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How 3D printed bone grafts could combat bone infections

(This is the first in a series of items taking a closer look at ideas presented at the University's Falling Walls competition.)

The more severe a bone fracture, the higher the risk it will lead to osteomyelitis, an infection that occurs when bacteria contaminates damaged bones protruding from the skin or contaminates the fixation hardware used to realign them.

Osteomyelitis can lead to sepsis and, in extreme cases, amputation.

Current treatments require two surgeries. First, doctors remove the defective bone in a procedure called debridement and insert cement beads filled with antibiotics in an effort to eliminate any remaining bacteria. After a week or two, a second surgery is done to remove the beads and insert a bone graft to initiate healing.

And yet, even after all of this, notes Ryan Trombetta, the bacteria can still survive in a biofilm state that is resistant to antibiotics.

Trombetta, a PhD student in the lab of Hani Award, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, took first place at the University's recent Falling Walls competition, when he described how 3D printed bone grafts containing antibiotics and biofilm dispersing agents could not only eliminate all of the bacteria, but do so in a single step.

"The advantage is that we can generate precise geometries off of a patient's CAT scan that can then be used to produce a biocompatible graft with 3D printing," Trombetta explained.

The Awad lab, which is part of the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, has shown that 3D printed grafts in mice models have the potential to heal fractures within 12 weeks, as seen in the images across the bottom of the illustration above.

"Our goal is that, once a bone infection occurs, we can print a patient-specific graft containing antibiotics and biofilm dispersal agents that have the ability to remove the shield of the biofilm, exposing the bacteria to the antibiotics," Trombetta said. "Thus the antibiotics can eliminate the bacteria causing the infection, and the bone can heal, forming a complete union. This will not only break down the wall of biofilm, but also break down the wall of bacterial bone infection."

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Next deadline for PumpPrimerII is Aug. 3

Applications will be accepted through Aug. 3 for the next round of AS&E PumpPrimerII awards, which are designed to help innovative, high-risk projects develop proof of concept and/or pilot data in order to secure extramural funding.

Typical awards for up to one year range from $1,000 to $20,000, but can be as large as $50,000 in rare instances. Cost-sharing with departmental resources is encouraged.

Applicants are expected to submit a proposal for external funding within 18 months of the allocation of intramural funds; a brief final survey and final report are also required to help in the evaluation of this program.

Arts and Sciences faculty can learn more from Debra Haring; Engineering faculty should contact Cynthia Gary.

10 projects picked for University Research Awards

University Research Awards, previously known as Provost Multidisciplinary Awards, provide seed money on a competitive basis for innovative research projects that are likely to attract external support when sufficiently developed. This year's recipients are:

Laboratory for Interactional Dynamics: Using Real-Time Avatars to Manipulate Social Cues
Melissa Sturge-Apple, Assistant Professor of Psychology; Richard Aslin, Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Zhiyao Duan, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Wendi Heinzelman, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Thomas Howard, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Jeremy Jamieson, Assistant Professor of Psychology; Gonzalo Mateos Buckstein, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The goal is to create a multidisciplinary laboratory that enables real-time human interaction while viewing a communication partner whose facial and/or vocal features have been modified (i.e., an avatar). This system, which allows for exquisite control over visual and auditory properties without altering the natural behavior of the partners, will enable new research into social interactions, child development, and human-robot interaction models.

Pediatric Cerebral Malaria: Elucidating Pathophysiologic Mechanisms of Brain Injury in Survivors and Gaining Insights into Human Epileptogenesis
Gretchen Birbeck, Professor of Neurology; Madalina Tivarus, Assistant Professor of Imaging Sciences; Sam Kampondeni, Adjunct Faculty in Imaging Sciences; and Michael Potchen, Professor of Imaging Sciences.
Goal: Gather critical preliminary data on pediatric cerebral malaria, which affects about a million African children each year, and train radiographers and research technicians in Malawi in support of planned R01 grant proposal. The larger study would not only evaluate the pathophysiological processes underlying brain injury in CM, but how this contributes to the development of epilepsy.

Architectural Biometrics
Peter Christensen, Assistant Professor ofArt History
Goal: to create a platform with a capacity analogous to facial recognition technology as a novel way of analyzing serially-produced objects, for example, making it possible to comparatively examine buildings, rather than faces, for their biometric identity. This will allow the slight irregularities of mass- and serially-produced artifacts to be studied as authored rather than as accidental occurrences, which testify to the "hand of individual laborers behind the face of mass-production."

Enabling Fast and Scalable Feedback on Writing
Philip Guo, Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Goal: Enable writers to receive more and higher-quality feedback with the development of a novel multimodal user interface that employs mouse and touch gestures along with speech recognition to quickly hone in on where a reader is focusing in the text, which parts feel awkward to them, and where they are getting bored or confused. "The central idea is that people immediately form a gut reaction upon reading a piece of text, so we want to quickly capture those reactions on computers, tablets and smartphones."

Ultrabroadband optical frequency comb generation on a nanophotonic chip
Qiang Lin, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Goal: Produce ultra-broadband phase locked frequency combs on chip-scale nanophotonic devices, using a recently discovered novel mechanism. Such devices promise great superiority over conventional frequency combs that are based on bulky mode-locked femtosecond lasers, and could "potentially revolutionize the state of the art of frequency comb generation."

Defining the Molecular and Mechanical Progression of Diabetic Tendinopathy
Mark Buckley, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Alayna Loiselle, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Musculoskeletal Research
Goal: Use mouse models to test the hypothesis that decreased tendon strength as a result of Type 2 Diabetes is due to suppression of Matrix metalloproteinase (Mmp) activity, resulting in impaired tissue remodeling. Mechanical testing and RNA sequencing will be used so researchers can correlate and understand the interplay between changes in gene expression and mechanical properties. Future studies will leverage the data to test new therapeutic approaches.

Effects of hydrofracking-associated pollutants on the development of antiviral immunity
Paige Lawrence, Professor of Environmental Medicine, and Jacques Robert, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology
The goal of this project is to test the hypothesis that exposure to water contaminated with chemicals derived from hydrofracking impairs the development and function of the immune system, using a mouse-influenza virus model system and an amphibian Xenopus/ranavirus model system to determine how early life exposure affects anti-viral immunity in adult mice and frogs.

Establishing a human model of outer retinal blood barrier for physiological and pharmacological studies
Danielle Benoit, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Ruchira Singh, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
In macular degeneration, loss of Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) cells, which form the outer blood barrier in the retina, subsequently leads to death of photoreceptor cells and vision loss. Goal: Using bioengineering tools, to create the optimal culture conditions for growing human RPE cells from human induced pluripotent stem cells. This will enable development of a functional model of the outer retinal blood barrier using a patient's own cells, in order to study disease mechanisms and potential drug treatments.

Optovalleytronics based on van der Waals heterostructures
Nick Vamivakas, Assistant Professor of Quantum Optics & Quantum Physics, and Gary Wicks, Professor of Optics
This proposal is based on the newly recognized "valley" degree of freedom carried by electrons in two-dimensional atomically thin semiconductors. Goals: 1. To design a valley light emitting diode that will couple 2D valley electrons to photons in ways that enable light generation, modulation and detection. 2. To design active material for optovalleytronic devices that will consist of 2D material heterostructures. This will "uniquely situate the University of Rochester as an internationally recognized leader in the emerging field of optovalleytronics."

Aging & Engaging: The Development of an Automated Tool to Teach Social Engagement Skills for Older Adults
Yeates Conwell, Professor of Psychiatry; Paul Duberstein, Professor of Psychiatry; M. Ehsan Hoque, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, and Kimberly Van Orden, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry.
This is based on Hoque's previous development of an automated computer system, which consists of an animated character that can see, hear and respond in real time as people practice their speaking and social skills. Goals: 1. Develop social skill development scenarios that are relevant and acceptable to older adults, such as talking with a doctor, beginning a volunteer position. 2. Identify ways of providing real time feedback that are relevant and comprehensible to older adults. "Our product will be self-administered and non-stigmatizing."

Proposals are evaluated on whether the projects promise to solve a problem of intellectual or scientific importance, are well-designed and feasible, offer opportunity for involvement of students, and clearly show how outcomes should lead to external funding. Proposals are also evaluated on whether applicants are qualified to see the project to a successful conclusion and whether the budget request is appropriate.

University Research Awards are funded $250,000 every year by the President and as match by the schools for a total of $500,000 annually.

Betti group to collaborate with Scandia National Lab on magnetized plasmas

Prof. Riccardo Betti's group at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics will be supported with $1.15 million over the next two years as part of a joint, ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy)-funded project with Sandia National Laboratories. The project will investigate the compression and heating of high energy density, magnetized plasmas at fusion relevant conditions. Read more . . .

Hoque gets funding to flag inconsistent behavior in conversations

M. Ehsan Hoque, Assistant Professor of Computer Engineering, has received a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Army Research Lab for "Automated Modeling of Deceptive Intent in Computer Mediated Conversations." Hoque will develop a data-driven probabilistic method that could automatically flag out-of-sync or inconsistent behavior in a conversation. Hoque is particularly interested in the implications of this research in helping people understand when their behavior is out of sync, and the possible applications in social skills training.

Congratulations to . . .

These recipients of this year's AS&E Outstanding Dissertation Awards:

Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences
Winner: Kyoung-Lae Kang, visual and cultural studies, "Guilt Cinema: Memory, Boundaries, and Ethical Criticism in Postcolonial Korea" (Advisor: Sharon Willis). Commendation: Jeffrey Ludwig, history, "Christopher Lasch: A Life, Volume One: History as Social Criticism" (Advisor: Robert Westbrook).

Social Sciences
Winner: Miguel Rueda, political science, "Three Essays on Electoral Manipulation" (Advisor: Gretchen Helmke). Commendations: Heng Liu, economics, "Essays on Dynamic Mechanism Design" (Advisors: Paulo Barelli and Srihari Govindan) and Meredith Martin, psychology, "Delineating the Functions of Attachment and Affiliation in Early Adolescents' Internal Working Models of their Best Friendship" (Advisor: Patrick Davies).

Natural Sciences
Winner: James Baker, physics, "Development of a Two-Dimensional Photonic Crystal Biosensing Platform" (Advisor: Benjamin Miller). Commendation: Ilker Yildirim, brain and cognitive sciences, "From Perception to Conception: Learning Multisensory Representations" (Advisors: Robert Jacobs and Daniel Gildea).

Engineering and Applied Sciences
Winner: Kyle Fuerschbach, optics, "Freeform, Ψ-Polynomial Optical Surfaces: Optical Design, Fabrication and Assembly" (Advisor: Jannick Rolland). Commendations: Li Chen, Electrical and Computer Engineering, "Increasing Coverage and Improving Efficiency for RFID Systems and Wireless Sensor Networks" (Advisor: Wendi Heinzelman); Walter Lasecki, computer science, "Crowd Agents: Interactive Intelligent Systems Powered by the Crowd" (Advisors: Jeffrey Bigham and James Allen), and Amy Van Hove, biomedical engineering, "Enzymatically-responsive Poly(ethylene glycol) Hydrogels for the Controlled Delivery of Therapeutic Peptides" (Advisor: Danielle Benoit).

Research in the news . . .

Chen Yan, Associate Professor of Medicine (Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute) collaborated with researchers at Georgia State University on a study showing that an existing anti-stroke drug called vinpocetine is an effective treatment for middle-ear infections, suppressing mucus overproduction, improving bacterial clearance and reducing hearing loss. The findings, published the Journal of Immunology, could result in a novel, non-antibiotic treatment for otitis media, or middle-ear infection, possibly through topical drug delivery. Read more . . .

PhD disseration defense

Anwesha Ghosh, Biology, "Non-mutated Regulators of Cancer Growth in Basal-like Breast Cancer and Transformed Colon Cells." 10 a.m., June 8, 2015, 209 Computer Studies Building. Advisor: Helene McMurray.

Stefanie DeVito, Biochemistry, "Contributions of Pyrimidine Biosynthesis to Viral Infection." 1 p.m., June 18, 2015, Neuman Room (1-6823). Advisor: Joshua Munger.

Mark your calendar

June 1: Applications due for Cancer Research Program Grants of up to $100,000 for one year. Click here to read the full request for proposals. Applications should be submitted electronically to Pam Iadarola, who can also be contacted for more information.

June 4-5: 2015 Symposium on Immune Modeling in the Big Data Era.

June 10: 7th Annual Study Coordinators Organization for Research and Education (SCORE) Half-Day Seminar, focusing on promoting and improving the clinical research experience for those who actively coordinate health research. 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Helen Wood Hall Auditorium, 1W304. To register on-line, click here by June 3. Questions? Contact

June 15: 1st Annual Rochester Global Health Symposium, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saunders Research Building Atrium. Convenes researchers, students, and practitioners from all sectors of global health to exchange ideas about how to conduct, share, and translate innovative health promotion in low-resource settings. Click here for agenda and registration.

Please send suggestions and comments to Bob Marcotte. You can see back issues of Research Connections, an index of people and departments linked to those issues, and a chronological listing of PhD dissertation defenses since April 2014, by discipline.

Copyright 2013, All rights reserved.
Rochester Connections is a weekly e-newsletter for all faculty, scientists, post docs and graduate students engaged in research at the University of Rochester. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you are a member of the Rochester community with an interest in research topics.