INBT’s fall student symposium Nov. 7

An important opportunity in graduate school is to get peer and mentor feedback on results. One of the best ways to do that is to share what you have been working on with your colleagues at a symposium.

Jordan Green

Jordan Green

Come hear the latest updates from Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s research centers on Friday, November 7 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at Levering on the Homewood campus! Students affiliated with laboratories from the Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, Johns Hopkins Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and INBT will present at this student-organized symposium. This event is free and open to the Johns Hopkins community. Refreshments provided.

The keynote faculty speaker is Jordan Green, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Department of Biomedical Engineering. Green was recently named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10.” Breakfast, networking and introductions begin at 9 a.m.

Student speakers and topics include:
**Kristen Kozielski – Bioreducible nanoparticles for efficient and environmentally triggered siRNA delivery to primary human glioblastoma cells. Jordan Green Lab. 9:30-9:45 a.m.

**Angela Jimenez – Spatio-temporal characterization of tumor growth and invasion in three-dimensions (3D). Denis Wirtz Lab. 9:50-10:05 a.m.

**Amanda Levy – Development of an in vitro system for the study of neuroinflammation. Peter Searson Lab. 10:10- 10:25 a.m.

**Max Bogorad – An engineered microvessel platform for quantitative imaging of drug permeability and absorption.  Peter Searson Lab. 10:30-10:45 a.m.

**Greg Wiedman – Peptide Mediated Methods of Nanoparticle Drug Delivery. Kalina Hristova Lab. 10:50 to 11:05 a.m.

**Jordan Green – Particle-based micro and nanotechnology to treat cancer 11:10 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.

Please RSVP on our Facebook event page here.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, or 410-516-4802.

Landmark physical characterization of cancer cells completed

An enormous collaborative effort between a multitude of academic and research centers has characterized numerous physical and mechanical properties on one identical human cancer cell line. Their two-year cooperative study, published online in the April 26, 2013 journal Science Reports, reveals the persistent and agile nature of human cancer cells as compared to noncancerous cells. It also represents a major shift in the way scientific research can be accomplished.

Human breast cancer cells like these were used in the study. (Image created by Shyam Khatau/ Wirtz Lab)

Human breast cancer cells like these were used in the study. (Image created by Shyam Khatau/ Wirtz Lab)

The research, which was conducted by 12 federally funded Physical Sciences-Oncology Centers (PS-OC) sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, is a systematic comparison of metastatic human breast-cancer cells to non-metastatic breast cells that reveals dramatic differences between the two cell lines in their mechanics, migration, oxygen response, protein production and ability to stick to surfaces. They have also discovered new insights into how human cells make the transition from nonmalignant to metastatic, a process that is not well understood.

Denis Wirtz, a Johns Hopkins professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering with joint appointments in pathology and oncology who is the corresponding author on the study, remarked that the work adds a tremendous amount of information about the physical nature of cancer cells. “For the first time ever, scientists got together and have created THE phenotypic signature of cancer” Wirtz said. “Yes, it was just one metastatic cell line, and it will require validation with many other cell lines. But we now have an extremely rich signature containing many parameters that are distinct when looking at metastatic and nonmetastatic cells.”

Wirtz, who directs the Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, also noted the unique way in which this work was conducted: all centers used the same human cell line for their studies, which makes the quality of the results unparalleled. And, since human and not animal cells were used, the findings are immediately relevant to the development of drugs for the treatment of human disease.

“Cancer cells may nominally be derived from the same patient, but in actuality they will be quite different because cells drift genetically over just a few passages,” Wirtz said.  “This makes any measurement on them from different labs like comparing apples and oranges.” In this study, however, the genetic integrity of the cell lines were safeguarded by limiting the number times the original cell cultures could be regrown before they were discarded.

The nationwide PS-OC brings together researchers from physics, engineering, computer science, cancer biology and chemistry to solve problems in cancer, said Nastaran Zahir Kuhn, PS-OC program manager at the National Cancer Institute.

“The PS-OC program aims to bring physical sciences tools and perspectives into cancer research,” Kuhn said. “The results of this study demonstrate the utility of such an approach, particularly when studies are conducted in a standardized manner from the beginning.”

For the nationwide project, nearly 100 investigators from 20 institutions and laboratories conducted their experiments using the same two cell lines, reagents and protocols to assure that results could be compared. The experimental methods ranged from physical measurements of how the cells push on surrounding cells to measurements of gene and protein expression.

“Roughly 20 techniques were used to study the cell lines, enabling identification of a number of unique relationships between observations,” Kuhn said.

Wirtz added that it would have been logistically impossible for a single institution to employ all of these different techniques and to measure all of these different parameters on just one identical cell line. That means that this work accomplished in just two years what might have otherwise taken ten, he said.

The Johns Hopkins PS-OC made specific contributions to this work. Using particle-tracking microrheology, in which nanospheres are embedded in the cell’s cytoplasm and random cell movement is visually monitored, they measured the mechanical properties of cancerous versus noncancerous cells. They found that highly metastatic breast cancer cells were mechanically softer and more compliant than cells of less metastatic potential.

Using 3D cell culturing techniques, they analyzed the spontaneous migratory potential (that is, migration without the stimulus of any chemical signal) of cancerous versus noncancerous cells. They also analyzed the extracellular matrix molecules that were deposited by the two cell lines and found that cancerous cells deposited more hyaluronic acid (HA). The HA, in turn, affects motility, polarization and differentiation of cells.  Finally, the Hopkins team measured the level of expression of CD44, a cell surface receptor that recognizes HA, and found that metastatic cells express more CD44.

The next steps, Wirtz said, would be to validate these results using other metastatic cell lines.  To read the paper, which is published in an open access journal, follow this link:

Excerpts from original press release by Princeton science writer Morgan Kelly were used.





Spring nano-bio mini-symposium set for April 3

Catch up on the latest research happening in Johns Hopkins University labs working in nanobiotechnology, the physics of cancer and cancer nanotech at INBT’s spring mini-symposium Wednesday, April 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Leverings’s Great Hall on the Homewood campus.


Mini-symposiums are organized in the spring and fall by student leaders in the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, the Engineering in Oncology Center and the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. They are a means of showcasing current work, learning from guest speakers and facilitating communication and collaboration among affiliated laboratories. This event is open to the entire Johns Hopkins Community. Save the date!

The agenda is as follows:

  • 9:00 am ~ 9:10 am Welcome speech Denis Wirtz, PhD, Director of Johns Hopkins Physical Science Oncology Center (PS-OC)
  • 9:10 am ~ 9:40 am “Role of ion channels and aquaporins in cancer cell migration in confined microenvironments” Kimberly M. Stroka, PhD, Postdoc fellow (PS-OC) Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • 9:40 am ~ 10:10 am “TBD” Helena Zec, Graduate student (CCNE) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • 10:10 am ~ 10:40 am “Single-cell protein profiling to study cancer cell heterogeneity” Jonathan Chen, Graduate student (PS-OC) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Yale University
  • 10:40 am ~ 11:30 am “Synthetic cell biology: total synthesis of cellular functions” Takanari Inoue, PhD, Assistant professor Department of Cell Biology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • 11:30 am ~ 11:40 am Coffee Break
  • 11:40 am ~ 12:10 pm “TBD” Yu-Ja Huang, Graduate student (PS-OC) Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
  • 12:10 pm ~ 1:00 pm “Infections, Chronic Inflammation, and Prostate Cancer” Karen Sandell Sfanos, PhD, Assistant professor Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • 1:00 pm ~ 1:30 pm “Development of CEST liposomes for monitoring nanoparticle-based cancer therapies using MRI” Tao Yu, Graduate student (CCNE) Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

INBT Spring mini-symposium flyer

Meet INBT’s summer interns, already digging into their research

Research does not take a holiday during the summer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. In fact, it ramps up with the addition of many new faces from across the country.

The Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology summer research interns have arrived and are already busy at work in various laboratories. This year’s group is the largest the institute has ever hosted, with 17 undergraduates from universities nationwide.

Of the total, three students are affiliated with the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and four are affiliated with the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center. The remaining 10 are part of the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates program. All are hosted through INBT, which serves as a hub for their academic and social activities.

INBT summer interns conduct 10 weeks of research in a laboratory either on the Homewood or the medical campus of the University. At the end of that time, students have learned how to work in a multidisciplinary team and how to manage a short term research project.  They also discover if research is a pathway they want to pursue after earning their bachelor’s degrees.

In August, interns from many of the science, medicine, engineering and public health summer programs will gather for a  poster session to be held on August 2 at 3 p.m. in Turner Concourse. The poster session will allow students to show off the results of their their work.

This year’s INBT/PS-OC/CCNE interns include:

At the Whiting School of Engineering…

Amani Alkayyali from Wayne State University is an REU student in the laboratory of Honggang Cui assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Also in the Cui lab are CCNE intern Matthew Fong from the University of California, Berkeley and Michelle LaComb, an REU student from Rice University.

Sharon Gerecht, assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular engineering, is hosting three interns. Josh Porterfield of Cornell University and Carolyn Zhang from the University of California are both PS-OC interns, and Bria Macklin of Howard University is an REU intern.

Jacqueline Carozza of Cornell University is a PS-OC student working in the lab of Denis Wirtz, professor in the Department Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Cassandra Loren from Oregon State University is a PS-OC intern also working in the Wirtz lab.

Eric Do from the University of Washington is an REU working in the lab of assistant professor Margarita Herrara-Alonso in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Olivia Hentz from Cornell is an REU student working in the lab of Jonah Erlebacher, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Justin Samorajski from the University of Dallas is a returning summer intern, once again working in the materials science and engineering lab of professor Peter Searson as part of the CCNE.

At the School of Medicine…

Lauren Lee of Cornell University is an REU working in the lab of biomedical engineering lab of associate professor Hai-Quan Mao.

Albert Lu from the University of California Berkeley is a CCNE intern working in the biomedical engineering lab of associate professor Jeff Wang.

Bianca Lascano from Norfolk State University is an REU in assistant professor Jordan Green’s biomedical engineering lab.

Charlie Nusbaum of the Richard Stockton College is an REU intern in the radiation oncology lab of assistant professor Robert Ivkov.

At the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences…

Anthony Loder of Rowan University is an REU working in the biology lab of assistant professor Xin Chen.

Daniel McClelland is also REU from Bethany College works in the chemistry laboratory of professor Howard Fairbrother.