Category Archives: Engineering for Health

Griffiths Speaks with NPR about Toxic Taps in America

Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths

Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor Tufts University School of Medicine, adjunct professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and former chair of the EPA’s Drinking Water Committee, Science Advisory Board, says we don’t have a strong understanding of the health impacts of low-level exposure to chemicals in water.

“The truth is there is no such thing as a safe amount of lead in water; there’s no such thing as a safe amount of arsenic in water, but the removal of those is costly, so therefore we have standards which allow trace amounts of those,” Griffiths says.

Listen to NPR’s interview with Dr. Griffiths.

Pennell and Collaborators Receive NIH/NIMH Grant to Study Environmental Exposures in Autism Spectral Disorders

Kurt Pennell, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Kurt Pennell, Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor and Chair Kurt Pennell and collaborators received an NIH/NIMH grant for an environment-wide association study in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) using novel bioinformatics methods and metabolomics via mass spectrometry. ASD is influenced by both genetic and environmental risk factors. The research team, including Dr. Sek Won Kong at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor Dean Jones at Emory University, includes experts in pediatrics, environmental epidemiology/chemistry, toxicology, metabolomics and bioinformatics to address environmental contributions to ASD.

Hassoun Wins Ideas Competition Award

Professor Soha Hassoun, department chair of Computer Science

Professor and Chair Soha Hassoun was one of three recipients of an 2015 Ideas Competition award. The Ideas Competition, hosted by Tufts Gordon Institute, is designed for early-stage business ideas. Hassoun’s project “TRAG: At-Home Diagnostics System and App for Tracking the Gut Microbiota” seeks to allow individuals to easily and frequently track and assess the impact of diet, including prebiotics and probiotics, on the gut microbiota. “The global market for prebiotics and probiotics is expected to grow steadily in the next 5 years,” says Hassoun. “There is currently no sure way of predicting and tracking the benefits of these products.”
Learn more about the Ideas Competition and enter the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.

Fantini Co-Authors Biomedical Optics Textbook

In January 2016, Cambridge University Press published Quantitative Biomedical Optics, a textbook Professor Sergio Fantini (BME) co-authored with Professor Irving Bigio of Boston University.

The text covers a broad range of areas in biomedical optics, from light interactions at the single-photon and single-biomolecule levels, to the diffusion regime of light propagation in tissue.

“Bigio and Fantini’s comprehensive text on biomedical optics provides a wonderful blend of accessible theory and practical guidance relevant to the design and application of biomedical optical systems. It should be required reading for all graduate students working in this area.”  – Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Rice University, Houston

Brugge Comments on Uranium-Contaminated Water

Doug Brugge

Adjunct Professor Doug Brugge (CEE) is quoted in South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal about the dangers of water sources contaminated with uranium. Research teams at Tufts and the University of New Mexico are linking long-term exposure of drinking uranium-contaminated water to signs of reproductive and genetic damage, among other problems.

“We should not have any doubts as to whether drinking water with uranium in it is a problem or not. It is,” said Brugge, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “The larger the population that’s drinking this water, the more people that are going to be affected.

17 year old girl sweeps Google’s annual science competition

CNBC highlights the accomplishments of 17-year-old Olivia Hallisey, “who designed a low cost, portable test for Ebola” and is the grand prize winner of the 2015 Google Science Fair. “Hallisey’s diagnostic for the Ebola virus offers results in less than 30 minutes and allows for rapid detection even when patients lack any symptoms. The design includes a silk-containing card that stores Ebola antibodies for up to a week without refrigeration.”

New way to repair nerves: Using exosomes to hijack cell-to-cell communication

Qiaobing Xu

Tufts Assistant Professor Qiaobing Xu and colleagues’ research on regenerative medicine using stem cells “is an increasingly promising approach to treat many types of injury” shares TuftsNow. “Transplanted stem cells can differentiate into just about any other kind of cell, including neurons to potentially reconnect a severed spinal cord and repair paralysis.”

Biopsies Without Knives

Irene Georgakoudi

Irene Georgakoudi, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Tufts University is researching methods “to diagnose cancer at a cellular level, well before it grows into a visible lesion or tumor.”, shares TuftsNow“Although her techniques aren’t yet ready for clinical use, Georgakoudi is hopeful they could make a dramatic impact on the way cancers are identified—turning a dreaded disease into something that can be managed and treated before it spirals out of control.”

Xu Wins NSF Award to Find New Ways to Deliver Drugs Directly into Cells

 

Qiaobing Xu

Qiaobing Xu

Qiaobing Xu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering in Tufts University School of Engineering, has received a $498,899 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund research into a new way to deliver protein-based cancer-fighting drugs and other therapeutics into cells.

Such an approach would enable drugs to destroy cancerous growth more effectively than existing treatments and target other diseases traditionally considered “undruggable.”

Chemotherapy drugs attack all actively dividing cells—healthy and diseased alike—often causing significant side effects in the patients. New protein-based therapy, such as cytokines, monoclonal antibodies and growth factors, allow for highly targeted treatment. The problem is that, unlike compounds used in chemotherapy, proteins are too large to easily cross the cell membrane to penetrate into the cell cytoplasm. Instead, most of these protein therapies work by targeting specific receptors on the outside surface of diseased cells.

The NSF program supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research.

Xu is developing a method way to transport the protein inside the cell safely and efficiently by binding it with a nanoparticle that can cross the cell membrane and, when safely inside, release the protein. In his approach, the protein is first chemically altered to give it a negative charge and then bound to a positively charged nanoparticle composed of lipids. The lipids then pass through the cell membrane, which is naturally negatively charged.

– See more at: http://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/tufts-engineer-wins-nsf-award-find-new-ways-deliver-drugs-directly-cells#sthash.WYn7hmN5.dpuf

Miller and Saibaba Featured on Cover of Inverse Problems

Eric Miller

Eric Miller

The research of Professor and Chair Eric Miller (ECE) and postdoc Arvind Saibaba is featured on the cover of the January issue of the journal Inverse Problems. The work, in collaboration with Professor Peter Kitanidis at Stanford University, develops computationally efficient methods for estimating the state of large-scale, noisy, and dynamical systems, opening up possibilities for real-time monitoring and control of processes in fields ranging from medicine and biology to subsurface remediation, carbon sequestration, and numerical weather prediction.

 

doi:10.1088/0266-5611/31/1/015009

Fig. 8 Variance of the computed solution at time 30 h after injection computed on the grid of size.