Nanotechonlogy professor on the cusp of medical breakthrough

One out of four deaths in America is linked to heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic has motivated researchers and scientist at the University of Rhode Island to help find innovative ways to detect, treat and ultimately prevent heart disease in America.

URI professor Daniel Roxbury is one of those motivated researchers. Roxbury, with a team of URI students, worked with researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Weil Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences at Cornell to create nanotechnology capable of detecting heart disease.

Roxbury explained that the nanotechnology is, “a new type of nanomaterial that has something called fluorescents that can absorb light, at a certain color, and emit light at a different color. The most useful property for us is that fluorescent can change color depending on what is binding to that nanotube. So we can use that as a sensor.”

With the nanosensor, which includes engineered materials that are one one hundred-thousandths the width of a human hair, Roxbury and his fellow researchers were able to “detect fat molecules or lipid that were bonded to the surface of the nanotube.”

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, heart disease is caused by “a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries.” Detecting the growth of plaque and fatty tissues will allow scientists to diagnose and treat heart disease at an early stage.  

Roxbury is hopeful that this technology will be used to treat other diseases like Alzheimer’s and Cancer.

Mohammad Moein Safaee, a graduate research student for Roxbury explained how “this carbon nanotube-based sensor significantly decreases the time required to develop and test drugs for any lipid-linked diseases in the R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, in both in vitro and animal level.”

If this technology is effective, it could become one of the most significant medical breakthroughs in decades.

This breakthrough, in the words of biomedical engineering student, Merci-Pauline Ujenez, can help “bring in the building side with the medical side.”

Ujenez discussed the issues biomedical engineers face within their field, “because you can build things that are heavily focused on the engineering aspect, or even too focused on biology.”

` In spite of this, Ujenez said she is excited by this breakthrough with nanotechnology because in her view, “innovation is about mixing everything, to help build these machines that will actually help people.”

Although this breakthrough has the potential to help eradicate many incurable diseases, Roxbury acknowledges that “we have this new material and we don’t know all of its potentials yet, and we are still in the process of uncovering everything it can do.”

Nevertheless, Roxbury is still convinced that this technology will be used in the future to prevent disease, because of the passionate graduate and undergraduate students who are, “excited at an early stage, and intrigued by the applications of this research.”

David Restrepo, an undergraduate student and a research assistant for Roxbury said, “it’s nice to be part of Dr. Roxbury’s team and knowing you are on the front lines representing URI in battling these life treating diseases.”

Notes and Interview Quotes:

  • URI Professor Daniel Roxbury is participating in a national research team focused on using nanotechnology to diagnose and treat heart disease, Alzheimer, and Cancer.

 

  • Roxbury and researchers from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Weil Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences have developed a nano-sensor using fluorescents that are capable of detecting diseases, and delivering medicines.

Daniel Roxbury Interview Quotes:

“We have a new type of nano material, carbon nanotubes, they have some interesting properties. They have something called fluorescents meaning that they can absorb light, at a certain color, and emit light at a different color. The most useful property for us, is that, fluorescent can change color depending on what is binding to that nanotube. So we can use that as a sensor.”

“We detected fat molecules or lipid that were bonded to the surface of the nanotube.”

“Treatment with particular drug being used, or a new way to discover new drugs. Using the nanotube as a screening platform… some researchers test ten thousand different molecules, and which ever ones are hits, then you analyze further.”

“There are two ways that we can take the research, one is to grow the cells in a Petri dish, and finding new molecules to treat these disease, or another way is to implant this sensor, in a biocompatible way, and then monitor the progression of a disease. By tracking biomarkers of a disease. “

“To excite them at an early stage, and to get them intrigued by the applications of this research is the most important part.”

“Most of my students focus on why are we doing this kind of research, and the big picture.”

“We have this new material and we don’t know all of its potential yet, and we are still in the process of uncovering everything it can do. Everyone has heard of nanotubes, and its electrical applications, but no one has discovered its biological applications for treatment options.”

Merci-Pauline Ujeneza Quotes:

“We have no way of tracking when drugs in our systems. Especially for individuals who have adverse reactions to certain medicines. “

“My work has been heavy focused on cancer, using this technology will be a great way of perfecting cancer treatment. So if we put in a drug into a certain area of the body, we can use fluorescents to track if the drug is effective.”

“One of the benefits of biochemistry is that it brings in the building side with the medical side… the field has struggled to bridge the two together, because you can build things that are heavily focused on the engineering aspect, or even too focused on biology. But innovation is about mixing everything, to help build these machines that will actually help people.”

David Restrepo

“It’s nice to be part of Dr. Roxbury’s team and knowing you are in the front lines representing URI in battling these life treating diseases”

Mohammad Moein Safaee

“This carbon nanotube-based sensor significantly decreases the time required to develop and test drugs for any lipid-linked diseases in the R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, in both in vitro and animal level.”