Ferrari, the 3rd Bioengineering student this year receives CCTSI Predoctoral Fellowship

Margaret Ferrari is a first-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, her focus is on Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).  HLHS is a complex congenital heart defect resulting in an underdeveloped left side of the heart. It alone accounts for up to 1,500 severe defects per year requiring surgery. The current standard of care involves three invasive open- heart surgeries in the first three years of life. The third operation, the Fontan procedure, includes connection of the vena cava to the pulmonary artery using a bio-inert graft to reduce work required by the right ventricle. While this operation greatly extends the lives of HLHS patients, the Fontan circuit eventually fails, and the only solution is a scarcely available donor heart. This failed circuit is explained by the “Fontan paradox” where central venous pressures build up over time, causing increased systemic resistance. The abnormal hemodynamics are associated with severe complications including protein-losing enteropathy, plastic bronchitis, and hepatic fibrosis and carcinoma. This project will address the Fontan paradox by developing a tissue engineered graft with highly contractile, patient specific cells for use in the Fontan procedure. Margaret (Meg) will be working under Jeffrey Jacot, PhD in the Jacot Lab for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine in the Bioengineering Department at Anschutz Medical Campus. Additionally, she will be spending time in the clinic with Mike Di Maria, MD, a co-director of the Single Ventricle Care Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado. This mentorship will provide a platform for impactful translational research and give hope to patients and families suffering from HLHS.

 

Bioengineering students Rocker and Davis-Hall awarded CCTSI Predoctoral Fellowships

Adam Rocker, a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) TL-1 Pre-doctoral Fellowship for his proposed thesis work on developing an injectable polymer delivery system to treat coronary artery disease. One consequence of this disease is a myocardial infarction (MI), better known as a heart attack, which inhibits the flow of blood and vital nutrients to the heart. The current standard of care for MI aims for early reperfusion of the occluded vessels to prevent further cell death using surgical or pharmacological agents. However, biomedical approaches to restore the blood supply, by delivering growth factors locally to promote the formation of new blood vessels, may present a faster and less invasive treatment option, with the essential benefit of inducing cardiac tissue regeneration. Adam will be investigating this tissue engineering approach for treating coronary artery disease under the mentorship of Dr. Daewon Park, an Associate Professor in Bioengineering, and Dr. Luisa Mestroni, a Professor of Medicine in Cardiology. Collaborations by this scientist-physician team and the CCTSI will help develop translational therapies at the basic science level into clinical treatments.

Bioengineering Opportunities and Leadership Training (BOLT) Camp

We just wrapped up the first session of our Bioengineering Opportunities and Leadership Training (BOLT) Camp, and it was an amazing week! Students from all over Colorado came to the Anschutz Campus for 4 days packed full of hands-on learning.

BOLT campers did everyBOLT Group photo June 2018thing from learning to solder, to building optical heart rate monitors, to running tissue engineering experiments. They got to visit the roof of Children’s Hospital to check out the specially engineered pediatric Flight For Life helicopter, and they learned about anatomy and the human body from the Anschutz AHEC Anatomy team. Throughout the week, students heard from clinicians, researchers, students, and faculty on all facets of bioengineering. In between all of this, students prototyped their own engineering solutions to real clinical problems. The whirlwind week of learning and fun ended with design presentations to a panel of judges, camp awards, and an ice cream social.

Students left BOLT with a greater understanding of the field of bioengineering, applicable knowledge and practical lab skills, and hopefully even more passion for STEM than before! Now it’s time for the team to prep for the next group – BOLT Session Two starts in less than a month!

Bioengineering undergraduate student El-Batal receives UROP Grant

Hassan El-Batal, a junior in the Department of Bioengineering was recently awarded a 2018-2019 Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) mini grant while working in the Magin Lab.  The UROP is funded through the Colorado Clinical Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI).  This research collaboration focuses on the multiple particle tracking (MPT) and he will be programing a user-friendly graphical interface purposed for MPT.  This investigation and software design may help overcome limitations of studying mucociliary clearance (MCC) defects in preclinical animal models and answer questions about MCC dysfunction in pulmonary diseases.  As part of the award he looks forward to presenting their findings at the Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RaCAS).

 

Benninger’s lab gets published in Nature Communications

Associate Professor Richard Benninger and his lab recently published a research article in Nature Communications “Contrast-enhanced ultrasound measurement of pancreatic blood flow dynamics predicts type 1 diabetes progression in preclinical models”. Non-invasive techniques to assess the progression of type 1 diabetes prior to clinical onset are needed, both for disease diagnosis and for monitoring the efficacy of therapeutic reversal. The Benninger lab applied a contrast-enhanced ultrasound measurement of mouse pancreatic blood flow to detect changes in the islet microvasculature that undergoes rearrangements during diabetes. These measurements predicted both rapid disease progression as well as the success of therapeutic interventions to reverse disease progression. This study is particularly significant as both the widespread deloyment of ultrasound modalities and the clinical approval of ultrasound contrast agents will facilitate clinical translation for monitoring disease progression in populations at risk for type1 diabetes. This study was primarily supported by funding from the JDRF and NIH, and lead author Josh St Clair was funded by the “Cardiovascular Imaging and Biomechanics” T32 training program and an F32 NRSA postdoctoral fellowship.

Davidson selected to be a delegate for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Training Program

Matthew Davidson, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr Bodine’s lab, was selected as a delegate for the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Advocacy Training Program. This externship will train Dr. Davidson to be an advocate for the life sciences at the federal and state level. This will provide him the tools to effect policy change and support science funding. 

 

Role of hydrodynamic forces on hemostasis

Maria Bortot, a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering and Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the American Heart Association (AHA) predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Jorge DiPaola. Non-surgical bleeding (NSB) is a major complication among patients with aortic stenosis and end-stage heart failure supported by ventricular assist devices or blood pumps such as extracorporeal mechanical oxygenators. Although the mechanism for NSB amongst these patients is not clearly understood, it has been associated with acquired von Willebrand syndrome, a disorder characterized by lossBortot figure (2) of high molecular weight multimers of von Willebrand factor (VWF). It has been proposed, but not yet demonstrated, that the high shear stress associated with VADs and AS can cause VWF elongation, facilitating excessive cleavage by its main protease, ADAMTS-13. Maria’s project is focused on assessing the effects of fluid dynamics on VWF conformation, cleavage as well as platelet activation and receptor shedding. Maria obtained her BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia. Then she was awarded a scholarship by the Argentinean  National Atomic Energy Commission in Argentina were she completed her Masters in Materials Engineering at Instituto Balserio, Universidad Nacional de  Cuyo. She was then awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and moved to the University of Colorado, AMC to first complete a the Masters program in Bioengineering before joining the DiPaola Laboratory to pursue her PhD.

Lennon receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program predoctoral fellowship 

Mallory Lennon, a second-year PhD candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, has been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) predoctoral fellowship under the mentorship of Dr. Jeffrey Jacot, Associate Professor of bioengineering. Mallory’s project seeks to understand structural heart development in children born with only one ventricle in the heart, a birth defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which occurs in about 1,800 births per year in the United States,has a survival rate of only 27% in the first year, and requires several surgeries over many years. Mallory will collect cells from amniotic fluid at the birth of infants with HLHS, make those cells into heart muscle in the laboratory using a recently published technique from the Jacot lab, and measure specific responses to the mechanical forces encountered during development. She expects that this understanding can be matched to genetic signaling and increase the prediction and diagnosis of HLHS as well as suggest future treatments. Mallory obtained her BS in Biomedical Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She has previously been a recipient of the American Heart Association summer fellowship, and the TL1 (T32) Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the Colorado Clinical and Translational Science Institute.