Seven Georgia Institute of Technology faculty members have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. They were awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.
This year’s AAAS Fellows were announced in the journal Science on November 30, 2012. The new AAAS Fellows from Georgia Tech are:
Shuming Nie, Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University: For distinguished contributions to single-molecule surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) as well as the development of semiconductor quantum dots for molecular and cellular imaging…
If a tumor is more visible and easier to distinguish from surrounding tissues, surgeons will be more likely to be able to remove it completely. That’s the rationale behind a new $7 million, five-year “transformative” grant from the National Institutes of Health to a team of researchers from Emory, Georgia Tech and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The grant is part of the NIH Director’s Awards Program funded by the NIH Common Fund.
Shuming Nie, PhD, and his colleagues at the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center for Personalized and Predictive Oncology have been developing fluorescent nanoparticle probes that hone in on cancer cells. The grant will support the team’s continuing work on the nanoparticles and instruments that visualize them for cancer detection during surgery.
Tiny gold particles can help doctors detect tumor cells circulating in the blood of patients with head and neck cancer, researchers at Emory and Georgia Tech have found.
The detection of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) is an emerging technique that can allow oncologists to monitor patients with cancer for metastasis or to evaluate the progress of their treatment. The gold particles, which are embedded with dyes allowing their detection by laser spectroscopy, could enhance this technique’s specificity by reducing the number of false positives.
The results are published online in the journal Cancer Research.
One challenge with detecting CTCs is separating out signals from white blood cells, which are similarly sized as tumor cells and can stick to the same antibodies normally used to identify tumor cells. Commercially available devices trap CTCs using antibody-coated magnetic beads, and technicians must stain the trapped cells with several antibodies to avoid falsely identifying white blood cells as tumor cells.
Emory and Georgia Tech researchers show that polymer-coated and dye-studded gold particles, directly linked to a growth factor peptide rather than an antibody, can detect circulating tumor cells in the blood of patients with head and neck cancer.
“The key technological advance here is our finding that polymer-coated gold nanoparticles that are conjugated with low molecular weight peptides such as EGF are much less sticky than particles conjugated to whole antibodies,” says Shuming Nie, PhD, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “This effect has led to a major improvement in discriminating tumor cells from non-tumor cells in the blood.”
Biomedical engineers are developing a hand-held device called a SpectroPen that could help surgeons see the edges of tumors in human patients in real time during surgery.
Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania described the device in an article published this week in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
What a patient with a tumor wants to know after surgery can be expressed succinctly: “Did you get everything?” Statistics indicate that complete removal, or resection, is the single most important predictor of patient survival for most solid tumors.
“This technology could allow a surgeon to directly visualize where the tumors are, in real time. In addition, a post-surgery scan could check tumor margins,” said Shuming Nie, a professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “A major challenge is to completely remove the tumor as well as identify lymph nodes that may be involved.”
The SpectroPen can be used to detect fluorescent dyes, and also scattered light from tiny gold particles, a technology that Nie and his colleagues have been refining.
The particles consist of polymer-coated gold, coupled to a reporter dye and an antibody that sticks to molecules on the outsides of tumor cells more than it sticks to normal cells. Through an effect called surface-enhanced Raman scattering, the gold in the particle greatly amplifies the signal from the reporter dye. Nie and his team have been able to show that the particles can detect tumors smaller than one millimeter grafted into rodents.
The science of nanotechnology involves developing and manipulating materials on the same scale at which our bodies carry out the chemical reactions that keep us alive. Researchers want to use nanomaterials — materials with dimensions smaller than 100 nanometers — for all sorts of applications related to health and disease. Biomedical engineer Dr. Shuming Nie thinks that in the coming years, the biggest advances in battling diseases like cancer will come from the world of the very, very small.