Juergen Hahn, Ph.D

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2013
For contributions to nonlinear systems analysis and its application to biological and biomedical systems.

Alumnus Develops First Blood Test for Autism

Via U. Texas Austin | March 20, 2017

An algorithm based on levels of metabolites found in a blood sample can accurately predict whether a child is on the Autism spectrum of disorder (ASD), based upon a recent study. The algorithm, developed by Texas ChE alumnus Juergen Hahn (Ph.D. ’02) and researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, is the first physiological test for autism and opens the door to earlier diagnosis and potential future development of therapeutics.

“Instead of looking at individual metabolites, we investigated patterns of several metabolites and found significant differences between metabolites of children with ASD and those that are neurotypical. These differences allow us to categorize whether an individual is on the Autism spectrum,” said Hahn, lead author, systems biologist, professor, and head of the Rensselaer Department of Biomedical Engineering. “By measuring 24 metabolites from a blood sample, this algorithm can tell whether or not an individual is on the Autism spectrum, and even to some degree where on the spectrum they land.”

Big data techniques applied to biomedical data found different patterns in metabolites relevant to two connected cellular pathways (a series of interactions between molecules that control cell function) that have been hypothesized to be linked to ASD: the methionine cycle and the transulfuration pathway. The methionine cycle is linked to several cellular functions, including DNA methylation and epigenetics, and the transulfuration pathway results in the production of the antioxidant glutathione, decreasing oxidative stress.


Use of Transplanted Regulatory T Cells Could Provide Relief for Inflammatory Diseases

Via RPI | March 18, 2015

Troy, N.Y. — With a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a team of researchers – including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor Juergen Hahn – will investigate the potential of using transplanted regulatory T cells (Tregs) to reduce inflammation in diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, which currently has no known viable treatment options.

“The challenge is that the transplanted cells are not very ‘stable’ and may end up contributing to inflammation rather than combating inflammation,” said Hahn, professor, head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and member of the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. “We propose to condition the regulatory T cells by exposing them to various conditions prior to transplantation such that their stability is increased, and we expect that this will make them more potent in combating inflammation. Our goal is to transplant conditioned Tregs into a host for therapeutic inhibition of inflammation.”

The project will combine computational research at Rensselaer with research in vitro and in vivo at two Texas A&M University research laboratories. The team will create a computational model able to predict Tregs induction, function, and stability. That model will be used to develop treatment regimens that use transplanted Tregs to inhibit inflammation, providing new treatment options for a variety of diseases characterized by excessive inflammation.