Gregory Tew, professor of Polymer Science and Engineering and colleagues, including immunologist Lisa Minter, have found a way to get inside naïve T cells and to deliver bio-active cargo such as proteins and synthetic molecules across what had been a long-locked cell membrane. They do this by using a new synthetic protein transduction domain (PTD) that mimics natural ones. Tew and colleagues call their new macromolecules “PTD mimics” (PTDMs). They are able to slip through the T cell’s membrane and deliver a payload of therapeutic small interfering RNA (siRNA).
The invention is “something like a master key, because we can get into cells without their permission, and into difficult-to-access cell types like human T cells,” says Tew. “We think it will lead to new advances in fundamental immunology and it also holds great potential for therapeutic applications in the clinic. We hope every immunologist on the planet hears about this delivery breakthrough, because now they can begin to study T cell function in new ways.”
Earlier methods required electroporation or the use of viruses, which either decrease cell viability or pose unacceptable risks to patients in a treatment setting, he adds. Tew and Minter’s work appears in the current issue ofMolecular Therapy.
Responding to an urgent need for better antibacterial coatings on surgical sutures, scientists are reporting the discovery of a new coating that is almost 1,000 times more effective than the most widely used commercial coating. Their report appears in ACS’ journal Langmuir.
Professor Gregory Tew, who is from UMass-Amherst, and colleagues explain that infection at the site of surgical incisions is one of the most common post-surgical complications that keep patients hospitalized longer and boost hospital bills. The most common antibiotic coating contains triclosan, but its use in many consumer products over the years has led to the emergence of strains of bacteria that shrug off its effects. Triclosan also can be absorbed into the body, raising concerns about possible adverse health effects. Another downside to triclosan: It slows the growth of bacteria, but does not actually kill those already present. That’s why the scientists turned to PAMBM, a new substance designed from naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides that can kill a wide range of bacteria. And because of the way it works, PAMBM has a very low chance of causing bacterial resistance and the emergence of so-called superbugs.
Polymer Science and Engineering”s Gregory Tew and colleagues have designed a completely new and simpler method of preparing ordered magnetic materials by coupling magnetic properties to nanostructure formation at low temperatures.
The innovative process, outlined by Tew in the current issue of Nature Communications, allows them to create room-temperature ferromagnetic materials that are stable for long periods more effectively and with fewer steps than more complicated existing methods.
Tew explains that his group”s signature improvement is a one-step method to generate ordered magnetic materials based on cobalt nanostructures by encoding a block copolymer with the appropriate chemical information to self-organize into nanoscopic domains. Block copolymers are made up of two or more single-polymer subunits linked by covalent chemical bonds.
The new process delivers magnetic properties to materials upon heating the sample once to a relatively low temperature, about 390 degrees (200 degrees Celsius), which transforms them into room-temperature, fully magnetic materials. Most previous processes required either much higher temperatures or more process steps to achieve the same result, which increases costs, Tew says.
He adds, “The small cobalt particles should not be magnetic at room temperature because they are too small. However, the block copolymer”s nanostructure confines them locally which apparently induces stronger magnetic interactions among the particles, yielding room-temperature ferromagnetic materials that have many practical applications.”
Five campus researchers been awarded $25,000 grants from the university”s Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property (CVIP) Technology Development Fund.
Chemical engineers George Huber and Geoff Tompsett, polymer scientist Gregory Tew, computer scientist Kevin Fu and T.J. “Lakis” Mountziaris of the UMass NanoMedicine Institute will receive the grants to advance commercial development of leading-edge technologies based on their laboratories” discoveries, to make them more attractive to industry and more likely to be commercialized. The grants were announced by President Jack M. Wilson.
A super-germ that’s become a lethal threat to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan may have met its match in a novel technique that kills entire bacterial colonies within hours.
Today’s troops have a nine in 10 chance of surviving their battle injuries. But wounds and amputation sites leave them vulnerable to infection, especially by Acinetobacter — an (opportunistic pathogen) somewhat misleadingly nicknamed “Iraqibacter” for its prevalence in war-zone medical facilities. As Wired magazine reported in 2007, the bacteria has infected at least 700 American troops since 2003, and killed at least seven people exposed to it in military clinics.
Iraqibacter was once treated with common, easy-to-access antibiotic drugs. But in the last few years, the bacteria have developed a powerful resistance to all but one medication, called Colistin, that’s got a bit of a nasty side effect: potentially fatal kidney damage.
Since the illness afflicts relatively few people, Big Pharma companies aren’t exactly lining up to develop new drugs.
But a Pentagon-funded research team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, along with small biotech firm PolyMedix, are making rapid strides toward a new line of Iraqibacter treatments — and the medications could spur the development of antibiotics that can fend off other drug-resistant ailments