Engineering Diversity

Northwestern-invented biomaterial technology moves from lab bench to the orthopaedic market
Guillermo Ameer | September 22, 2021

Northwestern biomedical engineer Guillermo A. Ameer has achieved a rare, major accomplishment. A medical product based on novel biomaterials pioneered in his laboratory will be widely available for use in musculoskeletal surgeries to directly benefit patients.

The biomaterial technology, called CITREGEN™, developed by the start-up company Acuitive Technologies, Inc., is featured in Stryker Corporation’s CITRELOCK™, an innovative device that will debut this week at the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society’s annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. The CITRELOCK™ Tendon Fixation Device System is used to attach soft tissue grafts to bone in reconstruction surgeries and provides surgeons a differentiated design due to Ameer’s biomaterial. 

Institute Professor Paula Hammond named to White House science council
Paula Hammond | September 22, 2021

Paula Hammond, an MIT Institute Professor and head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering, has been chosen to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the White House announced today.

The council advises the president on matters involving science, technology, education, and innovation policy. It also provides the White House with scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the U.S. economy, U.S. workers, and national security.

Statistical model defines ketamine anesthesia’s effects on the brain
Emery Brown | September 21, 2021

Neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital develop a statistical framework that describes brain-state changes patients experience under ketamine-induced anesthesia.

By developing the first statistical model to finely characterize how ketamine anesthesia affects the brain, a team of researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and Massachusetts General Hospital have laid new groundwork for three advances: understanding how ketamine induces anesthesia; monitoring the unconsciousness of patients in surgery; and applying a new method of analyzing brain activity.

Plants as mRNA Factories for Edible Vaccines
Nicole Steinmetz | September 17, 2021

University of California-Riverside (UCR) researchers say they are studying whether they can turn edible plants like lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.

One of the challenges with this new technology is that it must be kept cold to maintain stability during transport and storage. If this new project is successful, plant-based mRNA vaccines, which can be eaten, could overcome this challenge with the ability to be stored at room temperature.

Researchers design sensors to rapidly detect plant hormones
Mary Chan-Park | September 13, 2021

Researchers from the Disruptive and Sustainable Technologies for Agricultural Precision (DiSTAP) interdisciplinary research group of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, and their local collaborators from Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), have developed the first-ever nanosensor to enable rapid testing of synthetic auxin plant hormones. The novel nanosensors are safer and less tedious than existing techniques for testing plants’ response to compounds such as herbicide, and can be transformative in improving agricultural production and our understanding of plant growth.

A fountain of youth for aging muscles
Helen Blau | September 2, 2021

Regenerative medicine could hold the keys to rejuvenating older muscles, and research supporting that will be featured at the Mayo Clinic Symposium on Regenerative Medicine and Surgery. Preclinical research by Helen Blau, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, discovered a protein that triggers muscle loss and a way to block it to restore youthful muscle strength. Dr. Blau, director of the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine, will present her research in a virtual keynote speech.

Building a better chemical factory – out of microbes
Kristala Prather | August 24, 2021

Metabolic engineers have a problem: cells are selfish. The scientists want to use microbes to produce chemical compounds for industrial applications. The microbes prefer to concentrate on their own growth.

Kristala L. Jones Prather ’94 has devised a tool that satisfies both conflicting objectives. Her metabolite valve acts like a train switch: it senses when a cell culture has reproduced enough to sustain itself and then redirects metabolic flux—the movement of molecules in a pathway—down the track that synthesizes the desired compound. The results: greater yield of the product and sufficient cell growth to keep the culture healthy and productive.

Revving Up to Advance Battery Research for Electric Vehicles
Esther Takeuchi | August 24, 2021

Stony Brook University’s Institute for Electrochemically Stored Energy, through the Research Foundation of SUNY, has received a major grant from the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) to further develop battery technology that could potentially be used in the creation of more efficient electric vehicles (EVs). The research, led by Esther Takeuchi, PhD, is funded through the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicles Technology Office, and is part of a national research initiative to accelerate advancements in zero-emissions vehicles. The grant totals $2,285,813, effective October 1, 2021, and runs through December 2024.

Locascio Nominated to Return to NIST as Director
Laurie Locascio | July 22, 2021

President Biden announced on July 16 that he is nominating Laurie Locascio to be director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a $1 billion agency within the Commerce Department. Locascio spent most of her career at NIST, joining as a bioengineering researcher in 1986 and ultimately taking on a series of senior leadership roles before leaving the agency in 2017. Since then, she has been vice president for research at the Baltimore and College Park campuses of the University of Maryland.

Pending her confirmation by the Senate, Locascio will return to the agency at a moment when its responsibilities are expanding and lawmakers are proposing it play a substantial role in national innovation initiatives currently under consideration in Congress. The Biden administration is likewise taking a significant interest in NIST, proposing to expand its budget by 45% in the next fiscal year.

A noninvasive test to detect cancer cells and pinpoint their location
Sangeeta Bhatia | July 15, 2021

Most of the tests that doctors use to diagnose cancer — such as mammography, colonoscopy, and CT scans — are based on imaging. More recently, researchers have also developed molecular diagnostics that can detect specific cancer-associated molecules that circulate in bodily fluids like blood or urine.

MIT engineers have now created a new diagnostic nanoparticle that combines both of these features: It can reveal the presence of cancerous proteins through a urine test, and it functions as an imaging agent, pinpointing the tumor location. In principle, this diagnostic could be used to detect cancer anywhere in the body, including tumors that have metastasized from their original locations.

Interdisciplinary team researches potential treatments for intervertebral disc disease
Lori Setton | July 13, 2021

Intervertebral discs provide load support and motion between vertebrae in the spine, but when they start to break down and compress due to aging, disease or injury, a person experiences significant pain and reduced mobility. An interdisciplinary team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found a way to deliver new cells to the cushioning material in intervertebral discs that may restore their height, which could reduce pain and improve mobility.

Lori Setton, the Lucy & Stanley Lopata Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering, led a team of biomedical engineering researchers in the McKelvey School of Engineering and researchers from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery in the School of Medicine to develop a hydrogel modified with peptides that control cell attachment and cell fate.

Opening Blood-Brain Barrier with Focused Ultrasound
Elisa Konofagou | July 10, 2021

Ultrasound is typically synonymous with prenatal care, but soon an emerging platform called focused ultrasound could treat cancer.

In a new clinical trial, oncologists Stergios Zacharoulis, MD, professor of pediatrics at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, and Cheng-Chia Wu, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, are using a focused ultrasound technique developed by Elisa Konofagou, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering and radiology at Columbia Engineering to more effectively and safely deliver chemotherapy for pediatric patients with an aggressive type of brain cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). The new technique works to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier, a natural protective layer in our brain, that blocks pathogens, bacteria, viruses, and other detrimental microoganisms circulating in the bloodstream from entering the central nervous system. The blood-brain barrier also limits the ability of systemic medications like chemotherapy from reaching brain tumors, making it a key challenge in effectively delivering therapies for brain tumors.

NAACP to Present Prestigious Spingarn Medal to UConn’s Dr. Cato T. Laurencin at 112th Annual Convention
Cato Laurencin | July 6, 2021

Professor Cato T. Laurencin of the University of Connecticut is the 2021 recipient of the prestigious Spingarn Medal, the highest honor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

“This is the most iconic award of the NAACP,” says Laurencin, who serves as the University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UConn.

Synthetic biology circuits can respond within seconds
Bonnie Berger | July 1, 2021

Synthetic biology offers a way to engineer cells to perform novel functions, such as glowing with fluorescent light when they detect a certain chemical. Usually, this is done by altering cells so they express genes that can be triggered by a certain input.

However, there is often a long lag time between an event such as detecting a molecule and the resulting output, because of the time required for cells to transcribe and translate the necessary genes. MIT synthetic biologists have now developed an alternative approach to designing such circuits, which relies exclusively on fast, reversible protein-protein interactions. This means that there’s no waiting for genes to be transcribed or translated into proteins, so circuits can be turned on much faster — within seconds.

Director Lander, the time is now
Lola Eniola-Adefeso and Hana El-Samad | July 2, 2021

The Biden administration’s decision to elevate the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a cabinet-level position is a win for science. Eric Lander, confirmed in May by the Senate, is now advising the president on the scientific, engineering, and technological policies of the US government. As Dr. Lander carries out this task, we hope that he keeps in mind what President Biden asked him in a letter in January: “How can we guarantee that the fruits of science and technology are fully shared across America and among all Americans?”

The challenges ahead are formidable. The devastating health and economic impacts of two major crises—climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic—have revealed deep societal fault lines that prevent the United States from drawing on the talents of all Americans to tackle these problems. Thus, there is an urgent need for smart and socially minded policy-making.

Rethinking Plastics
LaShanda Korley | July 1, 2021

People lived without plastic until the last century or so, but most of us would find it hard to imagine how.

Plastics now are everywhere in our lives, providing low-cost convenience and other benefits in countless applications. They can be shaped to almost any task, from wispy films to squishy children’s toys and hard-core components. They have shown themselves vital in medicine and have been pivotal in the global effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 16 months.

Plastics seem indispensable these days.

Unfortunately for the long-term, they are also nearly indestructible. Our planet now bears the weight of more than seven billion tons of plastics, with more being produced every day. An ever-growing waste stream clogs our landfills, pollutes our waterways and poses an urgent crisis for our planet.

NSF selects Susan S. Margulies to head the Engineering Directorate
Susan Margulies | July 1, 2021

The U.S. National Science Foundation has selected Susan S. Margulies to head the Directorate for Engineering. She is the first biomedical engineer to lead the engineering directorate, which supports fundamental research in emerging and frontier basic research areas.

Since 2017, Margulies has been professor and chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, housed jointly at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. Previously, she held positions as professor of bioengineering and neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania. She has won numerous awards and honors, including fellowships from the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Biomedical Engineering Society, as well as numerous other recognitions throughout her career. Margulies is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine.

Melina R. Kibbe Named Dean of UVA’s School of Medicine
Melina Kibbe | June 9, 2021

The University of Virginia has named pioneering physician leader Melina R. Kibbe, MD, as 17th dean of the UVA School of Medicine and chief health affairs officer for UVA Health.

Dr. Kibbe is an outstanding clinician, researcher and highly respected educator. She comes to UVA effective Sept. 15 from her role as the Colin G. Thomas Jr. Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also holds an appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Visiting professor wins ScienceFather award for IVF research
Urmila Diwekar | June 7, 2021

The most common technique, and often the last resort, for couples struggling to conceive a child is in vitro fertilization. However, despite many advances since the first IVF baby was conceived in 1978, the procedure is still expensive and has a success rate of around 20% to 35% on the first attempt.

But thanks to the work of Richard and Loan Hill Visiting Professor Urmila Diwekar, IVF treatments may soon be personalized to individual patients to increase their chance of success. Diwekar recently received a New Science Inventions Award from ScienceFather for her work developing a mathematical procedure to provide a customized drug dosage during an IVF treatment.

Building better bubbles for ultrasound could enhance image quality, facilitate treatments
Agata Exner | May 25, 2021

Ultrasound is a non-invasive technique that uses sound waves to either generate images of tissues inside of the body, or to interact with tissues as a therapeutic tool – to break up gallstones, increase blood flow, or ablate tumors, for instance. Ultrasound contrast agents, which are typically tiny bubbles filled with gas, can enhance the reflection of ultrasound waves to improve the quality of an ultrasound image. However, commercially available contrast agents are confined to the blood vessels, typically remain in the bloodstream for less than 10 minutes, and are used in only a handful of settings in the United States.

But what if ultrasound contrast agents could leave the vasculature, persist for an extended period of time, and be customized for a specific application.

Linda Petzold Elected to National Academy of Sciences
Linda Petzold | May 15, 2021

For their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research, UC Santa Barbara professors Denise Montell, Linda Petzold and Glenn Fredrickson have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). They are among 120 members, and 30 international members, to join the academy this year.

Membership in the NAS is one of the most prestigious recognitions awarded to a scientist or engineer in the United States.

Implantable ‘Living Pharmacy’ Could Control Body’s Sleep/Wake Cycles
Guillermo Ameer | May 13, 2021

A Northwestern University-led team of researchers has signed a cooperative agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a wireless, fully implantable device that will control the body’s circadian clock, halving the time it takes to recover from disrupted sleep/wake cycles.

The first phase of the highly interdisciplinary program will focus on developing the implant. The second phase, contingent on the first, will validate the device. If that milestone is met, then researchers will test the device in human trials, as part of the third phase. The full funding corresponds to $33 million over four-and-a-half years.

Norma Alcantar to be Inducted into Florida Inventors Hall of Fame
Norma Alcantar | April 29, 2021

USF Professor Norma Alcantar—who engineered an ancient practice of cleaning water with cactus mucilage to create modern technologies—is among seven new inductees to the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame announced today.

Alcantar joins noted inventors Dean Kamen, often referred to as the modern Thomas Edison due to the breadth and scope of his inventions, and Mark Dean, who holds three patents on the original IBM personal computer and is the co-inventor of the ISA bus which revolutionized modern computing. The full list of inductees can be found…

These cellular clocks help explain why elephants are bigger than mice
Helen Blau | April 27, 2021

In her laboratory in Barcelona, Spain, Miki Ebisuya has built a clock without cogs, springs or numbers. This clock doesn’t tick. It is made of genes and proteins, and it keeps time in a layer of cells that Ebisuya’s team has grown in its lab. This biological clock is tiny, but it could help to explain some of the most conspicuous differences between animal species.

Animal cells bustle with activity, and the pace varies between species. In all observed instances, mouse cells run faster than human cells, which tick faster than whale cells. These differences affect how big an animal gets, how its parts are arranged and perhaps even how long it will live. But biologists have long wondered what cellular timekeepers control these speeds, and why they vary.

Professor Cato T. Laurencin Has Been Elected to the National Academy of Sciences
Cato Laurencin | April 27, 2021

On April 26, 2021 the National Academy of Sciences announced that Dr. Cato T. Laurencin was elected as a new member, making him the first surgeon to be elected to membership in the three National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine and Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Laurencin is known as a world leader in biomaterials, polymeric materials science, nanotechnology, stem cell science, drug delivery systems, and a field he has pioneered, regenerative engineering. Laurencin’s papers and patents have had broad impact on human health, including pioneering the use of nanotechnology in musculoskeletal regeneration and ushering in a new era in orthopaedic therapies. For this work, Dr. Laurencin received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the highest honor bestowed in America for technological achievement, from President Barack Obama.

Jennifer West Named Dean of Engineering and Applied Science
Jennifer West | April 23, 2021

The University of Virginia today announced the appointment of Jennifer L. West as the 14th dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, effective July 1.

West is currently the Associate Dean for Ph.D. Education and the Fitzpatrick Family University Professor in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University. West comes to UVA with a formidable record of accomplishment and experience as a transformational researcher, award-winning teacher and mentor, and inventor and entrepreneur, with 25 years of experience in engineering education and leadership.

Micro-molded ‘ice cube tray’ scaffold is next step in returning sight to injured retinas
Sarah Gong | April 21, 2021

Tens of millions of people worldwide are affected by diseases like macular degeneration or have had accidents that permanently damage the light-sensitive photoreceptors within their retinas that enable vision.

The human body is not capable of regenerating those photoreceptors, but new advances by medical researchers and engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison may provide hope for those suffering from vision loss. They described their work today in the journal Science Advances.

Ameer Named Fellow of Materials Research Society
Guillermo Ameer | April 1, 2021

Northwestern Engineering’s Guillermo A. Ameer has been named a fellow of the Materials Research Society for his contributions to regenerative engineering through pioneering work developing antioxidant citrate-based polymers that are useful for musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, dermal, and urological applications, rendering them enabling technologies to improve health.

Ameer is the Daniel Hale Williams Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and a professor of surgery in Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He also is founding director of Northwestern’s Center for Advanced Regenerative Engineering.

Exploiting cancer cells to aid in their own destruction
Melody Swartz | March 24, 2021

Immunotherapy, which recruits the body’s own immune system to attack cancer, has given many cancer patients a new avenue to treat the disease. But many cancer immunotherapy treatments can be expensive, have devastating side effects, and only work in a fraction of patients.

Researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago have developed a new therapeutic vaccine that uses a patient’s own tumor cells to train their immune system to find and kill cancer.

The vaccine, which is injected into the skin just like a traditional vaccine, stopped melanoma tumor growth in mice. It even worked long-term, destroying new tumors long after the initial injection.

Ultrasound outperforms legacy technique at pinpointing heart arrhythmias
Elisa Konofagou | March 22, 2021

A commonly available ultrasound technique proved superior to a long-used approach at spotting abnormal heart rhythms and may help treat patients with this worldwide problem, according to recently published research.

The method—electromechanical wave imaging (EWI)—creates a 3D cardiac map to pinpoint electromechanical activity that causes arrhythmias, investigators with Columbia University in New York reported in Science Translational Medicine. Most care settings have this portable machine handy and can use it during ablation procedures to accurately guide the catheter to the proper area.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic Receives AIMBE’s Highest Award
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | March 22, 2021

AIMBE is honored to recognize Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic with its Pierre Galletti Award, the Institute’s highest accolade. Including years of contributions to AIMBE and the BME community, Vunjak-Novakovic is recognized for impactful innovations in technologies to generate, understand and utilize functional human tissues, especially in regenerative engineering, studies of development and disease, while inspiring the next generation of practitioners. This award is presented to an individual in recognition of his/her contributions to public awareness of medical and biological engineering, and to the advancement of biomedical public policy in science, engineering, and education.

Researchers identify head impact rates in four major high school sports
Kristy Arbogast | March 17, 2021

As high school athletes return to practice and games for a variety of sports, the threat of concussions remains. A new study from researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) used head impact sensors in four different sports and studied male and female athletes to determine which of these sports put students at the highest risk for head impacts that could lead to concussions. The findings were published online by the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to concussion because they frequently participate in sporting and recreational activities and have slower recovery periods compared to adults,” said Kristy Arbogast, PhD, senior author and co-lead of the Minds Matter Concussion Program at CHOP. “Providing reliable data on head impact exposure and sport-specific mechanisms may help sports organizations identify strategies to reduce impact exposure and lower the risk of acute injury.

Stanford Researchers Find Culprit In Muscle Aging And How To Knock It Down
Helen Blau | March 17, 2021

For well over a decade now, scientists have been experimenting with “couch potato” drugs that could confer the benefits of exercise without having to flex a muscle. The latest candidate is a small molecule inhibitor impeding the degradation of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), recently shown to act directly on mature muscle fibers to prevent deleterious molecular changes that arise with aging, according to Helen Blau, professor of microbiology and immunology and director of the Baxter Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

In gel form, PGE2 is already being used to induce labor and treat respiratory distress in newborns, says Blau. It now appears that restoring PGE2 later in life could be a way to rejuvenate aging muscles and possibly treat conditions such as age-related muscle atrophy (sarcopenia), Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and other myopathies.

Linda Griffith honored for contributions to biological engineering education
Linda Griffith | March 11, 2021

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has announced that two MIT professors have been jointly awarded the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, the most prestigious engineering education award in the United States.

Linda G. Griffith, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation in the Department of Biological Engineering, and Douglas A. Lauffenburger, the Ford Professor of Biological Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Biology, were recognized for their respective contributions to “the establishment of a new biology-based engineering education, producing a new generation of leaders capable of addressing world problems with innovative biological technologies,” according to an NAE statement.

Olin President Gilda Barabino Named AAAS President-Elect
Gilda Barabino | March 3, 2021

Gilda A. Barabino, Ph.D., President of Olin College of Engineering, has been selected as president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Barabino was elected as an AAAS Fellow in 2010 and has been a member of the organization since 1987. She began her term on Feb. 24. After serving for one year as president-elect, Barabino will serve one year as AAAS president and then one year as chair of the AAAS Board of Directors.

Purigen Simplifies Simultaneous Extraction and Purification of DNA and RNA from Challenging FFPE Samples
Juan Santiago | March 2, 2021

Purigen Biosystems, Inc., a leading provider of next-generation technologies for extracting and purifying nucleic acids from biological samples, today announced the launch of the Ionic® FFPE Complete Purification Kit. Scientists are now able to consistently recover both DNA and RNA (mRNA and miRNA) simultaneously from formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples in a single workflow. Purigen is showcasing the advantages of the new kit during the virtual Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) 2021 annual meeting.

Tissue-engineered implants provide new hope for vocal injuries
Sherry Harbin | February 23, 2021

New technology from Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine innovators may one day help patients who suffer devastating vocal injuries from surgery on the larynx.

A collaborative team consisting of Purdue biomedical engineers and clinicians from IU has tissue-engineered component tissue replacements that support reconstruction of the larynx. The team’s work is published in The Laryngoscope.

A*Star scientist Jackie Ying elected to prestigious US engineering academy based on work in Singapore
Jackie Y. Ying | February 11, 2021

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) senior fellow and head of NanoBio Lab Jackie Y. Ying has become the first scientist to be elected as a member to the prestigious United States National Academy of Engineering (NAE) based on her research in Singapore.

Recognised for her contributions in nanotechnology, Professor Ying, an American, is one of only two – among the 106 new American members elected – who are based outside the US, A*Star said in a statement on Thursday (Feb 11).

Wonder Fungi
Michelle O’Malley | February 1, 2021

Michelle O’Malley has long been inspired by gut microbes. Since she began studying the herbivore digestive tract, the UC Santa Barbara chemical engineering professor has guided several students to their doctoral degrees, won early and mid-career awards (including a recognition from President Obama), attained tenure and advanced to the position of full professor. She even had three children along the way. A constant through it all: goat poop.

Scientists “Farm” Natural Killer Cells Using a Microfluidic Chip in Novel Cancer Fighting Approach
Sunitha Nagrath | Jan. 28, 2021

Building on the promise of emerging therapies to deploy the body’s “natural killer” immune cells to fight cancer, researchers at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center and U-M College of Engineering have gone one step further.

They’ve developed what is believed to be the first systematic way to catch natural killer cells and get them to release cancer-killing packets called exosomes. These nano-scale exosomes are thousands of times smaller than natural killer cells — or NK cells for short — and thus better able to penetrate cancer cells’ defenses.

Algorithms Designed to Study Language Can Predict Immune “Escape” Mutations for HIV, Influenza, and SARS-CoV-2
Bonnie Berger | January 15, 2021

By bridging the conceptual divide between human language and viral evolution, MIT researchers have developed a powerful new computational tool for predicting the mutations that allow viruses to “escape” human immunity or vaccines. Its use could negate the need for high-throughput experimental techniques that are currently employed to identify potential mutations that could allow a virus to escape recognition. The computational model, based on models that were originally developed to analyze language, can predict which sections of viral surface proteins are more likely to mutate in a way that would enable viral escape, and it can also identify sections that are less likely to mutate, which would represent good targets for new vaccines.

Small molecule restores muscle strength, boosts endurance in old mice, study finds
Helen Blau | December 10, 2020

Blocking the activity of a single protein in old mice for one month restores mass and strength to the animals’ withered muscles and helps them run longer on a treadmill, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Conversely, increasing the expression of the protein in young mice causes their muscles to atrophy and weaken.

“The improvement is really quite dramatic” said Helen Blau, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology. “The old mice are about 15% to 20% stronger after one month of treatment, and their muscle fibers look like young muscle. Considering that humans lose about 10% of muscle strength per decade after about age 50, this is quite remarkable.

Medical device using Northwestern-invented biomaterial receives FDA clearance
Guillermo Ameer | October 21, 2020

An innovative orthopedic medical device fabricated from a novel biomaterial pioneered in the laboratory of Northwestern University professor Guillermo A. Ameer has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in surgeries to attach soft tissue grafts to bone.

The biomaterial is the first thermoset biodegradable synthetic polymer ever approved for use in an implantable medical device. It’s unique chemical and mechanical properties enable cutting-edge implant designs that protect the soft tissue graft during insertion and optimize graft fixation to bone.

Melody Swartz elected to the National Academy of Medicine
Melody Swartz | October 19, 2020

Today it was announced that Melody Swartz, William B. Ogden Professor of Molecular Engineering at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago, has been elected to membership in the National Academy of Medicine.

Swartz holds a joint appointment in the Ben May Department for Cancer Research and serves as deputy dean for faculty affairs at Pritzker Molecular Engineering. She is also a co-founder of the Chicago Immunoengineering Innovation Center (CIIC). Her research interests include lymphatic physiology, cancer research, and immunotherapy.

Susan Margulies Elected to National Academy of Medicine
Susan Margulies | October 19, 2020

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. 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.

Gilda Barabino Elected to National Academy of Medicine
Gilda Barabino | October 19, 2020

Olin College President Gilda A. Barabino has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, the academy announced on Monday, October 19 at its annual meeting. Election to the Academy 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.

Barabino’s election honors her leadership and contributions in shaping and transforming the face of biomedical engineering through the integration of scientific discovery, engineering applications, and the preparation of a diverse biomedical workforce to improve human health, and for her seminal discoveries in sickle cell research.

Purigen Launches New Extraction and Purification Kit that Enables Scientists to Maximize Usable DNA from Limited Biological Samples
Juan Santiago | October 14, 2020

Purigen Biosystems, Inc., a leading provider of next-generation technologies for extracting and purifying nucleic acids from biological samples, today announced the launch of the Ionic® Cells to Pure DNA Low Input Kit for researchers working with limited biological samples. The simplified and automated 60-minute workflow delivers high-quality DNA for the rapid investigation of genetic abnormalities or examination of disease treatment effects.

The Ionic Cells to Pure DNA Low Input Kit offers consistent recovery of DNA with yields near the theoretical maximum for as many as 100,000 down to as few as 10 cultured or sorted cells. Compared to leading column-based products, the new kit delivers up to twice the amount of DNA with a significantly higher proportion greater than 20 kb in length. Regardless of the input amount, the workflow is the same and does not require carrier RNA. The prepared DNA is ready for analysis by downstream techniques such as next-generation sequencing (NGS) or qPCR.

Researchers Use Lab-grown Tissue Grafts for Personalized Joint Replacement
Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic | October 14, 2020

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which forms the back portion of the lower jaw and connects your jaw to your skull, is an anatomically complex and highly loaded structure consisting of cartilage and bone. About 10 million people in the United States alone suffer from TMJ dysfunction due to birth defects, trauma, or disease. Current treatments range from steroid injections that provide only a temporary pain relief, to surgical reconstructions using either prosthetic devices or donor tissue, and often fail to provide long-lasting repair. Researchers have sought a better way to treat TMJ, including investigating biological TMJ grafts grown in the lab that could integrate with the native tissues, remodel the joint over time, and provide life-long function for the patient.

Skin-care product based on U of T Engineering research donated to health-care workers fighting COVID-19
Milica Radisic | October 13, 2020

A U of T Engineering spinoff company has donated its entire stock of skin-care product to health-care workers fighting the global pandemic.

Several years ago, Professor Milica Radisic (BME, ChemE) and her team developed a peptide-hydrogel biomaterial that prompts skin cells to “crawl” toward one another. The material was initially designed to help close the chronic, non-healing wounds often associated with diabetes, such as bed sores and foot ulcers.

UChicago researchers find way to improve multiple sclerosis treatment
Melody Swartz | October 12, 2020

Multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that affects millions worldwide, can cause debilitating symptoms for those who suffer from it.

Though treatments exist, researchers are still searching for therapies that could more effectively treat the disease, or even prevent it altogether.

Researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago have designed a new therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) by fusing a cytokine to a blood protein. In mice, this combination prevented destructive immune cells from infiltrating the central nervous system and decreased the number of cells that play a role in MS development, leading to fewer symptoms and even disease prevention.