After a baby is born, doctors sometimes examine the placenta–the organ that links the mother to the baby–for features that indicate health risks in any future pregnancies. Unfortunately, this is a time-consuming process that must be performed by a specialist, so most placentas go unexamined after the birth. A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) report the development of a machine learning approach to examine placenta slides in the American Journal of Pathology, published by Elsevier, so more women can be informed of their health risks.
One reason placentas are examined is to look for a type of blood vessel lesions called decidual vasculopathy (DV). These indicate the mother is at risk for preeclampsia–a complication that can be fatal to the mother and baby–in any future pregnancies. Once detected, preeclampsia can be treated, so there is considerable benefit from identifying at-risk mothers before symptoms appear. However, although there are hundreds of blood vessels in a single slide, only one diseased vessel is needed to indicate risk… Continue reading.
For most plants, saltwater is essentially poison—yet the mangrove drinks it, lives in it, and thrives in it.
This rare ability to survive in such inhospitable conditions is what first led Professors Alan Russell and Phil LeDuc, along with their Ph.D. student Adam Wood, to study the plant. The Carnegie Mellon University researchers were hoping to determine exactly what part of the plant is responsible for removing the salt from saltwater, but their findings led them to much more.
Members of the mangrove family can be found emerging on stilt-like roots from the swampy coastal shorelines of the tropics and subtropics. In these regions, they face not only a toxically saline environment, but also oxygen-poor, submerged soil… Continue reading.
Every day, roughly 100 billion new cells are created inside the human body. These cells join trillions of older cells to form the tissues and organs we rely on to stay alive. Sometimes when a cell is created, a mutation occurs within its DNA, transforming the cell into something defective and potentially dangerous to the body’s internal environment. Usually, a cell will recognize its own defects and quickly terminate itself.
But sometimes, instead of eliminating itself, the mutated cell replicates, forming a tumor that could break apart, metastasize (i.e. migrate), and invade other parts of the body—oftentimes through the bloodstream. Fortunately, mechanical engineering (MechE) Professor Philip LeDuc, in collaboration with mechanical engineering Ph.D. student James Li Wan and Dr. Carola Neumann, a breast cancer researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, developed a patient-oriented model scientists can use to better understand—and eventually stop—cancer cell migration.
According to LeDuc, this project began because of the growing interest researchers have shown in the relationship between physical science and cancer. Since tumors are actually physical masses, both biochemical and physical means can affect cancer cells and tumors. After considering the connection between these two topics, LeDuc, Neumann, and Wan turned their attention to metastasis and cancer cell analysis. Through their collaboration, they were able to develop a more accurate and relevant way to study cancer cells… Continue reading.
Each time you flex your bicep, millions of molecular motors work together in a complex process inside your muscle. These motors—called myosin are chemically-powered proteins. Complex combinations of them perform different muscular functions like maintaining a heartbeat or lifting weights.
In order to develop synthetic muscles for applications in regenerative medicine or robotics, scientists must understand which combination of myosin produces each desired action. This would require a labor-intensive process of nanoscale trial and error that could take years in the laboratory.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering have taken a multidisciplinary approach to solving this problem. By coupling computational design search methods with biomechanical fundamentals, they created a formal approach for designing myosin systems with specific properties. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.
The team developed a new computational model that designs systems where multiple myosin types operate together and demonstrates the benefits over different single types of myosin. Laboratory experiments then confirmed the computational predictions.
“This computational method will help us to understand muscle better through one of its building blocks, myosin, and help us toward building synthetic muscle in the future. It is similar to using an erector set with nanometer sized proteins to build a moving system,” said Philip LeDuc, a professor of mechanical engineering with appointments in biological sciences, computational biology, and biomedical engineering.
These findings, which represent a unique collaboration between engineering disciplines, could further impact future applications for understanding and treating myosin-related diseases and developing new approaches for motor molecule-based technologies… Continue reading.
Carnegie Mellon University will host the Global Enterprise for Micro-Mechanics and Molecular Medicine (GEM4) Summer Institute on Neuroscience and Cellular Mechanics June 22–July 3, 2015.
Graduate students, researchers and faculty experts in the fields of biology, engineering, imaging, chemistry and medicine will come together from across the world for a series of lectures and hands-on lab experiences to investigate mechanobiology of the brain.
"The GEM4 Summer Institute provides an intense learning experience in the fundamentals of neuroscience and cellular mechanics," says Philip LeDuc, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering, director of the Center for the Mechanics and Engineering of Cellular Systems (CMECS), and coordinator of this year’s institute.
"We’re training the next generation of researchers at the intersection of neuroscience and engineering in the area of mechanics," he says.
GEM4 seeks to understand and address human diseases at the global scale by working at the intersection of science, engineering and public health. Carnegie Mellon, an institution known for working across the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines to solve problems, is a fitting location for GEM4’s 2015 Summer Institute. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the organization’s founding by Dr. Subra Suresh, the current president of Carnegie Mellon University.
The university’s College of Engineering has several faculty members speaking at the institute, among them Adam Feinberg, associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering. Feinberg will be presenting his research on how 3-D printing could be used to "bio-print" soft tissue, such as heart and brain tissue.
Faculty from the university’s Mellon College of Science, clinicians from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and international experts from England, India and Singapore will also present their work.
Bioengineers have a distinct opportunity to impact global health beyond disease, according to an article published in Science Translational Medicine.
Written by experts from six different continents, the article’s lead author is Carnegie Mellon University’s Philip LeDuc, a professor of mechancial engineering.
Although biomedical engineers have a history of addressing human health issues in terms of disease, they are poised to solve other serious world problems in areas like water quality and reliability, sustainable and safe food production, and new, cleaner sources of energy.
Professor LeDuc focuses on molecular and cellular biomechanics, biological/medical micro- and nano-technology, and computational biology.
He is the founding director of the Center for the Mechanics and Engineering of Cellular Systems (CMECS), a multidisciplinary research laboratory which builds on the university’s strengths in engineering, physics, life sciences and computation.
Carnegie Mellon University Mechanical Engineering Professor Philip LeDuc has been selected a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
ASME is an international society with more than 140,000 members around the world. Its goal is to serve the global community through advancing and applying engineering principals to the problems that face our world today.
Less than 3 percent of ASME’s members have been awarded the prestigious title of fellow. ASME fellows must have 10 or more years of active practice in the field of engineering, as well as 10 years of active corporate membership in ASME. LeDuc was nominated by other ASME members and fellows for his excellence in research, education and service. His fellowship was awarded by the ASME Committee of Past Presidents.
LeDuc also is a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMS) and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). He also has received many other prestigious awards, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Award and a Beckman Young Investigator Award.
LeDuc’s research focuses on the possibilities of merging mechanical engineering and biology. He attempts to look at biological processes through a mechanical lens, thereby changing the way we tackle biological issues such as nutrition, bioenergy and disease.
"The same way Ford would take his pieces and put together the Model T, I’m interested in how I can take pieces and put together an artificial cell that actually has functional behaviors," LeDuc said.
LeDuc founded and directs the Carnegie Mellon Center for the Mechanics and Engineering of Cellular Systems (CMECS), which brings together educators and researchers from across the scientific disciplines to focus their expertise on the questions of cellular mechanics.
The interior of a living cell is a crowded place, with proteins and other macromolecules packed tightly together. A team of scientists at Carnegie Mellon University has approximated this molecular crowding in an artificial cellular system and found that tight quarters help the process of gene expression, especially when other conditions are less than ideal.
As the researchers report in an advance online publication by the journal Nature Nanotechnology, these findings may help explain how cells have adapted to the phenomenon of molecular crowding, which has been preserved through evolution. And this understanding may guide synthetic biologists as they develop artificial cells that might someday be used for drug delivery, biofuel production and biosensors.
"These are baby steps we’re taking in learning how to make artificial cells," said Cheemeng Tan, a Lane Postdoctoral Fellow and a Branco Weiss Fellow in the Lane Center for Computational Biology, who led the study.
Most studies of synthetic biological systems today employ solution-based chemistry, which does not involve molecular crowding. The findings of the CMU study and the lessons of evolution suggest that bioengineers will need to build crowding into artificial cells if synthetic genetic circuits are to function as they would in real cells.
The research team, which included Russell Schwartz, professor of biological sciences; Philip LeDuc, professor of mechanical engineering and biological sciences; Marcel Bruchez, associate professor of chemistry and biological sciences; and Saumya Saurabh, a doctoral student in chemistry, developed its artificial cellular system using molecular components from bacteriophage T7, a virus that infects bacteria that is often used as a model in synthetic biology.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Philip LeDuc has been named a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) for his exceptional achievements and experience in the field, including cell and molecular biomechanics.
“This is a wonderful honor for me to be recognized by my peers as I work to improve the lives of people worldwide and to excel in biomedical engineering research,” said LeDuc, a professor of mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in the Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences and Computational Biology departments.
Carnegie Mellon University researchers are adjusting the cell mechanics of certain leafy vegetables in Africa in an effort to make the vegetation more palatable for malnourished infants and children.
Phil LeDuc, a professor of mechanical engineering, and Mary Beth Wilson, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering, have won an extremely competitive Grand Challenges Explorations Award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore nutrition for healthy growth of infants and children in underdeveloped countries.
"What we are doing is studying how to alter a plant’s cellular and molecular structures to optimize release of nutrients during digestion," said LeDuc, who has courtesy appointments in the Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences and Computational Biology departments at CMU. "The idea originated when we became interested in how structural mechanics affect the taste of food. We built off this idea in thinking about how we could apply it in an innovative and meaningful way to tackle global challenges especially for the health of children in poor regions of the world."
Carnegie Mellon University’s Kelvin B. Gregory and Philip R. LeDuc have created the world’s smallest fuel cell powered by bacteria. Future versions of the biology-powered fuel cell could be used for self-powered sensing devices in remote locations where batteries are impractical, such as deep ocean or geological environments…
…”Our biology-powered fuel cell could be less costly to make and more easily deployed in remote areas than conventional batteries that require invasive maintenance,” said LeDuc, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences and Computational Biology departments.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Philip R. LeDuc was elected to a three-year term on the board of directors of the national Biomedical Engineering Society (http://www.bmes.org).
"I am honored to be elected to this post as I continue to explore new ways to improve lifesaving research tools and promote the vast career opportunities available for biomedical engineers worldwide," said LeDuc, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in the Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences and Computational Biology departments.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Philip R. LeDuc and his collaborators in Massachusetts and Taiwan have discovered a new function of a protein that could ultimately unlock the mystery of how these workhorses of the body play a central role in the mechanics of biological processes in people.
"What we have done is find a new function of a protein that helps control cell behavior from a mechanics perspective," said LeDuc, an associate professor of mechanical engineering with courtesy appointments in the Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences and Computational Biology departments.
"For over 15 years, researchers have been mainly focusing on a protein called Integrin to study these cell functions, but our team found that another lesser known protein called Syndecan-4 is extremely important in cell behavior in a field called MechanoBiology (a field linking mechanics and biology). Syndecan-4 is known to play an essential role in a variety of diseases like cancer," LeDuc said.