NYU Team Designs New Protein for Regenerative Medicine
One of the major challenges in regenerative medicine — replacing diseased tissues and coaxing those that are damaged to regrow — is designing targeted therapies that deliver the equivalent of molecular scaffolding and cellular construction crews to affected tissues, while allowing doctors to “see” and monitor where and how well these molecular care packages are being delivered.
Jin Kim Montclare, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, is leading a team that is well on its way to building these biosynthetic materials that can deliver drug therapy or tissue engineering to a damaged area and non-invasively visualize the biomaterial amidst cells and tissue.
With the support of a National Science Foundation grant valued at $1,585,544, the researchers, including NYU Center for Data Science’s Director Richard Bonneau and NYU School of Medicine Associate Professor Youssef Zaim Wadghiri, are adding an imaging component to a self-assembling macromolecule, a so-called “coiled-coil” microfiber that has the structural and molecular properties of naturally occurring self-assembling proteins and that can easily bind and carry molecules like curcumin and doxorubicin.
The team plans to tag these intricately coiled microfibers with the element fluorine (which can be used as a tracer in MRI studies) and iron oxide nano-particles (a magnetic contrast agent also used to enhance MRI imaging).
Using data collected from fully characterized proteins and initial experiments, the researchers will employ the open source software suite Rosetta, which includes algorithms for computational modeling and analysis of protein structures, to help predict protein folding architecture.
In addition to contributing to the field of regenerative medicine, Montclare is making it her mission to attract other women to the world of STEM: Under NYU’s Scientific Outreach and Research program (SOAR), founded by Montclare, undergraduates will be hired to teach the high school students of the Urban Assembly Institute for Math and Science for Young Women (UAI) about the biomaterials and biomedical imaging that are a part of this research project.