In the News

Identifying a key growth factor in cell proliferation

In two companion papers published in Cell, KI faculty members Matthew Vander Heiden and David Sabatini identify why proliferating cells, including tumor cells, require respiration. The researchers found that the primary role of respiration in cell proliferation is to provide electron acceptors in support of the synthesis of aspartate, an amino acid. This discovery — that aspartate is a limiter of cell proliferation — provides crucial insight into how cancer growth could be kept in check. more...

Prototype device

New material opens possibilities for super-long-acting pills

KI researchers have developed a new, pH-responsive material that could allow for the development of safe and long-acting devices that reside in the stomach, including orally delivered capsules that can release drugs over a number of days, week, or potentially months following a single administration. The material is a pH-responsive polymer gel: It is stable in the acidic stomach environment but dissolves in the small intestine’s near-neutral pH, allowing for safe passage through the remainder of the gastrointestinal tract. The material is also elastic, allowing for the compression and folding of devices into easily ingestible capsules — meaning this polymer can be used to create safe devices designed for extremely prolonged residence in the stomach. KI faculty member Robert Langer and KI research affiliate Giovanni Traverso say that by enabling single-administration events, this material could overcome the major clinical barrier of medication non-adherence. more...

Paula Hammond

Paula Hammond named head of Department of Chemical Engineering

Big news about someone who works with tiny technologies: KI faculty member Paula Hammond has been named head of MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering (ChemE), effective July 13. Hammond is the first woman and the first person of color to hold this post. Hammond’s laboratory at the KI develops new materials and processes for self-assembling polymeric systems that can be used for drug delivery and tissue engineering. more...

Cima & Langer

Major step for implantable drug-delivery device

MIT spinout Microchips Biotech, co-founded by KI faculty members Michael Cima and Robert Langer, has partnered with Teva Pharmaceuticals to commercialize its microchips that release therapeutics inside the body. The implantable microchips can be wirelessly programmed to release individual doses over a period of up to 16 years to treat a variety of diseases—including the treatment of cancer as a chronic illness. While the device would provide convenience to patients, Cima and Langer say that it also would improve medication adherence, especially as the lack thereof in the U.S. annually leads to hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs, around 125,000 deaths, and up to 10 percent of all hospitalizations. more...

J. Christopher Love

Seeking rare cells

Circulating tumor cells can provide valuable information about how cancer progresses and metastasizes, but finding these cells—which can be hidden among hundreds of thousands of other cells—is like finding a needle in a haystack. Here, MIT News profiles KI faculty member J. Christopher Love, who is using microscale and nanoscale technology to isolate and analyze these rare cells. more...

Probiotics

Programmable probiotics

KI researchers in Sangeeta Bhatia's laboratory are engineering probiotics — bacteria similar to those found in yogurt — that can specifically detect metastatic tumors in the liver. These safe-to-consume bacteria, delivered orally, produce a luminescent signal that can be detected with a simple urine test and can even change the color of urine to indicate the presence of cancer. At the TED2015 conference in March, TED Fellow Tal Danino, a postdoc in Bhatia’s lab and one of the lead authors of this newly published research, discussed his work in programming bacteria (watch his TED talk). As a next step, Danino is studying how these bacteria can be engineered to treat cancer not only by targeting tumors but also by producing therapeutic molecules inside the tumor environment. more...

Manalis Lab microfluidics go with the flow

Researchers in the laboratory of KI faculty member Scott Manalis have developed a new technique to measure how tiny particles are relatively positioned as they flow through a fluidic channel. Using a suspended microchannel resonator, first developed by Manalis and his colleagues in 2007, the researchers vibrate the device’s tiny cantilevers — which behave like oscillating diving boards — at various frequencies simultaneously. By measuring the changes in each frequency as individual particles rapidly flow through the device, Manalis and his colleagues can calculate not only the mass of particles with near-attogram precision (one millionth of a trillionth of a gram) but also the distance between particles, potentially to a resolution of about four nanometers (four millionths of a millimeter). This approach has several applications, including monitoring assembly of engineered nanoparticles with extreme precision as well as studying how cancer cells deform as they metastasize. more...

From body to bedside

KI researchers in the laboratories of David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer and David H. Koch Professor of Engineering Michael Cima have developed an implantable device that could allow doctors to test drugs in patients before prescribing chemotherapy. When implanted in a tumor, this tiny device diffuses small doses of up to 30 different drugs — or combinations thereof — in surrounding tumor cells. After one day, the implant and a small biopsy of surrounding tissue are removed, allowing researchers to study and rank the efficacy of drugs. This research was featured extensively in the news, including in New ScientistThe Scientist, and The Boston Herald. This device is now an integral part of multiple translational projects, including a Bridge Project collaboration between David H. Koch Professor of Biology Michael Yaffe and colleagues at Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center to test combination drug therapies for advanced prostate cancer. more...

No pain, big gain

Congratulations to the KI’s Carl Schoellhammer, graduate winner of the $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Cure it!” Student Prize. He is developing two inventions for painless and effective drug delivery: a swallowable drug capsule coated with tiny needles that can inject drugs directly into the stomach lining, and a probe that uses low-frequency ultrasound to drive therapeutics to the gastrointestinal tract. Schoellhammer is a member of the laboratories of KI faculty member Robert Langer and Daniel Blankschtein. more...

Diviya Sinha

Graduate student Diviya Sinha earns Schlumberger Foundation Fellowship

Chemical engineering graduate student Diviya Sinha has received a Faculty for the Future Fellowship from the Schlumberger Foundation. These fellowships are awarded to deserving female scientists and engineers from developing and emerging countries who are pursuing advanced degrees at leading universities worldwide. As a 2015-2016 fellow, Sinha receives a grant of up to $50,000 per year to support her research in immunology. Sinha is a graduate student in the laboratories of KI faculty member Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor, and Daniel Blankschtein. more...