UW Bioengineering welcomes BMES to Seattle

Seattle was host city to the 2013 Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting, which was held September 25-28. UW Bioengineering students and faculty were present in force to welcome roughly 4,000 meeting attendees.

UW Bioengineering hosted an eye-catching booth front and center in the meeting’s exhibition hall, which featured attractive video displays, couches on which attendees could rest and chat amongst each other, and a cadre of department volunteers eager to answer questions. Several of the department’s students presented research at the meeting, sharing their discoveries and ideas with fellow bioengineers. In conjunction with the meeting, the department held a reception for over 300 students, faculty, friends, alumni and peers in the 35th floor Cirrus Ballroom of the Sheraton Seattle.

Lab tours: behind-the-scenes at UW Bioengineering

UW Bioengineering also provided meeting attendees the chance to get a first-hand look at the innovative research done in some of its hottest labs. The lab tours included stops at the W.H. Foege Bioengineering Building and the Molecular Engineering and Sciences Building (MolES) on UW’s main campus and the department’s facilities at UW Medicine’s South Lake Union (SLU) campus.

W.H. Foege Bioengineering

Home base for the UW Departments of Bioengineering and Genome Sciences, this 265,000 square-foot facility features a design that encourages collaboration.

Paper-Based Point-of-Care Diagnosis of Disease
The Yager and Lutz laboratories are developing a new class of low cost, point-of-care diagnostic technologies using microfluidics, particularly paper-based systems. These devices are fully disposable and very inexpensive: they are on a fast track to be commercialized as lab-quality tests for those outside the laboratory by untrained users in the home, a doctor’s office, in the military, or in the developing world.

Tour highlights:

  • Demonstration of fabrication of paper-based microfluidic devices
  • Presentation of how the point-of-care device would work in the field

Learn more: Paul Yager, Barry Lutz, lab website

Engineered Biomaterials in Mucosal Infections and Mucosal Immunity
The Woodrow laboratory focuses on the applications of engineered biomaterials in mucosal infections and mucosal immunity. Long-term goals are to design and build multifunctional materials that will lead to new preventative strategies for mucosal infections and program protective immune responses at mucosal sites of pathogen entry.

Tour highlights:

  • Demo of Elmarco Nanospider: scale-up of fiber material
  • Demo of the needle spinning apparatus and electrospinning process
  • Observe and handle fiber mats for tensile strength, softness and conformability

Learn more: Kim Woodrow, lab website

Fighting Infection with Biomaterials

The Bryers research group develops biomaterials and biotechnological solutions to treat and prevent biomedical device-based infections. Such infections account for a major portion of the hospital-acquired disease epidemic and are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States.

Tour highlights:

  • Anti-biofilm biomaterials: The group is developing alternatives to synthetic antibiotics to fight infections. Their approach is to engineer both innate and adaptive immunity in the host.
  • Engineering infection immunity: The team is developing mRNA vaccines and engineering cytokine control of dendritic antigen uptake.

Learn more: James Bryers, lab website

Molecular Engineering & Sciences Building (MolES)

Opened in September 2012, this state-of-the-art facility features a dedicated, vibration-free Nano and Molecular Analysis Facility.

Inside Job: Building Drugs that Deliver Inside Targeted Cells
The Stayton research group addresses the substantial challenges of biologic drug delivery, which include avoiding degradation by proteases/nucleases, targeting specific tissues, extending circulation times, maintaining stability and ensuring that the macromolecules can cross the cellular membrane and escape into the intracellular fluid intact. This tour explored some of the powerful synthetic methodologies necessary to create these advanced drug delivery solutions.

Tour highlights:

  • Tour of the Center for the Intracellular Delivery of Biologics wet lab
  • Demonstration of sophisticated chromatography capabilities
  • RAFT polymerization method and synthesis of advanced drug delivery systems

Learn more: Patrick Stayton, James Lai

NESAC/BIO: Characterizing How Biomolecules Behave
The NESAC/BIO research group conducts research using cutting edge surface analysis techniques and state-of-the-art optics to understand how biomolecules, such as DNA, peptides, proteins and antibodies, orient themselves and interact with solid surfaces.

Tour highlights:

  • Nonlinear optical spectroscopy and microscopy using ultrashort laser pulses
  • Time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS)
  • Electron spectroscopy for Chemical Analysis (ESCA)

Learn more: David Castner, Lara Gamble, Patrick Koelsch, lab website

Protein Design for Real-World Applications
The Baker Group at the Institute for Protein Design uses state-of-the-art computer algorithms and synthetic biology methods to design totally novel proteins for applications ranging from vaccines to clean energy.

Tour highlights:

  • Demonstration of the protein design process
  • See computer designed proteins under construction and hold 3-D printed versions
  • Play Foldit, a worldwide popular game to crack protein folding puzzles

Learn more: David Baker, lab website

South Lake Union (SLU)

UW Medicine’s biomedical research hub houses more than 1,000 scientists from across UW disciplines, including UW Bioengineering.

The HAMM Lab - Heart and Muscle Mechanics
The HAMM research group provides an understanding of the mechanisms that regulate muscle contraction and related disease. Here, researchers design gene therapies and cell/tissue replacement approaches to treat heart and skeletal muscle disease, some of which are currently being commercialized.

Tour highlights:

  • Multi-scale measurements of heart and skeletal muscle contraction performance
  • Functional development and characterization of stem cell-derived heart muscle cells

Learn more: Michael Regnier, lab website

Cellular Approaches to Regenerate the Heart
The Murry laboratory studies the biology of myocardial infarction and how the heart heals after injury. Using stem cell studies and tissue engineering, his group develops ways to improve on the heart’s normal wound healing process.

Tour highlights:

  • Visiting the stem cell core laboratory and viewing human embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, stem-cell derived cardiac muscle cells, engineered human heart tissue
  • Discussion of the UW Medicine Heart Regeneration Program

Learn more: Chuck Murry, lab website

Bioengineering Human Tissue and Blood Vessels for Heart, Kidney
The Zheng laboratory is building human tissue and organ systems in vitro to study the fundamentals of human diseases, develop therapies, and regenerate human cells, tissues, and organs. The group bioengineers microvessels, vascularized heart tissues and a kidney filtration unit, and studying their interactions with human blood.

Tour highlights:

  • See vascularized tissues or vessels through microscopy
  • Explore microfabrication process and tools for building tissues and organ systems

Learn more: Ying Zheng, lab website