Rapid crowdsourced innovation for COVID-19 response and economic growth
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Rapid crowdsourced innovation for COVID-19 response and economic growth

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected life worldwide. Governments have been faced with the formidable task of implementing public health measures, such as social distancing, quarantines, and lockdowns, while simultaneously supporting a sluggish economy and stimulating research and development (R&D) for the pandemic. Catalyzing bottom-up entrepreneurship is one method to achieve this. Home-grown efforts by citizens wishing to contribute their time and resources to help have sprouted organically, with ideas shared widely on the internet. We outline a framework for structured, crowdsourced innovation that facilitates collaboration to tackle real, contextualized problems. This is exemplified by a series of virtual hackathon events attracting over 9000 applicants from 142 countries and 49 states. A hackathon is an event that convenes diverse individuals to crowdsource solutions around a core set of predetermined challenges in a limited amount of time. A consortium of over 100 partners from across the healthcare spectrum and beyond defined challenges and supported teams after the event, resulting in the continuation of at least 25% of all teams post-event. Grassroots entrepreneurship can stimulate economic growth while contributing to broader R&D efforts to confront public health emergencies.

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Transfusion reactions associated with COVID‐19 convalescent plasma therapy for SARS‐CoV‐2

Background: Convalescent plasma (CP) for treatment of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) has shown preliminary signs of effectiveness in moderate to severely ill patients in reducing mortality. While studies have demonstrated a low risk of serious adverse events, the comprehensive incidence and nature of the spectrum of transfusion reactions to CP is unknown. We retrospectively examined 427 adult inpatient CP transfusions to determine incidence and types of reactions, as well as clinical parameters and risk factors associated with transfusion reactions. Study Design and Methods: Retrospective analysis was performed for 427 transfusions to 215 adult patients with coronavirus 2019 (COVID‐19) within the Mount Sinai Health System, through the US Food and Drug Administration emergency investigational new drug and the Mayo Clinic Expanded Access Protocol to Convalescent Plasma approval pathways. Transfusions were blindly evaluated by two reviewers and adjudicated by a third reviewer in discordant cases. Patient demographics and clinical and laboratory parameters were compared and analyzed. Results: Fifty‐five reactions from 427 transfusions were identified (12.9% incidence), and 13 were attributed to transfusion (3.1% incidence). Reactions were classified as underlying COVID‐19 (76%), febrile nonhemolytic (10.9%), transfusion‐associated circulatory overload (9.1%), and allergic (1.8%) and hypotensive (1.8%) reactions. Statistical analysis identified increased transfusion reaction risk for ABO blood group B or Sequential Organ Failure Assessment scores of 12 to 13, and decreased risk within the age group of 80 to 89 years. Conclusion: Our findings support the use of CP as a safe, therapeutic option from a transfusion reaction perspective, in the setting of COVID‐19. Further studies are needed to confirm the clinical significance of ABO group B, age, and predisposing disease severity in the incidence of transfusion reaction events.

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Neutralizing Antibody Responses in COVID-19 Convalescent Sera

Passive transfer of antibodies from COVID-19 convalescent patients is being used as an experimental treatment for eligible patients with SARS-CoV-2 infections. The United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines for convalescent plasma initially recommended target antibody titers of 160. We evaluated SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in sera from recovered COVID-19 patients using plaque reduction neutralization tests (PRNT) at moderate (PRNT50) and high (PRNT90) stringency thresholds. We found that neutralizing activity significantly increased with time post symptom onset (PSO), reaching a peak at 31–35 days PSO. At this point, the number of sera having neutralizing titers of at least 160 was approximately 93% (PRNT50) and approximately 54% (PRNT90). Sera with high SARS-CoV-2 antibody levels (>960 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay titers) showed maximal activity, but not all high-titer sera contained neutralizing antibody at FDA recommended levels, particularly at high stringency. These results underscore the value of serum characterization for neutralization activity.

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An Unsupervised Machine Learning Approach to Assess the ZIP Code Level Impact of COVID-19 in NYC

New York City has been recognized as the world’s epicenter of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. To identify the key inherent factors that are highly correlated to the Increase Rate of COVID-19 new cases in NYC, we propose an unsupervised machine learning framework. Based on the assumption that ZIP code areas with similar demographic, socioeconomic, and mobility patterns are likely to experience similar outbreaks, we select the most relevant features to perform a clustering that can best reflect the spread, and map them down to 9 interpretable categories. We believe that our findings can guide policy makers to promptly anticipate and prevent the spread of the virus by taking the right measures.

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Implantable Nanosensors for Human Steroid Hormone Sensing In Vivo Using a Self-Templating Corona Phase Molecular Recognition

Dynamic measurements of steroid hormones in vivo are critical, but steroid sensing is currently limited by the availability of specific molecular recognition elements due to the chemical similarity of these hormones. In this work, a new, self‐templating synthetic approach is applied using corona phase molecular recognition (CoPhMoRe) targeting the steroid family of molecules to produce near infrared fluorescent, implantable sensors. A key limitation of CoPhMoRe has been its reliance on library generation for sensor screening. This problem is addressed with a self‐templating strategy of polymer design, using the examples of progesterone and cortisol sensing based on a styrene and acrylic acid copolymer library augmented with an acrylated steroid. The pendant steroid attached to the corona backbone is shown to self‐template the phase, providing a unique CoPhMoRE design strategy with high efficacy. The resulting sensors exhibit excellent stability and reversibility upon repeated analyte cycling. It is shown that molecular recognition using such constructs is viable even in vivo after sensor implantation into a murine model by employing a poly (ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel and porous cellulose interface to limit nonspecific absorption. The results demonstrate that CoPhMoRe templating is sufficiently robust to enable a new class of continuous, in vivo biosensors.

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Convalescent plasma treatment of severe COVID-19: a propensity score–matched control study

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a new human disease with few effective treatments. Convalescent plasma, donated by persons who have recovered from COVID-19, is the acellular component of blood that contains antibodies, including those that specifically recognize SARS-CoV-2. These antibodies, when transfused into patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, are thought to exert an antiviral effect, suppressing virus replication before patients have mounted their own humoral immune responses. Virus-specific antibodies from recovered persons are often the first available therapy for an emerging infectious disease, a stopgap treatment while new antivirals and vaccines are being developed. This retrospective, propensity score–matched case–control study assessed the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in 39 patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19 at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Oxygen requirements on day 14 after transfusion worsened in 17.9% of plasma recipients versus 28.2% of propensity score–matched controls who were hospitalized with COVID-19 (adjusted odds ratio (OR), 0.86; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.75–0.98; chi-square test P value = 0.025). Survival also improved in plasma recipients (adjusted hazard ratio (HR), 0.34; 95% CI, 0.13–0.89; chi-square test P = 0.027). Convalescent plasma is potentially effective against COVID-19, but adequately powered, randomized controlled trials are needed.

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MIT COVID-19 Datathon: data without boundaries

The COVID-19 virus is a formidable global threat, impacting all aspects of society and exacerbating the existing inequities of our current social systems. As we battle the virus across multiple fronts, data are critical for understanding this disease and for coordinating an effective global response. Given the current digitisation of so many aspects of life, we are amassing data that can be extrapolated and analysed for the effective forecasting, prevention and treatment of COVID-19. With responsible stewardship, the tools and data-driven solutions currently in development for the COVID-19 pandemic will serve in the present while providing a much-needed foundation for a data-based response to future outbreaks and disasters.

In response to COVID-19, and using data generated thus far, groups at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts, Google Cloud, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) Innovations Group and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at BIDMC came together to host the MIT Challenge COVID-19 Datathon (COVID-19 Datathon) from 10–16 May 2020. A ‘datathon’ adopts the ‘hackathon’ model, with a focus on data and data science methodologies, which promotes collaboration, design thinking and problem solving. In a typical hackathon, participants with disparate but complementary backgrounds work together in small groups for a prescribed and intensive ‘sprint’, typically over the course of one weekend, to develop a new concept, product or business idea. Subject matter expert ‘mentors’’ oversee and advise the teams. At the conclusion of the event, the teams present to a panel of judges. Winners are selected and are typically awarded seed funding. Datathons differ from hackathons in that the output is data analysis. MIT Critical Data, one of the organising groups of the COVID-19 Datathon, has hosted 36 international healthcare datathons.

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A Fiber Optic Interface Coupled to Nanosensors: Applications to Protein Aggregation and Organic Molecule Quantification

Fluorescent nanosensors hold promise to address analytical challenges in the biopharmaceutical industry. The monitoring of therapeutic protein critical quality attributes such as aggregation is a longstanding challenge requiring low detection limits and multiplexing of different product parameters. However, general approaches for interfacing nanosensors to the biopharmaceutical process remain minimally explored to date. Herein, we design and fabricate a integrated fiber optic nanosensor element, measuring sensitivity, response time, and stability for applications to the rapid process monitoring. The fiber optic-nanosensor interface, or optode, consists of label-free nIR fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotube transducers embedded within a protective yet porous hydrogel attached to the end of the fiber waveguide. The optode platform is shown to be capable of differentiating the aggregation status of human immunoglobulin G, reporting the relative fraction of monomers and dimer aggregates with sizes 5.6 and 9.6 nm, respectively, in under 5 min of analysis time. We introduce a lab-on-fiber design with potential for at-line monitoring with integration of 3D-printed miniaturized sensor tips having high mechanical flexibility. A parallel measurement of fluctuations in laser excitation allows for intensity normalization and significantly lower noise level (3.7-times improved) when using lower quality lasers, improving the cost effectiveness of the platform. As an application, we demonstrate the capability of the fully-integrated lab-on-fiber system to rapid monitoring of various bioanalytes including serotonin, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and hydrogen peroxide, in addition to proteins and their aggregation states. These results in total constitute an effective form factor for nanosensor based transducers for applications in industrial process monitoring.

DNA-SWCNT Biosensors Allow Real-Time Monitoring of Therapeutic Responses in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly desmoplastic cancer with limited treatment options. There is an urgent need for tools that monitor therapeutic responses in real time. Drugs such as gemcitabine and irinotecan elicit their therapeutic effect in cancer cells by producing hydrogen peroxide (HO). In this study, specific DNA-wrapped single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), which precisely monitor HO, were used to determine the therapeutic response of PDAC cells and tumors . Drug therapeutic efficacy was evaluated by monitoring HO differences using reversible alteration of Raman G-bands from the nanotubes. Implantation of the DNA-SWCNT probe inside the PDAC tumor resulted in approximately 50% reduction of Raman G-band intensity when treated with gemcitabine versus the pretreated tumor; the Raman G-band intensity reversed to its pretreatment level upon treatment withdrawal. In summary, using highly specific and sensitive DNA-SWCNT nanosensors, which can determine dynamic alteration of hydrogen peroxide in tumor, can evaluate the effectiveness of chemotherapeutics. SIGNIFICANCE: A novel biosensor is used to detect intratumoral hydrogen peroxide, allowing real-time monitoring of responses to chemotherapeutic drugs.

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Implanted Nanosensors in Marine Organisms for Physiological Biologging: Design, Feasibility, and Species Variability

In recent decades, biologists have sought to tag animals with various sensors to study aspects of their behavior otherwise inaccessible from controlled laboratory experiments. Despite this, chemical information, both environmental and physiological, remains challenging to collect despite its tremendous potential to elucidate a wide range of animal behaviors. In this work, we explore the design, feasibility, and data collection constraints of implantable, near-infrared fluorescent nanosensors based on DNA-wrapped single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) embedded within a biocompatible poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel. These sensors are enabled by Corona Phase Molecular Recognition (CoPhMoRe) to provide selective chemical detection for marine organism biologging. Riboflavin, a key nutrient in oxidative phosphorylation, is utilized as a model analyte in in vitro and ex vivo tissue measurements. Nine species of bony fish, sharks, eels, and turtles were utilized on site at Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain to investigate sensor design parameters, including implantation depth, sensor imaging and detection limits, fluence, and stability, as well as acute and long-term biocompatibility. Hydrogels were implanted subcutaneously and imaged using a customized, field-portable Raspberry Pi camera system. Hydrogels could be detected up to depths of 7 mm in the skin and muscle tissue of deceased teleost fish ( Sparus aurata and Stenotomus chrysops) and a deceased catshark ( Galeus melastomus). The effects of tissue heterogeneity on hydrogel delivery and fluorescence visibility were explored, with darker tissues masking hydrogel fluorescence. Hydrogels were implanted into a living eastern river cooter ( Pseudemys concinna), a European eel ( Anguilla anguilla), and a second species of catshark ( Scyliorhinus stellaris). The animals displayed no observable changes in movement and feeding patterns. Imaging by high-resolution ultrasound indicated no changes in tissue structure in the eel and catshark. In the turtle, some tissue reaction was detected upon dissection and histopathology. Analysis of movement patterns in sarasa comet goldfish ( Carassius auratus) indicated that the hydrogel implants did not affect swimming patterns. Taken together, these results indicate that this implantable form factor is a promising technique for biologging using aquatic vertebrates with further development. Future work will tune the sensor detection range to the physiological range of riboflavin, develop strategies to normalize sensor signal to account for the optical heterogeneity of animal tissues, and design a flexible, wearable device incorporating optoelectronic components that will enable sensor measurements in moving animals. This work advances the application of nanosensors to organisms beyond the commonly used rodent and zebrafish models and is an important step toward the physiological biologging of aquatic organisms.

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In vivo detection of drug-induced apoptosis in tumors using Raman spectroscopy

We describe a label-free approach based on Raman spectroscopy, to study drug-induced apoptosis in vivo. Spectral-shifts at wavenumbers associated with DNA, proteins, lipids, and collagen have been identified on breast and melanoma tumor tissues. These findings may enable a new analytical method for rapid readout of drug-therapy with miniaturized probes.

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Characterization of magnetic nanoparticle-seeded microspheres for magnetomotive and multimodal imaging

Magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles have been developed as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and as therapeutic agents in magnetic hyperthermia. They have also recently been demonstrated as contrast and elastography agents in magnetomotive optical coherence tomography and elastography (MM-OCT and MM-OCE, respectively). Protein-shell microspheres containing suspensions of these magnetic nanoparticles in lipid cores, and with functionalized outer shells for specific targeting, have also been demonstrated as efficient contrast agents for imaging modalities such as MM-OCT and MRI, and can be easily modified for other modalities such as ultrasound, fluorescence, and luminescence imaging. In addition to multimodal contrast-enhanced imaging, these microspheres could serve as drug carriers for targeted delivery under image guidance. Although the preparation and surface modifications of protein microspheres containing iron oxide nanoparticles has been previously described and feasibility studies conducted, many questions regarding their production and properties remain. Since the use of multifunctional microspheres could have high clinical relevance, here we report a detailed characterization of their properties and behavior in different environments to highlight their versatility. The work presented here is an effort for the development and optimization of nanoparticle-based microspheres as multi-modal contrast agents that can bridge imaging modalities on different size scales.

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Investigating Effects of Proteasome Inhibitor on Multiple Myeloma Cells Using Confocal Raman Microscopy

Due to its label-free and non-destructive nature, applications of Raman spectroscopic imaging in monitoring therapeutic responses at the cellular level are growing. We have recently developed a high-speed confocal Raman microscopy system to image living biological specimens with high spatial resolution and sensitivity. In the present study, we have applied this system to monitor the effects of Bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor drug, on multiple myeloma cells. Cluster imaging followed by spectral profiling suggest major differences in the nuclear and cytoplasmic contents of cells due to drug treatment that can be monitored with Raman spectroscopy. Spectra were also acquired from group of cells and feasibility of discrimination among treated and untreated cells using principal component analysis (PCA) was accessed. Findings support the feasibility of Raman technologies as an alternate, novel method for monitoring live cell dynamics with minimal external perturbation.

Optical coherence tomography and targeted multi-modal protein microspheres for cancer imaging

The field of biomedical optics has grown quickly over the last two decades as various technological advances have helped increase the acquisition speeds and the sensitivity limits of the technology. During this time, optical coherence tomography (OCT) has been explored for a wide number of clinical applications ranging from cardiology to oncology to primary care. In this thesis, I describe the design and construction of an intraoperative clinical OCT system that can be used to image and classify breast cancer tumor margins as normal, close, or positive. I also demonstrate that normal lymph nodes can be distinguished from reactive or metastatic lymph nodes by looking at the difference in scattering intensity between the cortex and the capsule of the node. Despite the advances of OCT in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, this technology is still limited by its field of view and can only provide structural information about the tissue. Structural OCT would benefit from added contrast via sub-cellular or biochemical components via the use of contrast agents and functional OCT modalities. As with most other optical imaging techniques, there is a trade off between the imaging field of view and the high-resolution microscopic imaging. In this thesis, I demonstrate for the first time that MM-OCT can be used as a complimentary technique to wide field imaging modalities, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or fluorescence imaging, using targeted multi-modal protein microspheres. By using a single contrast agent to bridge the wide field and microscopic imaging modalities, a wide field imaging technique can be used to initially localize the contrast agent at the site of interest to guide the location of the MM-OCT imaging to provide a microscopic view. In addition to multi-modal contrast, the microspheres were functionalized with RGD peptides that can target various cancer cell lines. The cancer cells readily endocytosed bound protein microspheres, revealing the possibility that these protein microspheres could also be used as therapeutic agents. These investigations furthered the utility of the OCT technology for cancer imaging and diagnosis.

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Challenges and opportunities for reinvigorating the physician-scientist pipeline

Physician-scientists, with in-depth training in both medicine and research, are uniquely poised to address pressing challenges at the forefront of biomedicine. In recent years, a number of organizations have outlined obstacles to maintaining the pipeline of physician-scientists, classifying them as an endangered species. As in-training and early-career physician-scientists across the spectrum of the pipeline, we share here our perspective on the current challenges and available opportunities that might aid our generation in becoming independent physician-scientists. These challenges revolve around the difficulties in recruitment and retention of trainees, the length of training and lack of support at key training transition points, and the rapidly and independently changing worlds of medical and scientific training. In an era of health care reform and an environment of increasingly sparse NIH funding, these challenges are likely to become more pronounced and complex. As stakeholders, we need to coalesce behind core strategic points and regularly assess the impact and progress of our efforts with appropriate metrics. Here, we expand on the challenges that we foresee and offer potential opportunities to ensure a more sustainable physician-scientist workforce.

High resolution live cell Raman imaging using subcellular organelle-targeting SERS-sensitive gold nanoparticles with highly narrow intra-nanogap

We report a method to achieve high speed and high resolution live cell Raman images using small spherical gold nanoparticles with highly narrow intra-nanogap structures responding to NIR excitation (785 nm) and high-speed confocal Raman microscopy. The three different Raman-active molecules placed in the narrow intra-nanogap showed a strong and uniform Raman intensity in solution even under transient exposure time (10 ms) and low input power of incident laser (200 μW), which lead to obtain high-resolution single cell image within 30 s without inducing significant cell damage. The high resolution Raman image showed the distributions of gold nanoparticles for their targeted sites such as cytoplasm, mitochondria, or nucleus. The high speed Raman-based live cell imaging allowed us to monitor rapidly changing cell morphologies during cell death induced by the addition of highly toxic KCN solution to cells. These results strongly suggest that the use of SERS-active nanoparticle can greatly improve the current temporal resolution and image quality of Raman-based cell images enough to obtain the detailed cell dynamics and/or the responses of cells to potential drug molecules.

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Measuring uptake dynamics of multiple identifiable carbon nanotube species via high-speed confocal Raman imaging of live cells

Carbon nanotube uptake was measured via high-speed confocal Raman imaging in live cells. Spatial and temporal tracking of two cell-intrinsic and nine nanotube-derived Raman bands was conducted simultaneously in RAW 264.7 macrophages. Movies resolved single (n, m) species, defects, and aggregation states of nanotubes transiently as well as the cell position, denoted by lipid and protein signals. This work portends the real-time molecular imaging of live cells and tissues using Raman spectroscopy, affording multiplexing and complete photostability.

Toward a better understanding of the retention of physician-scientists in the career pipeline

We question the implications of the study by Jeffe and Andriole,1 who assembled a novel database from disparate sources to investigate the role of Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) funding for MD/PhD student training. MSTPs (i.e., MSTP programs) were stratified by duration of MSTP funding to their respective institutions. As reported in Table 2, recent MSTPs were more similar in student prematriculation characteristics to non-MSTPs than they were to long-standing MSTPs. Because the authors did not compare all MSTPs with all non-MSTPs, their concluding recommendation that future studies take into account the MSTP funding status of MD/PhD trainees should be evaluated with the duration of MSTP funding to the institution in mind.

The authors found that female and minority students were more likely to graduate from long-standing MSTPs than from non-MSTPs. However, the analysis did not normalize the ethnic and gender diversity of the MD/PhD cohort to the overall medical student cohort at each respective school. Thus, it is unclear whether the increased diversity is due to MSTP funding or certain institution-specific factors. Intra-institutional normalization could also have been performed on other variables (e.g., MCAT score and the undergraduate institution’s Carnegie Classification).

Another potential confounder of the analysis is the research milieu in which the long-standing MSTPs function, that is, the home medical school. For example, as a crude analysis, out of the 43 medical schools with MSTPs in 2010–2011, 36 (84%) were concurrently among the top 43 medical school recipients of NIH funding in 2010.2 We maintain that the institutional environment plays a more integral role in the development of physician–scientists than does the funding mechanism. Institutions giving higher priority to research are more likely to have invested in the proper infrastructure and resources to support MD/PhD students and to fully fund them. With the authors’ finding of increased MD/PhD graduate debt linked to increased likelihood of pursuing a nonuniversity clinical practice, further investigation is warranted regarding the role of institutional trainee support, level of financial support, and sources of funding beyond MSTP support alone.

Based on Table 4, there was no significant difference between long-standing MSTP, recent MSTP, and non-MSTP graduates regarding pursuing a career outside that of full-time faculty/research scientist. This suggests that obtaining both the MD and PhD degrees, regardless of MSTP funding, is in itself sufficient for this outcome. However, a comparison of the students’ research career intentions at the time of matriculation—from the AAMC Matriculating Student Questionnaire (MSQ)—with their intentions at the time of graduation would have been a better measurement of the influence of MSTP funding on the persistence of career intentions. The fact remains that no studies have shown the predictive value of career intentions on actual outcomes.3,4

Incorporating information from the MSQ and implementing postgraduation longitudinal studies would provide a better understanding of the impact of factors such as training environment and funding support on the retention of physician–scientists in the career pipeline.

Targeted multi-modal protein microspheres for cancer imaging

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a novel technology that has been developed for various clinical applications from ophthalmology to oncology. OCT is analogous to ultrasound but with micron-scale resolution by using light waves instead of sound waves to provide detailed structural information at the cellular level. The development of contrast agents has been critical to the development of OCT and its functional modalities such as magneto-motive OCT (MM-OCT). MM-OCT is a modality of OCT in which a small external magnetic field is modulated on and off during imaging, providing an added dimension of contrast from the magnetic particle responses. Protein microspheres consisting of a hydrophobic oil core and a hydrophilic BSA protein shell provide the vehicle for a multi-modal contrast agent. The microspheres encapsulate iron oxide nanoparticles in the oil core, providing magnetic signal contrast, and dyes such as Nile Red and DiR iodide, providing fluorescence contrast. The outer surface is functionalized using a layer-by-layer adhesion process to attach RGD peptide sequences to target integrin receptors. Using dynamic light scattering, we found the size distribution of the microspheres to be between 1-5 µm. Under SEM and TEM, we were able to visualize the various layers and coatings, such as silica and RGD peptides, of the microsphere. The microspheres were optimized to maximize the magnetic contrast under MM-OCT and MRI, and the fluorescent contrast under a dark box fluorescence imaging system, and fluorescence microscopy. These studies validated the use of MM-OCT as a method for quantifying the relative amount of iron oxide and the relative number of microspheres in the samples. To address the binding specificity and sensitivity of the RGD coated microspheres to the integrin receptors, the microspheres were incubated with cell lines of varying expression levels of the alpha(v)beta(3) integrin receptor and visualized under fluorescence microscopy. The cell lines used in this study included a normal epithelial cell line: hTERT-HME1, and several human breast cancer cell lines: HCC38, SK-BR-3, MCF-7, ZR-75-1, MDA-MB-231, and MDA-MB-435S. These results were externally validated by quantification of the receptors using indirect immunohistochemical staining and flow cytometry. Preliminary results, using the multi-spectral dark box fluorescence imaging system, demonstrate the localization of the microspheres to the vasculature surrounding the tumor and to lymph nodes. This is highly suggestive of the microsphere’s selective binding to the vasculature. By combining the benefits of these various imaging modalities in a single agent, it becomes possible to use a wide-field imaging method such as MRI or small animal fluorescence imaging to initially locate the agents in-vivo, to use MM-OCT to provide micron scale resolution structural images in-vivo, and to use fluorescence microcopy to confirm the localization of these particles ex-vivo.

Magnetomotive optical coherence microscopy for cell dynamics and biomechanics

Magnetomotive microscopy techniques are introduced to investigate cell dynamics and biomechanics. These techniques are based on magnetomotive transducers present in cells and optical coherence imaging techniques. In this study, magnetomotive transducers include magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) and fluorescently labeled magnetic microspheres, while the optical coherence imaging techniques include integrated optical coherence (OCM)and multiphoton (MPM) microscopy,and diffraction phase microscopy (DPM). Samples used in this study are murine macrophage cells in culture that were incubated with magnetomotive transducers. MPMis used to visualize multifunctional microspheres based on their fluorescence, while magnetomotive OCM detects sinusoidal displacements of the sample induced by a magnetic field. DPM is used to image single cells at a lower frequency magnetic excitation, and with its Fourier transform light scattering (FTLS) analysis, oscillation amplitude is obtained, indicating the relative biomechanical properties of macrophage cells. These magnetomotive microscopy method shave potential to be used to image and measure cell dynamics and biomechanical properties. The ability to measure and understand biomechanical properties of cells and their microenvironments, especially for tumor cells, is of great importance and may provide insight for diagnostic and subsequently therapeutic interventions.

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Targeted multifunctional multimodal protein-shell microspheres as cancer imaging contrast agents

PURPOSE: In this study, protein-shell microspheres filled with a suspension of iron oxide nanoparticles in oil are demonstrated as multimodal contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), magnetomotive optical coherence tomography (MM-OCT), and ultrasound imaging. The development, characterization, and use of multifunctional multimodal microspheres are described for targeted contrast and therapeutic applications.PROCEDURES: A preclinical rat model was used to demonstrate the feasibility of the multimodal multifunctional microspheres as contrast agents in ultrasound, MM-OCT and MRI. Microspheres were functionalized with the RGD peptide ligand, which is targeted to α(v)β₃ integrin receptors that are over-expressed in tumors and atherosclerotic lesions.RESULTS: These microspheres, which contain iron oxide nanoparticles in their cores, can be modulated externally using a magnetic field to create dynamic contrast in MM-OCT. With the presence of iron oxide nanoparticles, these agents also show significant negative T2 contrast in MRI. Using ultrasound B-mode imaging at a frequency of 30 MHz, a marked enhancement of scatter intensity from in vivo rat mammary tumor tissue was observed for these targeted protein microspheres.CONCLUSIONS: Preliminary results demonstrate multimodal contrast-enhanced imaging of these functionalized microsphere agents with MRI, MM-OCT, ultrasound imaging, and fluorescence microscopy, including in vivo tracking of the dynamics of these microspheres in real-time using a high-frequency ultrasound imaging system. These targeted oil-filled protein microspheres with the capacity for high drug-delivery loads offer the potential for local delivery of lipophilic drugs under image guidance.

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Fourier Transform Light Scattering (FTLS) of Cells and Tissues

Fourier transform light scattering (FTLS) has been recently developed as a novel, ultrasensitive method for studying light scattering from inhomogeneous and dynamic structures. FTLS relies on quantifying the optical phase and amplitude associated with a coherent image field and propagating it numerically to the scattering plane. In this paper, we review the principle and applications of FTLS to static and dynamic light scattering from biological tissues and live cells. Compared with other existing light scattering techniques, FTLS has significant benefits of high sensitivity, speed, and angular resolution. We anticipate that FTLS will set the basis for disease diagnosis based on intrinsic tissue optical properties and provide an efficient tool for quantifying cell structures and dynamics.

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Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs – Breast Cancer Research Program

Freddy Nguyen, an M.D./Ph.D. student in Professor Stephen Boppart’s Biophotonics Imaging Laboratory, was awarded an FY07 BCRP
Predoctoral Traineeship Award to optimize the use of an innovative imaging technology, magnetomotive optical coherence tomography (MM-OCT), which can provide real-time microscopic analysis of tumor
cells. Specifically, Mr. Nguyen’s project is to develop and optimize protein microspheres as a multimodal contrast agent to be used in conjunction with MM-OCT.
Mr. Nguyen has focused on encapsulating iron oxide nanoparticles and fluorescent dyes into the inner cores of modified protein microspheres capable of specifically targeting tumor neovessels, which are the blood vessels that tumors form to support their rapid growth. Tumor neovessel specificity was achieved by coating the microspheres with an arginine-glycine-asparatate (RGD) peptide, which binds to the αvβ3 integrin receptor on the surface of tumor neovessel endothelial cells. Preliminary studies confirmed that the microspheres preferentially bind to the tumor cells because they overexpress αvβ3 integrins in vitro. The microspheres accumulated in the neoves- sels at the tumor sites when injected into tumor-bearing rats. Mr. Nguyen plans to further pur- sue the cancer-specific targeting of the protein microspheres as a potential diagnostic contrast agent as well as a therapeutic agent in the treatment of breast cancer.

Nanotube-porphyrin molecular structure and applications of same

A molecular structure. In one embodiment, the molecular structure includes a nanotube formed With a plurality of carbon atoms having a first end, an opposite, second end, and a body portion defined there between, wherein the body portion has an interior surface defining a cavity, an opposite, exterior surface and a longitudinal axis therethrough the cavity, and a porphyrin molecule having a plurality of carbon atoms and a first plurality of hydrogen atoms, wherein at its original state the porphyrin molecule has a plurality of pyrrole units and each pyrrole unit is coupled to another pyrrole unit through a methine bridge so as to form a ring structure with a second plurality of hydrogen atoms positioned peripherally along the ring structure. The porphyrin molecule is chemically coupled to the interior surface of the nanotube such that at least one of the second plurality of hydrogen atoms positioned peripherally along the ring structure is replaced by a carbon atom of the nanotube.

RGD coated protein microspheres as a dual fluorescent and magnetomotive contrast agent for targeted cancer imaging with magnetomotive optical coherence tomography

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a novel technology that has been developed for various clinical applications ranging from ophthalmology to oncology. OCT is analogous to ultrasound technology but with micron by using light waves instead of sound waves providing detailed morphological or structural information at the cellular level about the tissue specimen. Magneto-motive OCT (MM-OCT) is a recently developed modality of OCT in which a magnetic field is modulated on and off during imaging. With the development of this modality, exogeneous contrast agents are becoming more important to target markers that are expressed prior to morphological changes that structural OCT can only detect. Modified protein microspheres consisting of an oil core and a hydrophilic BSA protein shell are being presented as a multi-modal contrast agent vehicle. The protein microspheres are encapsulated with iron oxide in the oil core to provide the magnetic signal contrast and a near infrared dye to provide a fluorescence contrast. The outer surface is functionalized using a layer-by-layer adhesion process to attach RGD peptide sequences to target integrin receptors. Under MM-OCT, these agents have been detected above various levels of background tissue scattering demonstrating that these agents can provide added contrast to OCT through the magnetic signal. These agents were incubated with various cell lines with differing levels of alpha(v)beta(3) integrin receptor expression that were quantified using western blotting and fluorescent antibody immunohistochemical staining. The normal control cell line used was the CRL-4010. The breast cancer cell lines studied included CRL-2314, SK-BR-3, MCF-7, and 13762 MAT B III cells. These studies address the binding specificity and sensitivity of the RGD functionalized protein microspheres to the alpha(v)beta(3) integrin receptors. In addition, a quantitative analysis is being performed to correlate the relative levels of bound microspheres to the cells, measured through MM-OCT measurements and through their fluorescence signals of the microspheres, and the cell’s alpha(v)beta(3) integrin receptor expression derived from the western blot experiments. Preliminary results indicate that these agents have a higher affinity to the cancer cells over the normal epithelial cells and are also internalized by the cells and could have to potential to become localized targeted drug delivery vehicles. In an NMU carcinogen induced rat animal model, the targeted protein microspheres were injected in-vivo. These preliminary results, using a multi-spectral dark box imaging system, demonstrate the localization of the microspheres to the vasculature surrounding the tumor. These microspheres are being presented as a novel contrast agent to a novel high resolution imaging modality targeted at cancer.

Publication

Optical coherence tomography: the intraoperative assessment of lymph nodes in breast cancer

During breast-conserving surgeries, axillary lymph nodes draining from the primary tumor site are removed for disease staging. Although a high number of lymph nodes are often resected during sentinel and lymph-node dissections, only a relatively small percentage of nodes are found to be metastatic, a fact that must be weighed against potential complications such as lymphedema. Without a real-time in vivo or in situ intraoperative imaging tool to provide a microscopic assessment of the nodes, postoperative paraffin section histopathological analysis currently remains the gold standard in assessing the status of lymph nodes. This paper investigates the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT), a high-resolution real-time microscopic optical-imaging technique, for the intraoperative ex vivo imaging and assessment of axillary lymph nodes. Normal (13), reactive (1), and metastatic (3) lymph nodes from 17 human patients with breast cancer were imaged intraoperatively with OCT. These preliminary clinical studies have identified scattering changes in the cortex, relative to the capsule, which can be used to differentiate normal from reactive and metastatic nodes. These optical scattering changes are correlated with inflammatory and immunological changes observed in the follicles and germinal centers. These results suggest that intraoperative OCT has the potential to assess the real-time node status in situ, without having to physically resect and histologically process specimens to visualize microscopic features.

Publication

Intraoperative evaluation of breast tumor margins with optical coherence tomography

As breast cancer screening rates increase, smaller and more numerous lesions are being identified earlier, leading to more breast-conserving surgical procedures. Achieving a clean surgical margin represents a technical challenge with important clinical implications. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is introduced as an intraoperative high-resolution imaging technique that assesses surgical breast tumor margins by providing real-time microscopic images up to 2 mm beneath the tissue surface. In a study of 37 patients split between training and study groups, OCT images covering 1 cm(2) regions were acquired from surgical margins of lumpectomy specimens, registered with ink, and correlated with corresponding histologic sections. A 17-patient training set used to establish standard imaging protocols and OCT evaluation criteria showed that areas of higher scattering tissue with a heterogeneous pattern were indicative of tumor cells and tumor tissue in contrast to lower scattering adipocytes found in normal breast tissue. The remaining 20 patients were enrolled into the feasibility study. Of these lumpectomy specimens, 11 were identified with a positive or close surgical margin and 9 were identified with a negative margin under OCT. Based on histologic findings, 9 true positives, 9 true negatives, 2 false positives, and 0 false negatives were found, yielding a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 82%. These results show the potential of OCT as a real-time method for intraoperative margin assessment in breast-conserving surgeries.

Publication

Clinical feasibility of microscopically-guided breast needle biopsy using a fiber-optic probe with computer-aided detection

Needle biopsy of small or nonpalpable breast lesions has a high nondiagnostic sampling rate even when needle position is guided by stereotaxis or ultrasound. We assess the feasibility of using a near-infrared fiber optic probe and computer-aided detection for the microscopic guidance of needle breast biopsy procedures. Specimens from nine consented patients undergoing breast-conserving surgery were assessed intraoperatively using a needle device with an integrated fiber-optic probe capable of assessing two physical tissue properties highly correlated to pathology. Immediately following surgical resection, specimens were probed by inserting the optical biopsy needle device into the tissue, simulating the procedure used to position standard biopsy needles. Needle positions were marked and correlated with histology, which verified measurements obtained from 58 needle positions, including 40 in adipose and 18 in tumor tissue. This study yielded tissue classifications based on measurement of optical refractive index and scattering. Confidence-rating schemes yielded combined sensitivity of 89% (16/18) and specificity of 78% (31/40). Refractive index tests alone identified tumor tissue with a sensitivity of 83% (15/18) and specificity of 75% (30/40). Scattering profiles independently identified tumor tissue with a sensitivity of 61% (11/18) and specificity of 60% (24/40). These results show that a biopsy needle with an integrated fiber optic probe can be used to identify breast tumor tissue for sampling. Integration of this probe into current practices offers the potential to reduce nondiagnostic sampling rates by directly evaluating in situ microscopic tissue properties in real-time, before removal.

Publication

Translational careers

POWERED BY THE COMPUTATIONAL MUSCLE OF BIOINFORMATICS AND THE BROAD PERSPECTIVE
of systems biology, advances in biomedical science now have the capacity to transform medicine. Yet to fully realize the health benefits of new scientific insight, we must ensure a vibrant flow of information between the basic sciences and clinical medicine. This takes both systems and people.
The U.S. government has made an unprecedented investment in the infrastructure required to support a new generation of translational researchers. Through the Clinical and Translational Science Award program (CTSA), the National Institutes of Health has created a national consor- tium that already includes 39 centers in 23 states with an annual funding commitment of $500 million by 2012. Still in its infancy, this initiative seeks to shorten the time required to translate research results into therapies by many means, including training researchers and providing them with an academic home, developing tools for clinical research, streamlining regulatory processes, and fostering interdisciplinary and interinstitutional research.
The potential is clear.
But people are the prerequisite for success. We need an array of inno- vative investigators whose expertise spans all the disciplines of basic discovery and medical science. As a counterpoint to federal efforts, our private, nonprofit organizations have addressed the human capital need in robust ways, training and funding physicians and other clinical scientists, and piloting models for interdisciplinary graduate training involving biologists, physical and computational scientists and engineers, as well as a wide range of clinical and public health professionals.

Publication

Optical properties of tissues quantified by Fourier-transform light scattering

We employ Fourier-transform light scattering, a technique recently developed in our laboratory, to study the scattering properties of rat organ tissues. Using the knowledge of the complex field associated with high-resolution microscope images of tissue slices, we extracted the scattering mean-free path l(s) and anisotropy factor g, which characterize the bulk tissue for three different rat organs. This “bottom up” approach to measuring tissue scattering parameters allows for predicting the wave transport phenomena within the organ of interest at a multitude of scales-from organelle to organ level.

Restructuring MD-PhD programs: career training or broad education?

In his July 2007 editorial,1 Dr. Whitcomb questions the value of U.S. MD–PhD training, citing the low percentage of students desiring research as their primary professional activity2 and their low rate of NIH grant applications.1 He laments the current system of training as having too much time away from the lab and advocates a system more conducive to research.

He makes a number of assumptions, two of which we challenge here. One, the lower than expected percentage of students desiring research is a function of time away from the lab. This is essentially an academic argument, since we cannot randomize students to different training protocols. Yet, we must still consider how best to improve students’ education. While simply increasing the integration of research into early training appears reasonable, it is not the answer. We believe it is too much to ask students (or residents) to effectively integrate both research and doctoring at the earlier stages of learning. Instead, delving deeply into one discipline at a time as a novice, rather than striving for true coherence via integration, is more likely to develop solid foundations. We want our young physicians and scientists to treat their patients and execute their experiments with expertise and not just acceptable competence. The current system should certainly be modified to fit modern needs, but simply more integration and lab time are not the solution.

Two, the need for MD–PhDs to perform more lab research as a part of their profession is a more contentious matter. We must remember that most medical lab research is not performed by MD–PhDs, and the majority of physician scientists are not MD–PhDs. Then what do MD–PhDs do? They are uniquely positioned, by virtue of learning two traditional disciplines, to see complex problems from different perspectives—to be innovators, teachers, integrators, and leaders. It is the duty of dual-degree programs to provide the education to encourage such qualities. To push all MD–PhDs toward the lab or particular subspecialties is shortsighted. All fields of medicine and surgery—and, indeed, pubic health policy and many business disciplines—need those who can integrate the skills of rigorous investigation with an understanding of patient issues.

For the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to truly get its money’s worth, MD–PhD programs should provide exceptional multidisciplinary education, not career training. They need to encourage creativity, exploration, vision, and, especially, leadership. Only then will our society realize its full investment potential.

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a diagnostic tool for the real-time intraoperative assessment of breast cancer surgical margins

Background: The decrease in the number of breast cancer deaths has largely been attributed to increased awareness, earlier detection, and improved treatment options. However, as the number of breast-conserving surgeries rose over the years, the need for negative margins and little or no residual disease has become critical to help reduce the chances of local recurrence. OCT is a high resolution imaging modality that has been used to image tumor margins in an NMU-carcinogen-induced rat mammary tumor model. Due to the location of breast lesions, the use of needle-based imaging probes may be used to further extend the reach of the OCT imaging beam by incorporating an optical fiber into biopsy needle tips, providing real-time information to guide biopsies or to place localization wires.
Material & Methods: A clinical spectral domain OCT system was developed with a super luminescent diode light source centered at 1310 nm with a bandwidth of 92 nm yielding an axial resolution of 8.3 µm. The beam delivery sample arm uses a 60 mm achromatic lens to focus 4.75 mW of light to a 35.0 µm spot size (transverse resolution) with a confocal parameter of 1.47 mm. The patients included in this study had primary breast tumors diagnosed by needle-biopsy and were in need of surgical resection, as determined by their physicians. At Carle Foundation Hospital, the OCT system was placed inside the operating room during breast conserving surgical procedures to image the tissue specimens. The OCT images were evaluated by a single operator allowing for consistent classification based on the level of scattering intensity and heterogeneity, scattering profile, and physical extent of the highly scattering area.
Results: An initial training data set of OCT images from 17 patients was used to establish standard imaging protocols and standard evaluation criteria of the surgical margins. Of the 20 additional tissue specimen imaged for the feasibility study, 11 were identified as having a positive or close surgical margin and nine as a negative margin under OCT. In comparing to the H&E histology, there were 9 true positives, 9 true negatives, 2 false positives, and 0 false negatives yielding a sensitivity of 82% and specificity of 100%.
Discussion: With an imaging penetration depth of 2-3 mm, equivalent to that used for histological assessment, OCT provides unique real-time cellular-level imaging to identify positive and close margins. In these studies, areas of higher scattering tissue with an irregular or heterogeneous pattern were identified, differentiating them from the abundant adipose tissue found in normal breast tissue. The small nucleus to cytoplasm (N/C) ratio is observed with low-scattering adipocytes compared with the larger N/C ratio found from highly-scattering tumor cells. These intraoperative imaging studies have demonstrated the ability for OCT to identify positive surgical margins.

Publication

Fourier transform light scattering of inhomogeneous and dynamic structures

Fourier transform light scattering (FTLS) is a novel experimental approach that combines optical microscopy, holography, and light scattering for studying inhomogeneous and dynamic media. In FTLS the optical phase and amplitude of a coherent image field are quantified and propagated numerically to the scattering plane. Because it detects all the scattered angles (spatial frequencies) simultaneously in each point of the image, FTLS can be regarded as the spatial equivalent of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, where all the temporal frequencies are detected at each moment in time.

Nonprofit World

NONPROFIT WORLD
IN THIS TOGETHER. Freddy Nguyen had such a hard time learning about M.D./Ph.D. programs that he vowed to help other applicants avoid a similar fate. Last month, the organization that grew out of his frustration, the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA), hosted its fourth annual meeting in Chicago. The group is doing well enough for the 26-year-old Nguyen, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to step down as president and hand the reins to the next generation. APSA (www.physicianscientists.org) has more than 1000 student members from about 120 medical schools. It organizes national and regional conferences each year where this rare breed—who face a 10-to-14-year slog—can meet fellow students, present their research, and learn from senior investigators who have traveled the same path “It’s really about connecting people across organizations,” says Nguyen. “Freddy has a remarkable passion for this,” says Joseph Bast, director of the M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Kansas Medical Center, who calls the group “a very worthwhile organization.” The new president is James Pauff, who attends Ohio State University in Columbus.

Coherent optical imaging and guided interventions in breast cancer: translating technology into clinical applications

Breast cancer continues to be one of the most widely diagnosed forms of cancer in women and the second leading type of cancer deaths for women. The metastatic spread and staging of breast cancer is typically evaluated through the nodal assessment of the regional lymphatic system, and often this is performed during the surgical resection of the tumor mass. The recurrence rate of breast cancer is highly dependent on several factors including the complete removal of the primary tumor during surgery, and the presence of cancer cells in involved lymph nodes. Hence, developing means to more accurately resect tumor cells, along with the tumor mass, and ensure negative surgical margins, offers the potential to impact outcomes of breast cancer. The use of diffuse optical tomography has been applied for screening optical mammography applications as an alternative to standard x-ray mammography. The use of coherence ranging and coherent optical imaging in breast tissue has also found numerous applications, including intra-operative assessment of tumor margin status during lumpectomy procedures, assessment of lymph node changes for staging metastatic spread, and for guiding needle-biopsy procedures. The development, pre-clinical testing, and translation of techniques such as low-coherence interferometry (LCI) and optical coherence tomography (OCT) into clinical applications in breast cancer is demonstrated in these feasibility studies.

Publication

The birth of the American Physician Scientists Association–the next generation of Young Turks

The American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) was started a century ago to foster and to address the needs of the younger physician-scientists. A hundred years later, ASCI remains one of the premier organizations for physician-scientists and one of most well-respected organizations in the medical community. I have had the opportunity and pleasure to interact with the ASCI not only as an organization through my tenure as president of the American Physician Scientists Association, but also with its members over the last four years. In my view, the same characteristics that permeate ASCI the organization also define ASCI the membership–mentorship, exemplary role models, advocacy, and leadership.

Publication

Medical Student Attitudes and Perceptions on the USMLE Review

Student feedback on the proposed changes to the USMLE
Since the formation of the Committee to Evaluate the USMLE Program (CEUP), several avenues have been made available for students to provide feedback. One of those avenues have been through a student representative to CEUP who has jointly appointed by the leaders of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the American Medical Association – Medical Student Section (AMA-MSS), and the Association of American Medical Colleges – Organization of Student Representatives (AAMC-OSR). Student feedback, at the time, had been largely limited to the input from the leaderships of the aforementioned organizations who were primarily surveyed by the NBME. Subsequently, students were also given the opportunity to participate in focus groups and on an electronic message board (http://usmle.org/comprev). In addition to these opportunities, the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA) felt that there was a paucity of quantitative, objective data aimed at gathering broad student feedback; therefore, APSA undertook the initiative to develop a national survey intended to gauge medical student sentiment in an effort to further help shape and support the dialogue surrounding the Comprehensive Review of the USMLE.

Magnetic protein microspheres as dynamic contrast agents for magnetomotive optical coherence tomography

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an emerging biomedical imaging modality that has been developed over the last 15 years. More recently, OCT has been used for the intraoperative imaging of tumor margins in breast cancer and axillary lymph nodes providing a real time in-vivo assessment of the tissue morphology. Traditional OCT images are limited by only being able to observe morphological structures. As diagnostic medicine continues to push for earlier detection, one must develop functional imaging modalities that would detect molecular information in-vivo allowing a real-time microscopic analysis of the tissue specimen. A novel modality of OCT called magnetomotive-OCT (MMOCT) has been developed by our group, employing an induced modulated magnetic field with a magnetic contrast agent to create the added contrast to structural OCT images. Modified protein microspheres with a BSA protein shell functionalized with RGD peptide sequences for targeting and an oil core have been designed and synthesized. Magnetic nanoparticles (Fe3O4) and Nile Red dye have been encapsulated into its oil core. These microspheres have previously been demonstrated to target cancer cells by functionalizing them with a layer of RGD peptides and could be functionalized with monoclonal antibodies. Preliminary results show that these magnetic microspheres, which are 2.0- 5.0 microns in size, are readily detectable under MM-OCT when embedded in a 5% agarose gel, in a 3-D scaffold of macrophage cells previously incubated with the microspheres, and when injected in-vivo into a tumor from an NMUcarcinogen rat animal model for breast cancer.

Publication

Association of Professors of Medicine Physician-Scientist Initiative: Recommendations for Revitalizing the Nation’s Physician-Scientist Workforce

Physician-scientists, because of their perspective of asking scientific questions influenced by their experience of caring for patients, are uniquely positioned to perform research that directly benefits patients. Yet, the physician-scientist workforce is shrinking and aging, portending decreases in the effectiveness of the medical enterprise to discover new treatments and cures. Recognizing the detrimental effects of a physician-scientist shortage, the Association of Professors of Medicine (APM)—the organization of departments of internal medicine represented by chairs and appointed leaders at medical schools and affiliated teaching hospitals in the United States and Canada—has begun a long-term initiative to identify, develop, and implement substantive and practical solutions that will ensure the survival, growth, and diversity of the physician-scientist workforce.

The APM Physician-Scientist Initiative—led by Principal Investigator Andrew I. Schafer, MD—is planned in linked phases. Phase I focused on evaluating the physician-scientist problem and creating a set of recommendations for growing, revitalizing, and diversifying the physician-scientist workforce. This goal was achieved through a series of structured surveys and focus groups (results summarized in Appendix A), which in turn helped inform the agenda for the APM Physician-Scientist Initiative Consensus Conference, “Revitalization of the Nation’s Physician-Scientist Workforce,” in November 2007. The consensus conference (planning committee, Appendix B) assembled leaders of the academic, medical, and research communities; representatives from the various governing bodies that influence, fund, and regulate biomedical research and academia; respected experts on issues facing the physician-scientist workforce; and young physician-scientists (conference participants are listed in Appendix C).

Following plenary lectures presenting the perspectives of academia, industry, and the federal government, the conference was largely interactive, with targeted breakout groups focused on specific aspects of the physician scientist career path (see Appendix D). Breakout group participants proposed their single, best, articulated recommendation for enhancing the highlighted areas, while the full group debated and discussed additional opportunities to improve the pipeline, whether via entry or improved retention. The complete list of 30 recommendations emanating from the conference breakout sessions and general group discussions is provided—in no priority order—in Appendix E. Participants provided a preliminary assessment of the recommendations followed by a more detailed, analytical assessment post-conference, prioritizing, commenting, and editing the recommendations to create a more sharply focused action plan.

While Phase I of the initiative was intended to understand the driving contemporary forces that shape the problem today and to formulate specific recommendations, Phase II will expand and activate a coalition group of key leadership organizations to move the agenda forward by developing next steps, a coordinated national strategy, and oversight of implementation of the action plan.

Publication

Optical coherence tomography: a review of clinical development from bench to bedside

Since its introduction, optical coherence tomography (OCT) technology has advanced from the laboratory bench to the clinic and back again. Arising from the fields of low coherence interferometry and optical time- and frequency-domain reflectometry, OCT was initially demonstrated for retinal imaging and followed a unique path to commercialization for clinical use. Concurrently, significant technological advances were brought about from within the research community, including improved laser sources, beam delivery instruments, and detection schemes. While many of these technologies improved retinal imaging, they also allowed for the application of OCT to many new clinical areas. As a result, OCT has been clinically demonstrated in a diverse set of medical and surgical specialties, including gastroenterology, dermatology, cardiology, and oncology, among others. The lessons learned in the clinic are currently spurring a new set of advances in the laboratory that will again expand the clinical use of OCT by adding molecular sensitivity, improving image quality, and increasing acquisition speeds. This continuous cycle of laboratory development and clinical application has allowed the OCT technology to grow at a rapid rate and represents a unique model for the translation of biomedical optics to the patient bedside. This work presents a brief history of OCT development, reviews current clinical applications, discusses some clinical translation challenges, and reviews laboratory developments poised for future clinical application.

Publication

Multimodal biomedical imaging with asymmetric single-walled carbon nanotube/iron oxide nanoparticle complexes

Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles and near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) form heterostructured complexes that can be utilized as multimodal bioimaging agents. Fe catalyst-grown SWNT were individually dispersed in aqueous solution via encapsulation by oligonucleotides with the sequence d(GT)15, and enriched using a 0.5 T magnetic array. The resulting nanotube complexes show distinct NIR fluorescence, Raman scattering, and visible/NIR absorbance features, corresponding to the various nanotube species. AFM and cryo-TEM images show DNA-encapsulated complexes composed of a approximately 3 nm particle attached to a carbon nanotube on one end. X-ray diffraction (XRD) and superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) measurements reveal that the nanoparticles are primarily Fe2O3 and superparamagnetic. The Fe2O3 particle-enriched nanotube solution has a magnetic particle content of approximately 35 wt %, a magnetization saturation of approximately 56 emu/g, and a magnetic relaxation time scale ratio (T1/T2) of approximately 12. These complexes have a longer spin-spin relaxation time (T2 approximately 164 ms) than typical ferromagnetic particles due to the smaller size of their magnetic component while still retaining SWNT optical signatures. Macrophage cells that engulf the DNA-wrapped complexes were imaged using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and NIR mapping, demonstrating that these multifunctional nanostructures could potentially be useful in multimodal biomedical imaging.

Publication

Needle-based refractive index measurement using low-coherence interferometry

We present a novel needle-based device for the measurement of refractive index and scattering using low-coherence interferometry. Coupled to the sample arm of an optical coherence tomography system, the device detects the scattering response of, and optical path length through, a sample residing in a fixed-width channel. We report use of the device to make near-infrared measurements of tissues and materials with known optical properties. The device could be used to exploit the refractive index variations of tissue for medical and biological diagnostics accessible by needle insertion.

Portable real-time optical coherence tomography system for intraoperative imaging and staging of breast cancer

Breast cancer continues to be one of the most widely diagnosed forms of cancer amongst women and the second leading type of cancer deaths amongst women. The recurrence rate of breast cancer is highly dependent on several factors including the complete removal of the primary tumor and the presence of cancer cells in involved lymph nodes. The metastatic spread and staging of breast cancer is also evaluated through the nodal assessment of the regional lymphatic system. A portable real-time spectral domain optical coherence tomography system is being presented as a clinical diagnostic tool in the intraoperative delineation of tumor margins as well as for real time lymph node assessment. The system employs a super luminescent diode centered at 1310 nm with a bandwidth of 92 nm. Using a spectral domain detection system, the data is acquired at a rate of 5 KHz / axial scan. The sample arm is a galvanometer scanning telecentric probe with an objective lens (f = 60 mm, confocal parameter = 1.5 mm) yielding an axial resolution of 8.3 μm and a transverse resolution of 35.0 μm. Images of tumor margins are acquired in the operating room ex vivo on freshly excised human tissue specimen. This data shows the potential of the use of OCT in defining the structural tumor margins in breast cancer. Images taken from ex-vivo samples on the bench system clearly delineate the differences between clusters of tumor cells and nearby adipose cells. In addition, the data shows the potential for OCT as a diagnostic tool in the staging of cancer metastasis through locoregional lymph node assessment.

Needle-probe system for the measurement of tissue refractive index

Needle-based devices, which are in wide clinical use for needle biopsy procedures, may be augmented by suitable optical techniques for the localization and diagnosis of diseased tissue. Tissue refractive index is one optical contrast mechanism with diagnostic potential. In the case of mammary tissue, for example, recent research indicates that refractive index variations between tissue types may be useful for the identification of cancerous tissue. While many coherence-based forward-sensing devices have been developed to detect scattering changes, none have demonstrated refractive index measurement capabilities. We present a novel needle-based device that is capable of simultaneously measuring refractive index and scattering. Coupled to the sample arm of an optical coherence tomography system, the needle device detects the scattering response and optical pathlength through tissue residing in a fixed-width channel. Near-infrared measurements of tissues and materials with known optical properties using a prototype device will be presented. This work demonstrates the feasibility of integrated in vivo measurement of refractive index and scattering in conjunction with existing clinical needle-based devices.

Interferometric synthetic aperture microscopy

State-of-the-art methods in high-resolution three-dimensional optical microscopy require that the focus be scanned through the entire region of interest. However, an analysis of the physics of the light-sample interaction reveals that the Fourier-space coverage is independent of depth. Here we show that, by solving the inverse scattering problem for interference microscopy, computed reconstruction yields volumes with a resolution in all planes that is equivalent to the resolution achieved only at the focal plane for conventional high-resolution microscopy. In short, the entire illuminated volume has spatially invariant resolution, thus eliminating the compromise between resolution and depth of field. We describe and demonstrate a novel computational image-formation technique called interferometric synthetic aperture microscopy (ISAM). ISAM has the potential to broadly impact real-time three-dimensional microscopy and analysis in the fields of cell and tumour biology, as well as in clinical diagnosis where imaging is preferable to biopsy.

Publication

Optical biopsy of lymph node morphology using optical coherence tomography

Optical diagnostic imaging techniques are increasingly being used in the clinical environment, allowing for improved screening and diagnosis while minimizing the number of invasive procedures. Diffuse optical tomography, for example, is capable of whole-breast imaging and is being developed as an alternative to traditional X-ray mammography. While this may eventually be a very effective screening method, other optical techniques are better suited for imaging on the cellular and molecular scale. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), for instance, is capable of high-resolution cross-sectional imaging of tissue morphology. In a manner analogous to ultrasound imaging except using optics, pulses of near-infrared light are sent into the tissue while coherence-gated reflections are measured interferometrically to form a cross-sectional image of tissue. In this paper we apply OCT techniques for the high-resolution three-dimensional visualization of lymph node morphology. We present the first reported OCT images showing detailed morphological structure and corresponding histological features of lymph nodes from a carcinogen-induced rat mammary tumor model, as well as from a human lymph node containing late stage metastatic disease. The results illustrate the potential for OCT to visualize detailed lymph node structures on the scale of micrometastases and the potential for the detection of metastatic nodal disease intraoperatively.

Publication

Color-blind fluorescence detection for four-color DNA sequencing

We present an approach called pulsed multiline excitation (PME) for measurements of multicomponent, fluorescence species and demonstrate its application in capillary electrophoresis for DNA sequencing. To fully demonstrate the advantages of PME, a fluorescent dye set has been developed whose absorption maxima span virtually the entire visible spectrum. Unlike emission wavelength-dependent approaches for identifying fluorescent species, the removal of the spectral component in PME confers a number of advantages including higher and normalized signals from all dyes present in the assay, the elimination of spectral cross-talk between dyes, and higher signal collection efficiency. Base-calling is unambiguously determined once dye mobility corrections are made. These advantages translate into significantly enhanced signal quality as illustrated in the primary DNA sequencing data and provide a means for achieving accurate base-calling at lower reagent concentrations.

Computational Analysis of Transition Metal Doped Nanotubes and Their Application to Molecular Electronics

We have previously proposed molecular circuits designed from polyaniline polymer strands, polyacetylene polymer strands and charge transfer salts acting as transistors. Due to unique properties that are demonstrated in this manuscript, we propose the use of carbon single wall nanotubes and transition metal endohedrally doped single wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) for utilization in molecular electronics. Different transition metals were used in a systematic fashion to manipulate the molecular orbital energy gap (HOMO-LUMO gap) of metallic (Ch = (n = m)) nanotubes. Gradient corrected, Density Functional Theory (DFT) Self Consistent Field (SCF) calculations were used to calculate molecular orbital energy levels, HOMO-LUMO gaps, electron affinities, ionization energies and other electronic properties for these molecules. The effect that a SWNT’s length has on its HOMO-LUMO gap was investigated. DFT-SCF calculations were also used to demonstrate how multiple metal filled nanotubes could be used to construct a molecular nanotube based transistor.

Publication

Instrumentation for multi-modal spectroscopic diagnosis of epithelial dysplasia

Reflectance and fluorescence spectroscopies have shown great promise for early detection of epithelial dysplasia. We have developed a clinical reflectance spectrofluorimeter for multimodal spectroscopic diagnosis of epithelial dysplasia. This clinical instrument, the FastEEM, collects white light reflectance and fluorescence excitation-emission matrices (EEM’s) within a fraction of a second. In this paper we describe the FastEEM instrumentation, designed for collection of multi-modal spectroscopic data. We illustrate its performance using tissue phantoms with well defined optical properties and biochemicals of known fluorescence properties. In addition, we discuss our plans to develop a system that combines a multi-spectral imaging device for wide area surveillance with this contact probe device.

Electron transfer to oriented molecules: Surprising steric effect in t-butyl bromide

Collisions between neutral K atoms and oriented t-butyl bromide molecules produce the ions K+ and Br− at energies high enough to separate charged particles (≳4 eV). Ions are detected by coincidence tof mass spectrometry for orientation of the t-butyl bromide such that the K atom attacks either the Br end or the t-butyl end of the molecule. At high energies the steric asymmetry factor is larger than that for CH3Br. But at energies near threshold, the steric asymmetry factor reverses sign and attack at the t-butyl end becomes more reactive than attack at the Br end. The electron is apparently transferred into different orbitals at different ends.