The biochemical mysteries of how cancer occurs, grows, and spreads are areas of intense study in centers and bioscience labs around the world, but engineers also are applying their particular perspectives to understanding and stopping cancer in its tracks.
Aleksander Popel, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is one such engineer. As the director of the Systems Biology Laboratory, he studies the processes and pathways of cancer growth and spread.
In one trajectory, he is developing novel peptide-based drugs to halt angiogenesis, the process by which cancer tumors establish the new blood vessels necessary for them to thrive. Peptides are short chains of amino acids that mimic the body’s own biochemical mechanisms, in this case to prevent the formation of new capillaries. Popel and a fellow Hopkins biomedical engineer, Jordan Green, have formed a company, AsclepiX Therapeutics, to explore the potential of these drugs.