriet Nembhard, dean of the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering, has been named president of Harvey Mudd College, a liberal arts college specializing in science, engineering, and mathematics located in Claremont, California.

Nembhard, who joined Iowa in June 2020, will begin her new position July 1. The UI will conduct a national search for Nembhard’s replacement.

“I congratulate Dean Nembhard and wish her the best of luck in her new role,” says Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel. “Under her leadership, the College of Engineering has continued to build upon its exceptional research reputation while advancing equity and inclusion in STEM education. She leaves the college in a strong position moving forward.

LaShanda Korley Appointed U.S. Science Envoy
LaShanda Korley | December 6, 2022

Esteemed engineer to travel the world to advance science and technology cooperation with U.S.

LaShanda Korley, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, has been appointed a U.S. Science Envoy for 2023. The announcement was made by the U.S. Department of State on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Through the Science Envoy Program, eminent U.S. scientists and engineers leverage their expertise and networks to forge connections and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation, championing innovation and demonstrating America’s scientific leadership and technical ingenuity.

Finding the “Sweet Spot” for Indoor Humidity May Help to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission
Lydia Bourouiba | November 18, 2022

As friends and families are beginning to plan holiday gatherings, a new study found that raising the humidity level could be another mitigation method to reduce COVID-19. That sweet spot looks to be between 40% and 60% humidity.

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) combined population-based COVID-19 data with meteorologic measurements from 121 countries collected between January and August 2020 (J R Soc Interface 2022;19[196]:20210865). Countries included had reported at least 50 COVID-19–related deaths, indicating at least one outbreak had occurred. The researchers processed the epidemiological data while accounting for bias, and developed a computational workflow to estimate indoor conditions based on outdoor weather data and standard indoor comfort conditions.

Vanderbilt study finds that diabetes may hasten breast cancer tumor growth and stiffness
Cynthia Reinhart-King | November 18, 2022

While diabetes is already associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer, a new Vanderbilt study published in Science Advances on November 18 indicates that presence of the disease may increase tumor growth and stiffness.

Researchers also found that diabetes treatments could reduce the tumor growth and stiffness to levels comparable with non-diabetic ones. The research was led by Cynthia Reinhart-King, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering and University Distinguished Professor. Vanderbilt Ph.D. student Wenjun Wang, a current member of Reinhart-King’s cellular mechanics lab, and Lauren Hapach, PhD’21, a former lab member, were co-authors.

Are Covid-19 “comas” signs of a protective hibernation state?
Emery Brown | November 18, 2022

Scientists hypothesize that, as in a hibernating turtle, the brain under sedation and deprived of oxygen may assume a protective state.

Many Covid-19 patients who have been treated for weeks or months with mechanical ventilation have been slow to regain consciousness even after being taken off sedation. A new article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers the hypothesis that this peculiar response could be the effect of a hibernation-like state invoked by the brain to protect cells from injury when oxygen is scarce.

A very similar kind of state, characterized by the same signature change of brain rhythms, is not only observed in cardiac arrest patients treated by chilling their body temperature, a method called “hypothermia,” but also by the painted turtle, which has evolved a form of self-sedation to contend with long periods of oxygen deprivation, or “anoxia,” when it overwinters underwater.

Old mice regain leg strength after antibody treatment, Stanford Medicine researchers find
Helen Blau | November 15, 2022

Muscle stem cells, the cells in muscle fibers that generate new muscle cells after injury or exercise, lose their potency with age. But a study by researchers at Stanford Medicine shows that old mice regain the leg muscle strength of younger animals after receiving an antibody treatment that targets a pathway mediated by a molecule called CD47.

The findings are surprising because CD47, billed as the “don’t eat me” molecule, is better known as a target for cancer immunotherapy than for muscle regeneration. It peppers the surface of many cancer cells, protecting them from immune cells that patrol the body to root out and engulf dysfunctional or abnormal cells. Now it seems old muscle stem cells may use a similar approach to avoid being culled by the immune system.

Dimension Inx and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago awarded joint NIH grant to expand fertility restoration options
Ramille Shah | November 10, 2022

Exploratory collaboration will focus on developing strategies using 3-D printed bioscaffolds to support the growth and maturation of ovarian follicles to produce fertilizable eggs

Newswise — Dimension Inx, a regenerative biomaterials company, and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago have been jointly awarded an NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant. The grant focuses on uncovering a novel approach to in vitro growth and maturation (IVGM) of ovarian follicles. Together, Dimension Inx and Lurie Children’s will use the funding to further explore the development of a more accessible and affordable infertility preservation intervention, one particularly useful in the emerging field of oncofertility.

Infertility is a significant and growing global health problem, with estimates suggesting more than 186 million individuals live with infertility worldwide. While assistive reproductive technologies (ART) methods like IVF have been available for over four decades, these technologies remain largely inaccessible and unaffordable.

Popular Pharmaceutical Target in Cells May Prove Even More Useful
Jin Zhang | October 26, 2022

Researchers at University of California San Diego have identified a new signaling process involving G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), a cellular target already exploited by hundreds of diverse drugs. The discovery, published in the October 26, 2022 issue of Nature, opens the possibility of new therapies, including for multiple forms of cancer.

GPCRs are the largest and most diverse group of membrane receptors in eukaryotes — cells containing a nucleus and other organelles. Residing on the cell’s surface, they act as an inbox for messages arriving in the form of sugars, proteins, lipids and peptides, and play myriad roles in body functions, including fundamentally in regulating communications between cells.

What causes severe COVID symptoms? Research examines role of immune systems
Melody Swartz | October 20, 2022

UChicago study examines how autoantibodies could cause complications in some patients

Since the earliest months of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians and scientists worldwide have been working to understand how exactly the virus makes us sick. That task, already complicated by COVID’s rapid spread, is made more challenging by some of its unusual, seemingly inexplicable symptoms, such as blood pressure dysregulation and blood clots.

Now, research from the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) shows that the immune system may unintentionally contribute to the disease’s strangest symptoms.

Katherine Pollard Elected to the National Academy of Medicine
Katherine Pollard | October 17, 2022

Gladstone Data Scientist Elected to the National Academy of Medicine

Data scientist and statistician Katie Pollard, PhD, director of the Gladstone Institute of Data Science and Biotechnology, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), one of the highest honors in health and medicine. Through its election process, the Academy recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Pollard is perhaps best known for developing a novel statistical approach to identify human accelerated regions (HARs), which are stretches of DNA that rapidly changed when humans evolved from primate ancestors. Many of these regions of the human genome help determine when and where important genes—including those associated with diseases—are turned on or off.

Audrey Bowden receives NIH funding to develop point-of-care detection of jaundice in newborns
Audrey Bowden | October 13, 2022

Audrey Bowden, Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow and associate professor of biomedical and electrical engineering, has won a grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering to develop a novel noninvasive smartphone-integrated device to provide accurate, point-of-care detection of jaundice in newborns of all skin tones.

Newborns have immature liver function that is inefficient at metabolizing bilirubin, a yellowish pigment that is made during the normal breakdown of red blood cells. Consequently, nearly 80 percent of preterm and 60 percent of term babies develop hyperbilirubinemia, a potentially fatal form of neonatal jaundice, within a week of their birth. The gold standard for detecting hyperbilirubinemia is the use of frequent blood tests to measure bilirubin levels, but this approach is expensive and painful and increases likelihood of infection.

Tissue chip developments: what’s the 411?
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | October 4, 2022

Tissue chips—tiny mimics of human organs, just millimeters in size—represent an alternative to animal models as a way to study disease or evaluate drugs. However, a major limitation of tissue chips is that they do not faithfully imitate tissue interactions, so it’s impossible to know how a treatment for liver disease, for example, might affect another organ, like the heart.

To improve this technology, NIBIB-funded researchers have developed an interlinked tissue chip system that can model four mature organs in their perspective environments simultaneously. These multi-organ tissue chips, which could be personalized to model individual patients, may represent a new way to evaluate the systemic effects of novel drugs.

Gene Loss Enhances Metastasis and Cancer Progression
Shana Kelley | September 29, 2022

Investigators have discovered that the loss of the gene SLIT2 in circulating tumor cells regulates metastasis of prostate cancer tumors, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in Science Advances.

Metastasis accounts for most cancer-related deaths, yet its underlying mechanisms have remained poorly understood despite recent advances in cancer treatments and care.

Leading Tissue Regeneration Expert to Chair UVA’s Department of Biomedical Engineering
Shayn Peirce-Cottler | September 9, 2022

Shayn Peirce-Cottler, PhD, an international leader in biomedical engineering and a University of Virginia faculty member since 2004, has been named chair of UVA’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. She succeeds Frederick H. Epstein, PhD, who has served as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering – a joint program of UVA’s School of Medicine and School of Engineering and Applied Science – since 2011. Epstein was named the School of Engineering’s associate dean for research earlier this year.

“With her long tenure at UVA, Dr. Peirce-Cottler has a deep understanding and appreciation for our talented, accomplished team in the Department of Biomedical Engineering,” said Melina R. Kibbe, MD, the dean of the School of Medicine and chief health affairs officer for UVA Health. “She is a nationally recognized outstanding scientist and educator and has been a shining leader within the department. I look forward to seeing how she builds on the department’s 55 years of innovation.” 

Discovery points to new drug targets that could prevent cancer spread
Sylvia Plevritis | August 22, 2022

Any cancer cell migrating from a tumor to set up shop elsewhere in the body will face a brutal attack from an immune system programmed to seek and destroy abnormal cells. But two recent studies from Stanford Medicine show that the hearty few that manage to infiltrate nearby lymph nodes carry out a stunning biological coup — convincing the body’s defense system to accept them as part of its own tissues. This savvy rebranding gives tumor cells a free pass to easily metastasize to any site in the body and significantly worsen cancer prognoses.

The studies, conducted in laboratory mice, human cells and human tissue samples from cancer patients, upend the idea that lymph nodes — often the first site of metastasis — are simply passive downstream harbors for circulating cancer cells that have broken loose from nearby tumors.

New strategy for delivery of therapeutic proteins could help treat degenerative eye diseases
Molly Shoichet | August 18, 2022

A U of T Engineering research team has created a new platform that delivers multiple therapeutic proteins to the body, each at its own independently controlled rate. The innovation could help treat degenerative diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss for people over 50.

Unlike traditional drugs made of small molecules, therapeutic proteins are synthetic versions of larger biomolecules naturally present in the body. One example is the synthetic insulin used to treat diabetes. There are other proteins that can modulate the body’s own repair processes in ways that small-molecule drugs cannot.

Professor Laurencin Publishes Breakthrough Report on Rotator Cuff Regeneration Treatment
Cato Laurencin | August 12, 2022

A new way to regenerate muscle could help repair the damaged shoulders of millions of people every year. The technique uses advanced materials to encourage muscle growth in rotator cuff muscles. Dr. Cato Laurencin and his team reported the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) August 8th issue.

Tears of the major tendons in the shoulder joint, commonly called the rotator cuff, are common injuries in adults. Advances in surgery have made ever better rotator cuff repairs possible. But failure rates with surgery can be high. Now, a team of researchers from the UConn School of Medicine led by Laurencin, a surgeon, engineer and scientist, reports that a graphene/polymer matrix embedded into shoulder muscle can prevent re-tear injuries.

Scaling up cell imaging
Anne Carpenter | August 3, 2022

Scientists have learned a lot about human biology by looking at cells under a microscope, but they might not notice tiny differences between cells or even know what they’re looking for. Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, in the laboratories of Anne Carpenter and Stuart Schreiber, first started developing cell painting 13 years ago to take cell imaging to the next level. The method, further advanced by Carpenter, now senior director of the Broad’s Imaging Platform and senior group leader Shantanu Singh, and colleagues, uses six colored dyes to stain eight different cell organelles. Machine learning models recognize subtle differences in the images—changes in cell morphology that might indicate disease or a drug or genetic perturbation—which allows researchers to predict the effects of a drug or mutation.

The Broad team has recently made strides in scaling up the method. They have spent the last several years building a consortium of drugmakers and academic institutions to create the world’s largest public cell painting database, which drug developers hope will help accelerate their search for promising drug candidates.

Advances in Pesticide Screening Techniques
Shalini Prasad | July 29, 2022

Pesticides have become an integral part of the modern farming process due to their usefulness in preventing crop losses to pests, weeds and disease. With the United Nations “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” goals placing a renewed emphasis on sustainable farming technologies and environmental safety, demand is increasing for screening techniques that can detect and monitor the presence of excess pesticide residues in the environment.

Despite such demand, it is still relatively rare for pesticide testing to occur on-site during farming. For pesticide residues on crops and foodstuffs, it is most common for samples to be sent away to analytical laboratories for testing. This may give accurate results, but it is a time-consuming process that can become quite impractical for routine screening. At the other end of the scale, environmental soil and soil runoff samples are rarely tested at all.

Controlling glaucoma: Eye drop therapy reaches posterior ocular tissues
Laura Ensign | July 22, 2022

A novel eye drop under development may provide neuroprotection to the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). An added plus is that only once-weekly dosing is required, according to Laura Ensign, PhD, who headed up the research.

Ensign holds the Marcella E. Woll Professorship in Ophthalmology and is an associate professor of ophthalmology and vice chair for research at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Justin Hanes, PhD, who is the Lewis J. Ort Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Center for Nanomedicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Donald Zack, MD, PhD, the Guerrieri Professor of Genetic Engineering and Molecular Ophthalmology and codirector of the Center for Stem Cells and Ocular Regenerative Medicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute.

Antiglaucoma eye drops are the mainstay of treatment for the disease, and they successfully and significantly lower the IOP. However, despite achieving a reduction of the IOP, glaucoma can continue to progress and threaten vision in many patients diagnosed with the disease. A therapy that protects the RGCs from damage was just a dream until recently. This new therapy developed by the Wilmer Eye Institute team is in the process of becoming a reality.

Scientists find molecular clues behind acute and chronic phases of traumatic brain injury
Sarah Stabenfeldt | July 22, 2022

New research led by scientists at Arizona State University has revealed some of the first detailed molecular clues associated with one of the leading causes of death and disability, a condition known as traumatic brain injury (TBI).

TBI is a growing public health concern, affecting more than 1.7 million Americans at an estimated annual cost of $76.5 billion dollars. It is a leading cause of death and disability for children and young adults in industrialized countries, and people who experience TBI are more likely to develop severe, long-term cognitive and behavioral deficits.

How different cancer cells respond to drug-delivering nanoparticles
Paula Hammond | July 21, 2022

The findings of a large-scale screen could help researchers design nanoparticles that target specific types of cancer.

Using nanoparticles to deliver cancer drugs offers a way to hit tumors with large doses of drugs while avoiding the harmful side effects that often come with chemotherapy. However, so far, only a handful of nanoparticle-based cancer drugs have been FDA-approved.

A new study from MIT and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard researchers may help to overcome some of the obstacles to the development of nanoparticle-based drugs. The team’s analysis of the interactions between 35 different types of nanoparticles and nearly 500 types of cancer cells revealed thousands of biological traits that influence whether those cells take up different types of nanoparticles.

Suffocating from Medical Bias
Gilda Barabino & Harriet Nembhard | July 15, 2022

The United States is in the midst of a public health crisis, reeling from two serious pandemics: COVID-19 and systemic racism. Everyone is familiar with the impact of the virus. The categorization of racism as a pandemic may seem less obvious, but when viewed through the lens of systems engineering, racism in the American health care system can be seen to contain tightly linked problems of medicine, technology, design, leadership, and ethics. The intersections are myriad, bound in racial disparities that pervade all aspects of life, including such basic functions as the ability to breathe.

For Black people and other racially minoritized groups, the health care system—which should provide equitable treatment and care—is tainted by disparate access, poor quality of care, unequal outcomes, and distrust between individuals and health care providers. The extent to which racial biases lead to health care disparities is influenced by demographics; environmental, social, and economic conditions; and policies and practices that pervade all aspects of life.

Ameer Wins 2022 Innovation Commercialization Award
Guillermo Ameer | July 13, 2022

The award recognizes the application of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine that benefits patients

Northwestern Engineering’s Guillermo A. Ameer was honored with the 2022 Innovation/Commercialization Award by the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society-Americas (TERMIS-AM).

The award recognizes the application of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in the production of a product or technology that ultimately will benefit patients. The award can be presented for an existing product or for a newly developed product that has been launched in the last five years, or for a technology launched in the last five years that can facilitate commercialization of a product.

Microparticles could be used to deliver “self-boosting” vaccines
Ana Jaklenec | July 13, 2022

With particles that release their payloads at different times, one injection could provide multiple vaccine doses.

Most vaccines, from measles to Covid-19, require a series of multiple shots before the recipient is considered fully vaccinated. To make that easier to achieve, MIT researchers have developed microparticles that can be tuned to deliver their payload at different time points, which could be used to create “self-boosting” vaccines.

In a new study, the researchers describe how these particles degrade over time, and how they can be tuned to release their contents at different time points. The study also offers insights into how the contents can be protected from losing their stability as they wait to be released.

When it comes to darker skin, pulse oximeters fall short
Kimani Toussaint | July 11, 2022

Over the past two years, the pulse oximeter has become a crucial tool for tracking the health of COVID-19 patients.

The small device clips onto a finger and measures the amount of oxygen in a patient’s blood. But a growing body of evidence shows the device can be inaccurate when measuring oxygen levels in people with dark skin tones.

A study published on Monday only adds to this concern.

Researchers analyzing pre-pandemic health data also find those measurements resulted in patients of color receiving less supplemental oxygen than white patients did.

Experts Study Marine Mammals To Learn About Human Hearing
Barbara Shinn-Cunningham | June 30, 2022

Many hearing loss patients have the same complaint: They have trouble following conversations in a noisy space. Carnegie Mellon University’s Barbara Shinn-Cunningham has spent her career conducting research to better understand this problem and how it affects people at cocktail parties, coffee shops and grocery stores.

Now, along with a team of researchers from six universities, Shinn-Cunningham, the director of CMU’s Neuroscience Institute (NI) and the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Professor of Auditory Neuroscience, is looking for answers in an unexpected place. The researchers will conduct noninvasive experiments on free-swimming dolphins and sea lions.

Breast Cancer’s Spread Accelerates During Sleep
Sunitha Nagrath | June 28, 2022

Breast cancer metastases spread far more efficiently during sleep, according to a Swiss study.

While it has been assumed that circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are constantly shedding from growing tumors, or as a result of mechanical insults, there’s a “striking and unexpected pattern of CTC generation dynamics in both patients with breast cancer and mouse models, highlighting that most spontaneous CTC intravasation events occur during sleep,” wrote Nicola Aceto, PhD, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and colleagues.

Furthermore, CTCs are more prone to metastasize during a body’s resting phase, while those generated during a body’s active phase are not, they noted in Nature.

Tissue model reveals key players in liver regeneration
Sangeeta Bhatia | June 27, 2022

By tracing the steps of liver regrowth, MIT engineers hope to harness the liver’s regenerative abilities to help treat chronic disease.

The human liver has amazing regeneration capabilities: Even if up to 70 percent of it is removed, the remaining tissue can regrow a full-sized liver within months.

Taking advantage of this regenerative capability could give doctors many more options for treating chronic liver disease. MIT engineers have now taken a step toward that goal, by creating a new liver tissue model that allows them to trace the steps involved in liver regeneration more precisely than has been possible before.

The new model can yield information that couldn’t be gleaned from studies of mice or other animals, whose biology is not identical to that of humans, says Sangeeta Bhatia, the leader of the research team.

Nanomaterials That Provide Imaging While Delivering Medication
Kytai Nguyen | June 24, 2022

A University of Texas at Arlington bioengineer is leading a project that will develop biodegradable nanomaterials that will take pictures and deliver medicine to combat peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Kytai Nguyen, a UT Arlington bioengineering professor, is the principal investigator in the four-year, $2.1 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. She’s collaborating with Jian Yang, a Penn State University bioengineering professor and former UTA faculty member, and Ralph Mason, a professor of radiology at UT Southwestern.

“What’s important in this project is that the technology carries fluorescent and ultrasound imaging capabilities, which will provide patients and doctors with more detailed information,” Nguyen said. “It also gives patients more targeted medicine, making it more efficient.

Dr. Cato T. Laurencin Elected to the European Academy of Sciences
Cato Laurencin | June 16, 2022

The prestigious European Academy of Sciences has recognized UConn’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin for his visionary and pioneering work in the field of regenerative engineering

In recognition of his pioneering work in the field of regenerative engineering, UConn professor Dr. Cato T. Laurencin has been elected to the prestigious European Academy of Sciences (EURASC).

“It’s very gratifying that a number of different parts of the world consider the work we are doing to be breakthrough,” Laurencin says. “The world is embracing the concepts behind regenerative engineering and has come to realize the importance of this field.”

Lydia Contreras Named New Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity
Lydia Contreras | June 15, 2022

The University of Texas at Austin has named Lydia Contreras as its new vice provost for faculty diversity, equity and inclusivity, effective immediately. Contreras, who currently holds the Jim and Barbara Miller Endowed Faculty Fellowship in Chemical Engineering, has served for the past two years as the managing director of diversity in the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

She succeeds Edmund T. Gordon, who will serve as the inaugural executive director for the university’s Contextualization and Commemoration Initiative.

Contreras’ primary responsibility will be to lead the advancement of the Strategic Plan for Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity in alignment with UT’s new plan for an equitable and inclusive campus, You Belong Here.

Nanoparticle sensor can distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia
Sangeeta Bhatia | June 13, 2022

Many different types of bacteria and viruses can cause pneumonia, but there is no easy way to determine which microbe is causing a particular patient’s illness. This uncertainty makes it harder for doctors to choose effective treatments because the antibiotics commonly used to treat bacterial pneumonia won’t help patients with viral pneumonia. In addition, limiting the use of antibiotics is an important step toward curbing antibiotic resistance.

MIT researchers have now designed a sensor that can distinguish between viral and bacterial pneumonia infections, which they hope will help doctors to choose the appropriate treatment.

Engineers develop nanoparticles that cross the blood-brain barrier
Paula Hammond | June 1, 2022

There are currently few good treatment options for glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer with a high fatality rate. One reason that the disease is so difficult to treat is that most chemotherapy drugs can’t penetrate the blood vessels that surround the brain.

A team of MIT researchers is now developing drug-carrying nanoparticles that appear to get into the brain more efficiently than drugs given on their own. Using a human tissue model they designed, which accurately replicates the blood-brain barrier, the researchers showed that the particles could get into tumors and kill glioblastoma cells.

Western Engineering researcher and alumnus honoured with Ontario Professional Engineers Award
Kibret Mequanint | May 24, 2022

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE) and Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) recently announced its 2022 Ontario Professional Engineers Awards (OPEA) recipients, recognizing industry innovators and business leaders for their excellence and achievement in engineering.

Western Engineering researcher, Kibret Mequanint, a professor in the department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering was awarded the Engineering Medal for Research and Development for developing applications that extend engineering or natural sciences. Alumnus and president of Neegan Burnside Ltd., Cory Jones, P.Eng., BESc’97, earned the Engineering Excellence Medal, recognizing overall excellence in the practice of engineering.

Both recipients will be honoured at the OPEA’s Award Gala on November 18, 2022.

New Western innovation gels engineering with medicine
Kibret Mequanint | May 20, 2022

Game-changing ‘bio-glue’ could mean end to surgical sutures, staples

Western biomaterials expert Kibret Mequanint – in partnership with Malcolm Xing from University of Manitoba – has developed the first-ever hydrophobic (water-hating) fluid, which displaces body fluids surrounding an injury allowing for near-instantaneous gelling, sealing and healing of injured tissue.

“Tissue adhesives that can perform in the presence of blood, water and other proteins in the body are the holy grail for instant wound closure and hemostasis, especially when time is critical in rescue operations and emergency responses,” said Mequanint, a Western chemical and biochemical engineering professor.

Ameer Wins 2022 Bioactive Materials Lifetime Achievement Award
Guillermo Ameer | May 16, 2022

Northwestern Engineering’s Guillermo A. Ameer has been named the 2022 Bioactive Materials Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Bioactive Materials academic journal.

Established in 2021, the annual Bioactive Materials Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes excellence in research and development in the field of bioactive materials. The award is presented to a person judged to have demonstrated excellence and leadership in bioactive materials, including basic science and translation to practice.

Study estimates effectiveness of 2-dose and 3-dose mRNA vaccination against Omicron
Delphine Dean | May 12, 2022

In a recent study posted to the medRxiv* preprint server, researchers estimated the efficacy of two-dose and three-dose regimens of two messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines: Moderna’s mRNA-1273 and Pfizer-BioNTech’s BNT162b2 against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused due to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Omicron variant.

Omicron (B.1.1529) has demonstrated higher infectivity compared to other SARS-CoV-2 variants. In addition, studies have reported lower Omicron neutralization by the existing COVID-19 vaccines. Despite this, it is not clear just how much protection the COVID-19 vaccine confers against Omicron infections.

Expanding the Oval and Opening Doors: The Inauguration of Olin President Gilda Barabino
Gilda Barabino | May 9, 2022

On May 5, 2022, Olin College celebrated a milestone event two years in the making—the long-awaited and much celebrated inauguration of its second president and first Black woman president, Dr. Gilda A. Barabino.

Joined by delegates, trustees, students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents and guests from far and wide, the Olin Community gathered on a perfect New England spring day to hear personal stories and words of wisdom from honored guests, and to witness to President Barabino’s formal investiture ceremony.

New Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Education
Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert | May 6, 2022

On July 1, Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert, PhD, will join UW Medicine as the new vice dean for Research and Graduate Education. She succeeds John Slattery, PhD, who is retiring after holding the position since 2005. Her husband, Don Elbert, PhD, will also join UW Medicine as an associate professor in the Department of Neurology.

“I am delighted that Shelly Sakiyama-Elbert has accepted the position of vice dean for Research and Graduate Education,” says Paul Ramsey, MD, CEO of UW Medicine. “She was selected after a national search for her outstanding skills in leading interdisciplinary and translational research and supporting the career development of faculty, staff, trainees and students. I also want to thank John Slattery for his long service and great success in building an internationally renowned research community at UW Medicine to advance biomedical science.”

Alyssa Panitch Chosen as Chair of Coulter BME
Alyssa Panitch | May 3, 2022

Alyssa Panitch, Edward Teller Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, Davis, has been selected as the new chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Panitch currently serves as executive associate dean of academic personnel and planning in the College of Engineering at UC Davis. The position oversees the merit and promotion process and all matters related to faculty and academic affairs, including faculty and academic personnel hiring.

Sweat Sensor Makes Big Strides in Detecting Infection Indicators
Shalini Prasad | April 29, 2022

University of Texas at Dallas bioengineers in collaboration with EnLiSense LLC have designed a wearable sensor that can detect two key biomarkers of infection in human sweat, a significant step toward making it possible for users to receive early warnings of infections such as COVID-19 and influenza.

The Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science researchers’ study, published online March 3 in Advanced Materials Technologies, demonstrates that the sweat sensor can identify the biomarkers interferon-gamma-inducible protein (IP-10) and tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Elevated levels of IP-10 and TRAIL indicate what is known as a cytokine storm, a surge of pro-inflammatory immune proteins generated in the most serious infections.

Raphael C. Lee elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2022
Raphael Lee | April 29, 2022

Seven members of the University of Chicago faculty have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies.

They include Profs. Christopher R. Berry, Raphael C. Lee, Peter B. Littlewood, Richard Neer, Sianne Ngai and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, and Prof. Emerita Wadad Kadi.

These scholars have made breakthroughs in fields ranging from condensed matter physics to biomedical engineering and the aesthetics of capitalism. They join the 2022 class of 261 individuals, announced April 28, which includes artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

In addition to Rossi-Hansberg, AM’98, PhD’02, 13 UChicago alumni were also elected as part of this year’s class.

Plug-and-play organ-on-a-chip can be customized to the patient
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | April 27, 2022

Engineered tissues have become a critical component for modeling diseases and testing the efficacy and safety of drugs in a human context. A major challenge for researchers has been how to model body functions and systemic diseases with multiple engineered tissues that can physiologically communicate — just like they do in the body. However, it is essential to provide each engineered tissue with its own environment so that the specific tissue phenotypes can be maintained for weeks to months, as required for biological and biomedical studies. Making the challenge even more complex is the necessity of linking the tissue modules together to facilitate their physiological communication, which is required for modeling conditions that involve more than one organ system, without sacrificing the individual engineered tissue environments.

Novel plug-and-play multi-organ chip, customized to the patient

Up to now, no one has been able to meet both conditions. Today, a team of researchers from Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Irving Medical Center reports that they have developed a model of human physiology in the form of a multi-organ chip consisting of engineered human heart, bone, liver, and skin that are linked by vascular flow with circulating immune cells, to allow recapitulation of interdependent organ functions. The researchers have essentially created a plug-and-play multi-organ chip, which is the size of a microscope slide, that can be customized to the patient. Because disease progression and responses to treatment vary greatly from one person to another, such a chip will eventually enable personalized optimization of therapy for each patient. The study is the cover story of the April 2022 issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.

Can a blood test help diagnose skin cancer?
Sunitha Nagrath | April 20, 2022

New research in Advanced NanoBiomed Research indicates that testing an individual’s blood can reveal the presence of circulating melanoma cells. Such tests may allow patients to forego invasive skin biopsies to determine whether they have skin cancer.

The test uses what’s called the Melanoma-specific OncoBean platform conjugated with melanoma-specific antibodies. Investigators at the University of Michigan showed that the test can be used not only to diagnose melanoma but also to evaluate whether all cancer cells have been successfully removed after skin cancer surgery.

Tumors partially destroyed with sound don’t come back
Zhen Xu | April 18, 2022

Noninvasive sound technology developed at the University of Michigan breaks down liver tumors in rats, kills cancer cells and spurs the immune system to prevent further spread—an advance that could lead to improved cancer outcomes in humans.

By destroying only 50% to 75% of liver tumor volume, the rats’ immune systems were able to clear away the rest, with no evidence of recurrence or metastases in more than 80% of animals.

“Even if we don’t target the entire tumor, we can still cause the tumor to regress and also reduce the risk of future metastasis,” said Zhen Xu, professor of biomedical engineering at U-M and corresponding author of the study in Cancers.

Innovative Therapy that “Tricks” and Destroys Cancer Cells Advances to Clinical Trial
Kathleen Schmainda | April 8, 2022

A novel therapy studied at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Cancer Center has led to a clinical trial for the treatment of glioblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, yet the most common primary brain tumor in adults.

Despite decades of research globally, only incremental gains have been made to extend or enhance quality of life for patients with glioblastoma. Treatment options are limited and typically include a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Now, a new clinical study open at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin will evaluate an alternative treatment that is administered orally.