John Wikswo, Jr., Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 1998

Vanderbilt researchers develop publicly available COVID-19 animal susceptibility prediction tool; suggests increased risk to horses

Via Vanderbilt University | October 6, 2020

A Vanderbilt team of experts in virology, genetics, structural biology, chemistry, physiology, medicine, immunology and pharmacology have together developed technology to understand and predict animal susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, the scientific name for the strain of coronavirus causing COVID-19. providing evidence that horses and camels may be at increased risk of the virus. The group has also released a publicly available tool to enable people to understand the likelihood of other animals’ susceptibility.

The article, “Predicting susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection based on structural differences in ACE2 across species,” was published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal on Oct. 5.

The investigators applied a combination of sophisticated genetic sequence alignment and structural analysis of ACE2, the receptor protein for SARS-CoV-2, to a variety of known susceptible and non-susceptible species. Through the analysis they identified five particular amino acid sites within the protein that distinguish virus susceptibility or resistance, and using these sites developed an algorithm to predict susceptibility of unknown species. The algorithm has been made public on a website where people can upload the aligned ACE2 sequence of animals with unknown susceptibility to generate a COVID-19 susceptibility score… Continue reading.

Advances in Microphysiological Systems

Via PR News Wire | October 30, 2017

The latest issues of Experimental Biology and Medicine (Volume 242, Issues 16 and 17, October and November, 2017) highlight recent advances in microphysiological systems (MPS). The issues were guest edited by Dr. John P. Wikswo, founding Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education in Nashville, TN, and contain 15 articles by scientists and engineers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the IQ Consortium, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, industry and academia. Topics include the progress, challenges and future of organs-on-chips, dissemination of tissue chips into Pharma, children’s health protection, liver zonation, liver chips and their coupling to interconnected systems, gastrointestinal MPS, maturation of immature cardiomyocytes in a heart-on-a-chip, co-culture of multiple cell types in a human skin construct, use of synthetic hydrogels to create engineered organoids that form neural tissue models, the blood-brain barrier-on-a-chip, MPS models of coupled female reproductive organs, coupling MPS devices to create a body-on-a-chip and the use of a microformulator to recapitulate endocrine circadian rhythms… Continue reading.

Wikswo group tech licensed by UK company for organ-on-chip products

Via Vanderbilt University | October 18, 2017

A biotechnology company based in the United Kingdom has licensed three patents and applications from Vanderbilt University for its Organs-on-Chips products.

CN Bio Innovations Ltd., a spinoff from Oxford University, secured a combination of exclusive and non-exclusive rights to microfluid technologies developed by Professor John Wikswo, Gordon A. Cain University and his group. Wikswo, a biomedical engineering professor, also is the A. B. Learned Professor of Living State Physics and founding director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE).

“With these additional technologies the precision and control we can achieve over conditions in the organ-mimics open up exciting new possibilities for modelling human biology and disease in the laboratory,” David Hughes, CN Bio’s Chief Technical Officer, said in a statement.

The Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization announced the licensing arrangement this week… Continue reading.

Organ-on-a-chip Mimics Heart’s Biomechanical Properties

Via Vanderbilt | February 24, 2017

The human heart beats more than 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime. Now scientists at Vanderbilt University have created a three-dimensional organ-on-a-chip that can mimic the heart’s amazing biomechanical properties.

“We created the I-Wire Heart-on-a-Chip so that we can understand why cardiac cells behave the way they do by asking the cells questions, instead of just watching them,” said Gordon A. Cain University Professor John Wikswo, who heads up the project. “We believe it could prove invaluable in studying cardiac diseases, drug screening and drug development, and, in the future, in personalized medicine by identifying the cells taken from patients that can be used to patch damaged hearts effectively.”

The device and the results of initial experiments demonstrating that it faithfully reproduces the response of cardiac cells to two different drugs that affect heart function in humans are described in an article published last month in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. A companion article in the same issue presents a biomechanical analysis of the I-Wire platform that can be used for characterizing biomaterials for cardiac regenerative medicine.

Blood-Brain Barrier on a Chip Sheds New Light on “Silent Killer”

Via Vanderbilt | December 6, 2016

The blood-brain barrier is a network of specialized cells that surrounds the arteries and veins within the brain. It forms a unique gateway that both provides brain cells with the nutrients they require and protects them from potentially harmful compounds.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE) headed by Gordon A. Cain University Professor John Wikswo report that they have developed a microfluidic device that overcomes the limitations of previous models of this key system and have used it to study brain inflammation, dubbed the “silent killer” because it doesn’t cause pain but contributes to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent research also suggests that it may underlie a wider range of problems from impaired cognition to depression and even schizophrenia.

The project is part of a $70 million “Tissue Chip for Drug Testing Program” funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Its purpose is to develop human organ-on-a-chip technology in order to assess the safety and efficacy of new drugs in a faster, cheaper, more effective and more reliable fashion.

The importance of understanding how the blood-brain barrier works has increased in recent years as medical researchers have found that this critical structure is implicated in a widening range of brain disorders, extending from stroke to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease to blunt force trauma and brain inflammation.