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alse-colored scanning electron microscope image of dozens of microneedles arranged in a grid

Pinpointing Solutions for Cancer Detection

MIT Spectrum

Ovarian cancer is notoriously hard to detect. Lacking in reliable diagnostic or screening techniques and opaque in its biological origins, it is difficult to find or target until it has progressed to dangerously late stages. The Hammond and Irvine Labs, in conjunction with their clinical collaborators and a cohort of patients, are determined to change this.

Drawing on years of expertise in engineering, immunology, and materials chemistry, and on recent funding from the Bridge Project, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers has built a polymer microneedle patch that samples interstitial fluid in the body to screen for microRNAs from cancer cells. The patch, which also has applications for autoimmune diseases, could one day become the first noninvasive screening tool for ovarian cancer.

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Langer Wins BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award

MIT News

Robert Langer, David H. Koch (1962) Institute Professor, has won the prestigious BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biology and Biomedicine category. He shares the award with Dr. Katalin Karikó and Dr. Drew Weissman  in recognition of their contributions to messenger (mRNA) therapeutics and delivery technology, which enabled the rapid development SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and promises to expand to other therapeutical areas, including cancer, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders, enzyme deficiencies, and other viral infections. In particular, Langer is cited for his work enabling the repackaging mRNA and other macromolecule therapeutics for their delivery into cells.

The PIs That Bind

MIT News

KI members Graham Walker, Michael Hemann, Michael Yaffe, Jiazhu Chen, Sangeeta Bhatia and biologist Sebastian Lourido have been awarded a Bose Research Grant, which supports vanguard research efforts. Their project, “Addressing Critical Human Health Problems with a Special Heme-binding Peptide” uses a recently discovered plant peptide that binds and sequesters a molecule critical in hemoglobin oxygen binding in a new way.

Model Behavior

MIT News

Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, is notoriously hard to treat. The blood-brain barrier blocks conventional chemotherapies from reaching tumors, and many potential new treatments that work well in animal models end up failing in clinical trials.

In a study published in PNAS and co-led by Charles W. (1955) and Jennifer C. Johnson Clinical Investigator Joelle Straehla, researchers assessed tumor-targeting nanoparticles from the Hammond Lab using a microfluidic human tissue model of glioblastoma from the Kamm Lab that closely replicates the blood-brain barrier. They found that cisplatin-bearing nanoparticles coated with peptide AP2 were able to target and kill glioblastoma tumor cells, suggesting that the model could be used to design nanoparticles with a greater chance of success in the clinic.

Pinpointing Solutions for Cancer Detection

MIT Spectrum

Ovarian cancer is notoriously hard to detect. Lacking in reliable diagnostic or screening techniques and opaque in its biological origins, it is difficult to find or target until it has progressed to dangerously late stages. The Hammond and Irvine Labs, in conjunction with their clinical collaborators and a cohort of patients, are determined to change this.

Drawing on years of expertise in engineering, immunology, and materials chemistry, and on recent funding from the Bridge Project, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers has built a polymer microneedle patch that samples interstitial fluid in the body to screen for microRNAs from cancer cells. The patch, which also has applications for autoimmune diseases, could one day become the first noninvasive screening tool for ovarian cancer.

Ultimate Frisbee

Nature Materials

Substantial delivery challenges persist for agents that engage the STING pathway, a highly desirable cancer immunotherapy target. However, new tumor-penetrating lipid nanodiscs developed by the Irvine Lab outperformed previously designed nanoparticles in delivering STING-activating agents to induce tumor rejection and support immune memory against reintroduced tumor cells. This work was published in Nature Materials and supported in part by the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine.

Studying Cancer Across Continents

MIT News

New MIT alum and aspiring MD/PhD student Daniel Zhang is headed to the Netherlands on a Fulbright scholarship. His planned project, developing an organoid co-culture system to study malignant rhabdoid tumors and screen for therapeutic vulnerabilities, builds on his longtime work in the Jacks Lab developing genetic knockout models for colorectal cancer.

Becoming Bob Langer

Becoming X

A new installment of the Bear Grylls Becoming X series features Bob Langer, who shares how he ended up in the chemical engineering field, how he eventually achieved his research goals, and how he’s put them to work in service of millions of people worldwide.
 

With an AI Towards the Clinic

MIT News

Regina Barzilay co-chaired the AI Cures conference for physicians and researchers interested in bringing artificial intelligence tools into the clinic. Fellow KI members Susan Hockfield and Phillip Sharp and Bridge Project collaborator Lecia Sequest were among those who attended the event, which was co-hosted by MIT and Mass General Brigham.
 

A Case for Commendation

MIT News

Congratulations to our newest extramural faculty member, biologist Lindsay Case, on being named a Searle Scholar. This annual award honors 15 outstanding U.S. assistant professors who have high potential for ongoing innovative research contributions in medicine, chemistry, or the biological sciences. Case studies the molecular mechanisms that lead to aberrant cell migration and signaling during cancer metastasis.  

What's Next for RNA Vaccines?

MIT News

KI member Dan Anderson recently co-authored a review in Nature Biotechnology on mRNA therapies. He sat down with MIT News to discuss the history and lessons learned from the development of mRNA vaccines for Covid-19 as well as future directions for the field.