Four Professors have been awarded DEANS awards including Kareen Coulombe, Anita Shukla, Eric Darling, and Diane Hoffman-Kim. The DEANS awards will foster scientific discovery through partnerships between Brown basic science faculty in the Division of Biology and Medicine and Alpert Medical School clinical faculty members. The intent is for the translational nature of these awards to lead to advances in pathogenesis and ultimately medical care. Each Professor has written a brief summary of how the DEANS award will apply to their research.
Dr. Coulombe will initiate a collaboration with Drs. Ulrike Mende and Bum-Rak Choi at the Cardiovascular Research Center at RI Hospital to investigate how a large engineered cardiac tissue integrates into an injured heart in a rat model of myocardial infarction. Optical mapping of voltage and calcium transients will assess electrical conductivity across the implant and arrhythmia risk, and ventricular wall strain analysis by echocardiography will elucidate mechanical contributions of the engineered tissue to the heart's contractile function.
Anita Shukla, Assistant Professor of Engineering, has been awarded a Dean’s Emerging Areas of New Science (DEANS) Award, along with Co-PI, Professor Beth Fuchs, an Assistant Professor (Research) at Rhode Island Hospital and the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown. Recent warnings by the World Health Organization of an impending “post antibiotic era” in which common infections are lethal, coupled with a lack in development of new classes of antimicrobials, call for an immediate need to identify new antimicrobial therapeutics and engineer advanced antimicrobial delivery systems. Through their DEANS Award, Professor Shukla and Professor Fuchs will examine the antimicrobial properties of novel antimicrobial therapeutics identified in a thorough screening process. Professor Shukla and her students will develop effective biomaterials based delivery systems for these therapeutics, engineered to exhibit optimal drug release concentrations and kinetics. The efficacy of the materials developed will be tested in a murine burn infection model. Professor Shukla is an expert in materials development and characterization for biological applications, especially in the area of multilayer assemblies for drug delivery coatings, which will be explored in this work. Professor Fuchs is an expert in molecular microbiology and has extensive experience working with microbial pathogens. The complementary expertise of both investigators has the potential to yield results that greatly improve treatment microbial infections while combating the rising issue of drug resistance.
Predicting post‐traumatic osteoarthritis via in vivo biomarkers of inflammation: This collaborative project between BME faculty member Eric Darling, Manning Assistant Professor of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, & Biotechnology, and Orthopaedics faculty member Yupeng Chen leverages the strengths and experience of both groups to determine whether the onset and severity of osteoarthritis can be predicted soon after injury. To accomplish this, Darling and Chen are combining two of their technologies: molecular beacons that target live-cell gene expression and nanopieces that can ferry those beacons into cells once injected into the body. Inflammatory gene expression will be monitored for intensity and duration following injury to mouse knee joints. These parameters will be recorded in live animals every day until signals disappear. After 4-8 weeks, osteoarthritic degradation of the cartilage tissue will be correlated with the measured, early indicators of inflammation to determine whether a predictive relationship exists. Although this is a pilot project, the ultimate goal would be to implement a similar approach in humans so that clinicians are alerted when the inflammatory environment in an injured joint is elevated to levels that result in irreparable, long-term damage.
Diane Hoffman-Kim, PhD and Carl Saab, PhD have been awarded a DEANSaward for their project, "Tissue Engineering Neuroma Prevention and Nerve Repair." Peripheral nerve injuries are common and costly, and neuromas are a painful symptom. This project will develop an in vitro tissue engineered model of neuroma to evaluate therapeutic strategies. It will provide a proof-of- principle of the in vivo potential of a novel biomimetic biomaterial nerve guidance channel to direct nerve growth, therefore yielding functional recovery in the whole animal.