Samir Mitragotri, a leading chemical- and bio-engineer who develops new techniques and materials for treating conditions such as diabetes, cancer and bleeding disorders, will join the faculty of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). He is currently the Mellichamp Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is the founding director of the Center for Bioengineering.
Mitragotri will join SEAS in July as the Hiller Professor of Bioengineering and Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering. He will also be a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard.
In modern medical practice, needles and syringes are the most common way of administering macromolecular drugs. Mitragotri has developed pioneering technologies to noninvasively deliver medicines using skin patches. Skin is a tough barrier; its purpose is to prevent drug transport rather than facilitate it. Mitragotri conducted pioneering research on skin’s barrier function and developed techniques to successfully overcome it to allow delivery of biopharmaceutical drugs.
Mitragotri has also developed nanoparticles that can target tumors for the treatment of cancer, materials that can deliver proteins orally for diabetes, and synthetic analogs of blood components that can deliver medicines for bleeding disorders. Several of his inventions have been translated into clinical products.
CLEVELAND—A Case Western Reserve University researcher has been awarded a five-year, $1.9 million grant from National Institutes of Health (NIH) to transform clot-forming synthetic platelet technology into devices that dissolve clots to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Anirban Sen Gupta, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Case School of Engineering, and his collaborators Samir Mitragotri, PhD, at University of California Santa Barbara; and Wei Li, MD, PhD, at Cleveland Clinic; believe that platelet-inspired synthetic particles can be used to deliver anti-clotting medicines directly to clots that pose a serious health risk.
“We originally designed synthetic platelets to potentially assist in stabilizing soldiers wounded on the battlefield or civilians injured in accidents and also treat patients who are at bleeding risks due to various disease scenarios,” Sen Gupta said. “We soon realized that the technology can be refined to also do the opposite—deliver clot-busting drugs to dissolve clots in blood vessels before they trigger stroke and heart attack. ”
Targeted treatment would reduce the risk of uncontrolled internal bleeding and other harmful side effects that can result from injecting anti-clotting medicine directly into the blood stream. For this new line of research, the Sen Gupta and Mitragotri team will engineer artificial platelets loaded with anti-clotting medications. The particles will be designed to home in on clots and deliver the drugs to dissolve the clot. Li will test this clot-busting technology in animal models of arterial thrombosis.
Samir Mitragotri, professor of chemical engineering at UC Santa Barbara, is one of 67 new members elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) for 2015.
Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to “engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature,” and to the “pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education.”
Mitragotri was elected to the NAE “for development, clinical translation and commercialization of transdermal drug delivery systems.” Transdermal drug delivery, while a simple and painless alternative to needles, remains a big challenge. Mitragotri and his group have developed technologies that involve ultrasound, penetration enhancers and liquid microjets to overcome the skin barrier to enable delivery of proteins, peptides and small interfering RNA (siRNA).
CLEVELAND—Artificial platelet mimics developed by a collaborative research team from Case Western Reserve University and University of California, Santa Barbara, are able to halt bleeding in mouse models 65 percent faster than nature can on its own.
For the first time, the researchers have been able to integratively mimic the shape, size, flexibility and surface chemistry of real blood platelets on albumin-based particle platforms. The researchers believe these four design factors together are important in inducing clots to form faster selectively at vascular injury sites while preventing harmful clots from forming indiscriminately elsewhere in the body.
The new technology, reported in the journal ACS Nano at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nn503732m, is aimed at stemming bleeding in patients suffering from traumatic injury, undergoing surgeries or suffering clotting disorders from platelet defects or a lack of platelets. Further, the technology may be used to deliver drugs to target sites in patients suffering atherosclerosis, thrombosis or other platelet-involved pathologic conditions.
Imagine an artificial pancreas device that frees diabetics from constant blood glucose testing, nanoparticles that selectively deliver chemotherapy to tumors with minimal impacts to healthy tissue, or brain imaging that detects serious conditions that escape conventional scans. These are only a few of the innovations that have been born from the marriage of biology and engineering at UC Santa Barbara.
With the creation of its newest academic offering –– an interdisciplinary Ph.D. emphasis in bioengineering –– UCSB will offer students even more robust training in this rapidly growing field. The new graduate degree emphasis will be offered starting this fall.
“Bioengineering research has been happening on campus for a long time, and it has been happening in different departments,” said Samir Mitragotri, professor of chemical engineering and founding director of UCSB’s Center for BioEngineering.
Bioengineering researchers at University of California, Santa Barbara have found that changing the shape of chemotherapy drug nanoparticles from spherical to rod-shaped made them up to 10,000 times more effective at targeting and delivering anti-cancer drugs to breast cancer cells.
Their findings could have a game-changing impact on the effectiveness of anti-cancer therapies and reducing the side effects of chemotherapy, according to the researchers. Results of their study were published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Conventional anti-cancer drugs accumulate in the liver, lungs and spleen instead of the cancer cell site due to inefficient interactions with the cancer cell membrane,” explained Samir Mitragotri , professor of chemical engineering and Director of the Center for BioEngineering at UCSB. “We have found our strategy greatly enhances the specificity of anti-cancer drugs to cancer cells.”
A new pilot program has been launched at UC Santa Barbara for undergraduate students to achieve a degree with a bioengineering concentration – an advanced curriculum in biomedical science and engineering – and to kickstart a career in bioengineering research.
The new four-year bioengineering concentration, offered to students accepted into UCSB’s College of Creative Studies, is designed to prepare students for graduate study and research in bioengineering. The pilot program builds upon UCSB’s high standing as a top-ranked bioengineering research institution and paves the way to establish a world-class academic program in bioengineering at UCSB.
“There is a demand for bioengineering. Bioengineering is one of the most popular majors at institutions where it’s offered,” said Professor Samir Mitragotri, faculty mentor for the new concentration and director of the Center for BioEngineering (CBE) at UCSB. CBE was founded in 2011 to introduce new bioengineering research and educational initiatives at UCSB, including the newly launched concentration.
Synthetic platelets have been developed by UC Santa Barbara researchers, in collaboration with researchers at Scripps Research Institute and Sanford-Burnham Institute in La Jolla, Calif. Their findings are published in the journal Advanced Materials in a paper titled “Platelet Mimetic Particles for Targeting Thrombi in Flowing Blood.”
In the 1966 science fiction film Fantastic Voyage, the principals were put in a submarine which was then shrunk to one micron in length and injected into a comatose scientist’s body so that they could navigate through the body to the site of a life-threatening cerebral blood clot and destroy it. That was a fantasy approach to getting the right therapy to the place in the body it’s needed, but at UC Santa Barbara, cross-disciplinary teams of researchers from materials science, chemical and mechanical engineering, biology, and chemistry are creating drug delivery technologies that do just that and more—drug delivery technologies that are more targeted, effective, and efficient, and at the same time safer and cheaper, than those in use today.
“The goal is to save lives and save money,” says Samir Mitragotri, professor of chemical engineering. “We’re looking at how to treat the patient in the most effective way, getting the drugs to the right place in the body and making sure they remain active when they reach that site.”