Developing 3-D Printable Biomaterials for Tissue Engineering
Ramille Shah, PhD, assistant professor in Surgery and the McCormick School of Engineering, focused on the biomedical applications of her lab’s work developing 3-D printable materials at a seminar presented by Northwestern University’s Simpson Querrey Institute for Bionanotechnology in Medicine (IBNAM) on November 17.
The ultimate goal of her research is to create 3-D printable objects to help regenerate tissues and organs that have been damaged by trauma or disease. To do that, she and the scientists in her lab need to understand and learn to control the characteristics of various inks, such as size, shape, elasticity and degradation time, to create optimized environments that promote the bioavailability, proliferation and differentiation of cells – for any patient.
“We have the opportunity to create tailor-able constructs that are patient-specific,” Shah said.
She shared research on applications of this work, implemented through collaborations with other Feinberg scientists. It touches many realms, from printing artificial ovaries to engineering liver tissue to accelerating bone healing in ACL repair with hyperelastic bone materials.
“We know we have the capacity to expand the palate of 3-D printable ink to really match the mechanical, biological and architectural qualities of tissue types, whether they’re specific tissues or whole organ structures,” Shah said.
Latin Dancing to Improve Health of Older Latinos
David Marquez, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discussed efforts to increase the physical activity of older Latinos in a culturally relevant way during the Center for Behavior and Health Brown Bag Seminar on November 19.
People of Latino origin are the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, making up an estimated one in six older adults. Studies reveal a high prevalence of cardiovascular and cognitive risk factors among members of this population compared to others, in large part because they do not exercise regularly. To address the issue, Marquez co-founded a dance program designed for older Latinos called BAILA.
“Latin dancing seemed to be an ideal physical activity – people work really hard and don’t even realize it,” he said.
An obvious benefit of the program is that participants enjoy dancing, especially compared to traditional exercise. But Marquez and collaborators needed evidence that the activity has health benefits, too.
Marquez described the evolution of his project – from an early pilot study to ongoing work funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant – and he detailed challenges encountered in the process, including addressing external barriers the population faces and overcoming difficulties with study recruitment. For example, he successfully recruited potential participants by attending Spanish-language masses at Roman Catholic churches.
Exploring the Human “Exposome”
William Funk, PhD, assistant professor in Preventive Medicine-Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, overviewed his research to find environmental causes of disease at the Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM) weekly seminar series on November 20.
Funk’s research focuses on two areas: discovering biomarkers to identify unknown risk factors and coming up with methods to extend biomarkers to population-based studies. It’s all part of a goal to understand the human “exposome,” the complete set of exposures that relate to disease risk, which complements the human genome. Funk pointed to research indicating that 70 to 90 percent of disease risk is likely due to differences in environment.
“Environmental exposures are not just water, food and the air that we breathe, but also things like social stress, drugs, endogenous processes such as lipid peroxidation that produce reactive alkalines in the body,” he said.
In a nutshell, he said, exposures can include anything that alters the reactive chemicals inside the body, from the neonatal period of life and beyond.
Funk explained how his lab gathers blood samples and finds chemicals using protein adduct profiles to measure environmental exposures. He has used this work to compare smokers to nonsmokers and newborns with congenital heart defects and to healthy controls, as well as to assess indoor air quality in the United Arab Emirates.
The schedule of upcoming IPHAM seminar series events is available here.