Tuesday, October 18, 2016

OU Researchers Develop Novel, Non-Invasive Cancer Therapy Using Targeted Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes

Norman, Okla.—A staggering 1.7 million persons in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016, with 600,000 cases ending in death.  University of Oklahoma researchers have collaborated to design a novel, non-invasive cancer therapy that could eliminate tumors without affecting the healthy cells in the body.

The cancer therapy targets specific cancer cells using single-walled carbon nanotubes that bind directly to the tumor, then are heated with near-infrared light.  The OU photothermal therapy is most effective against shallow or surface tumors in breast, bladder, esophageal and melanoma cancers, without the adverse side effects of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.

The therapy was created by Roger G. Harrison, Jr. and Daniel E. Resasco, professors in the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, Gallogly College of Engineering. Harrison is also affiliated with the Stephenson School of Biomedical Engineering.  Harrison’s expertise is protein design, production and purification, while Resasco focuses on nanostructured materials based on single-walled carbon nanotubes.

“Single-walled carbon nanotubes are unique in that they strongly absorb near-infrared light in very narrow, but tunable, wavelength ranges, while biological systems have very low levels of absorption of near-infrared light,” said Harrison.  “The targeting of single-walled carbon nanotubes to tumors and subsequent localized application of near-infrared light allows the selective elimination of tumors.”

“Very few groups around the world are able to synthesize nanotubes which absorb light in a narrow range of wavelength,” said Resasco.  “We have a unique method of synthesis that produces single-wall nanotubes with a narrow distribution of diameters and carbon atom arrangements, which causes this selective light absorption in the near-infrared spectrum.”

The new OU photothermal therapy consists of single-walled carbon nanotubes of tailored absorption wavelength injected into the blood stream where proteins on the nanotubes selectively bind to blood vessels that supply a tumor.  Within 24 hours, a laser light is applied to the tumor causing the nanotubes to heat up, which causes the tumor to heat and be eliminated.  The photothermal therapy has been tested and proven in the laboratory.

The OU researchers already have one U.S. patent for this technology, and a second patent is nearing issuance.  The OU Office of Technology Development and the inventors are actively seeking licensees for this novel therapy to move to clinical trials.  For more information about this cancer therapy, contact Andrew Pollock, director of Business Development, at arpollock@ou.edu.

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Support for this research was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy under grant numbers DE-FG02-06ER64239 and DOE/EPSCOR DE SC0004600. 

Contact: Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma

Friday, July 15, 2016

OU Study on Diversity of Microbial Groups Demonstrates the Effects Of Human-Caused Changes in Climate, Land Use and Other Factors

By Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for R&D

Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma-led research team has conducted a study on the diversity of microbial communities that demonstrates the effects of human-caused changes in climate, land use and other factors.  In this study, researchers show the diversity of soil bacteria, fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria all are better predicted by variation in environmental temperature rather than pH.

Jizhong Zhou, director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics and professor in the Department of Microbial and Plant Biology and School of Civil Environmental Sciences, OU Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Gallogly College of Engineering, leads the research project with assistance from the University of Arizona, The Santa Fe Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa and University of New Mexico.  Zhou is an affiliate of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Tsinghua University.

The significance of this research project follows:  (1) first demonstration that temperature plays a primary role in shaping microbial diversity in the forest soils; (2) first study to illustrate that metabolic theory of ecology is applicable to microbial communities; and (3) first study to reveal that temperature is important in regulating species diversity but it could operate in different ways between plants and microorganisms.

“Temperature mediates continental-scale diversity of microbes in forest soils,” was published in Nature Communications on July 5, 2016.  This research was supported by the National Science Foundation MacroSystems Biology program under the contract NSF EF-1065844, the OU Office of the Vice President for Research, the Collaborative Innovation Center for Regional Environmental Quality at the Tsinghua University and the National Science Foundation of China.

Rural Educators Engage in Bioanalytical Engineering Research and Teaching

By Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for OU R&D

Arnold Rech, Fort Towson High School; Laura Lewis, RET program manager and graduate research assistant; Niccole Rech, Fort Towson High School; Joseph Albrecht, Liberty High School; Ashley Rodriguez, Clinton High School; Mark Nanny, RET director; Sue Flaming, Foyil Junior/High School; and Shawn Cusack, Northwest Technology Center

Norman, Okla.—Six science and mathematics teachers from rural high schools in Oklahoma are engaged in a National Science Foundation-supported summer program at the University of Oklahoma’s Center for BioAnalysis in an effort to improve STEM teaching in rural classrooms and increase the number of rural students who select and successfully graduate from a higher education STEM field.   

“Combining the teaching expertise of the high school teachers with the research expertise of the faculty creates a powerful synergism for producing innovative and dynamic science curricula that directly impact current issues pertinent to rural Oklahoman communities,” said Mark Nanny, director of the Rural Educators Program and professor of environmental science in the Gallogly College of Engineering.

Oklahoma rural educators selected for the 2016 summer program include: Arnold and Niccole Rech, Fort Towson High School; Ashley Rodriguez, Clinton High School; Sue Flaming, Foyil Junior/High School; Joe Albrecht, Liberty High School; and Shawn Cusak, Northwest Technology Center.  The program includes laboratory work, seminars on real-world applications of bioanalytical engineering, curricula development and design, and evaluation and assessment activities.

Each educator is paired with a faculty mentor over seven weeks doing cutting-edge research in OU laboratories.  Besides learning research skills, the program also focuses on developing classroom curricula and transferring research experiences into the classroom.  A workshop on writing successful proposals focuses on rural educators preparing proposals for their classroom curricula.  In the final week, educators present research activities, classroom curricula and prepare a research poster for display in the classroom and OU laboratory.

While much of the current research in bioanalytical engineering focuses on medical problems, bioanalytical engineering is a powerful tool for all areas involving biology, such as the improved production of biofuels, the impact of biofilms on the biocorrosion of steel infrastructure in the petroleum industry and the environmental bioremediation of groundwater.

Bioanalytical engineering presents rural educators with a dynamic and vibrant field rooted in fundamental concepts of molecular biology, biochemistry, cellular biology, chemistry and physics.  Combined with engineering design methodology and application, it provides opportunities for educators to enrich their teaching of these fundamental concepts, showing their students how knowledge in these fields can directly impact critical issues related to medicine, human health, energy resources and the environment.

Among the research opportunities available to educators through this program are the design of personal anti-cancer drugs, environmental engineering, biocorrosion engineering, biofuel processing, fabrication of bioanalytical devices and advancement of computational methods.   For more information about the rural educators program, contact Mark Nanny at nanny@ou.edu.

Friday, June 17, 2016

First of Its Kind Seismic Test on Helical Piles Exceeds Expectations

As geotechnical and structural engineers work to better understand the survivability of different building types under seismic loads, a key frontier of study is deep foundations. This study, the first of its kind, sought to better understand the performance of helical pile deep foundations under earthquake conditions. 

During the Feb. 22, 2011 earthquake, Christchurch, New Zealand was damaged by a tremor that registered at 6.3 magnitude. Due to the soils in the area and the shallow focus point, some areas of the city were devastated by a peak ground acceleration of almost two times the force of gravity. This peak ground acceleration, one of the most powerful ever recorded, severely damaged or destroyed many buildings in downtown Christ Church and caused the tragic collapse of the CTV office building, killing 115 people.

A post earthquake survey found that all buildings constructed on helical piles survived with minimal structural damage, adding to the qualitative proof that helical piles perform well as foundations in active seismic zones. However, until now, no empirical studies had been undertaken to validate these anecdotal observations.

Amy Cerato, a helical pile researcher and associate professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma, traveled to the University of California, San Diego, to test these questions on the largest outdoor shake table in the world.

“We are standing at the world’s largest outdoor shake facility. The table has a 40 million pound payload. As you can see, we have the laminar soil box on the table, on the platen. It is 15 feet tall by 22 feet long by 10 feet wide. So we have 10 helical piles that we installed and we’re going to test them seismically to see how they react to earthquake loads. And right now, the crew is loading on the inertial weights which will simulate a building load on top of each pile.”

Several pile manufacturing companies donated materials to the project. And installer and manufacturer, Tort Seal Foundations, traveled to the site to perform the installation in a soil box mounted on the table. Piles of several types and sizes were tested including round and square members, plus a push pile to compare with the helical piles. To measure the shaking forces and resulting deformation of the test subjects, the team fitted accelerometers and strain gages to the test members. To simulate independent axial loads on the pile members, on-site contractor, Tort Seal, bolted cylindrical concrete weights onto each pile. During a later test, a sand skid was used to simulate a building supported by a group of piles. The test included a simulation of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the 1995 Great Hanshin, also know as the Kolbe earthquake in Japan. Both seismic events caused extreme damage to structures due to very high acceleration forces at the surface.

“I think it went very well," Cerato said. "It performed exactly like we thought it would in the analysis. Everyone was telling me that all the weights were going to bang together and everything was going to shear off, but our analysis indicated that the helical piles were going to behave a specific
way, and thankfully, everything went as planned. "There was a lot of displacement of the soil around the piles, but that’s exactly what you would expect to happen in the real world," Cerato stated. And this test is actually a good one to show that even though we hit the piles with a 6.9 earthquake, we came back and hit it again with an even bigger earthquake so for aftershock effects, these helical piles held up very well. It took seven earthquakes today and nothing failed. So we are very pleased with the results."

Work continues to analyze the vast quantity of data obtained during this experiment. However, Dr. Cerato’s initial observations and calculations indicate that helical piles exceeded expectations for performance under seismic loading.

The Large High-Performance Outdoor Shake Table is supported in part by the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Engineering Simulation (NEES) program of the National Science Foundation under Award Number CMMI-0927178.

Academic Sponsors: UC San Diego, The University of Oklahoma, Western University-
On-Site Contractor: TorcSill

Sponsors: Hubbell, Ideal Group, Magnum Helical Piles, Techno Metal Post, TorcSill, Coliath
Tech Screw Pile System, Helical Pile World.com (The Global Information Source for The Helical Pile Industry), Ram Jack, Deep Foundations Institute, Bristol Foundation Technology, Cerato Geotechnical Engineering, CTL|Thompson, Foundation Support Works, MacLean Power Systems, Helical Pile Association, Lally Pipe & Tube, Atlas Tube, Patriot Foundation Technology, EXL Tube.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

OU-Tulsa Telecom Students win National Competition

TULSA, OKLA (April 18, 2016) — Five OU-Tulsa Telecommunications Engineering students — Nishaal Parmar, Mitun Talukder, Satish Thomas, Sandeep Sharma, and Mohamed Elgrew — won first place in the national Case Study competition at the 2016 Conference on Telecommunications and Information Technology. 

This is OU-Tulsa’s third win in six years. “I’m incredibly proud of our Telecom Engineering program, headed by Dr. Pramode Verma, and all our students who continue to represent OU-Tulsa on a national level,” said Campus President John. H. Schumann, M.D. 

The national Case Study competition is a highlight of the annual conference, hosted by ITERA (Information and Telecommunications Education and Research Association), where teams of graduate and undergraduate students present their solution to a challenging network design. 
This year, the challenge was to design a network to support public safety cameras and systems. OU-Tulsa’s team presented their solution, Advanced Integrated Security Solutions: Metropolitan Park Area Emergency Response and Surveillance. 

“In addition to the technical aspects of a network, students must include critical business and project management issues such as return on investment, business plan, and life cycle costs,” said ITERA Board Chairman Dr. Michael Bowman. “We congratulate OU-Tulsa’s winning team.” 
This year’s competition took place April 8-10, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky and was sponsored by Facebook. 

OU-Tulsa offers a wide range of 30+ undergraduate, Master’s, and Doctorate level degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Programs include architecture, engineering, education, nursing, sonography, public health, occupational and physical therapy, human relations, library and information studies, organizational dynamics, public administration, social work, as well as medicine through the OU-TU School of Community Medicine. Each year, over 250,000 patients receive primary and specialty care at the three OU Physicians clinics throughout the Tulsa area. Since 1957, OU-Tulsa has provided higher education to NE Oklahoma and moved to the 60 acre Schusterman Campus in 1999. For more information, visit www.ou.edu/tulsa

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Electrical Engineering Student Receives Four Awards for his Research Paper

Tyler Helps
Senior electrical engineering major, Tyler Helps, has received four awards for his paper titled “Enhancement of a Bluetooth Battery Management System.” The paper presents a Bluetooth based Battery Management System (BMS) that uses modern balancing technology and a wireless connection to replace traditional wire bundles inside of multi-cell battery packs. By integrating contemporary cell management technology with the mobile systems consumers carry in their pocket every day, one can combine the safety and care of battery management with the ultimate convenience of wireless connectivity.

Helps paper placed in the following competitions:

1st place – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Paper Competition in February 2016 at the Ford AV in Oklahoma City

2nd place – North Area Student Paper Competition in March 2016
The North Area serves the Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Southern Illinois region.

Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Research - Phi Kappa Phi at The University of Oklahoma’s Undergraduate Research Day in April 2016 in Norman, Oklahoma.

2nd place – IEEE Region Five Paper Competition in April 2016 in Kansas City

Spiers New Technology, Oklahoma City and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology fund Helps’ research. His advisors are University of Oklahoma School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Instructor Jacob Henderson and Research Assistant Professor, John Dyer

Helps graduates in May and has accepted a position at National Instruments in Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tulsa-based research expected to transform everyday medicine

Posted: Saturday, February 13, 2016 12:00 am | Updated: 7:42 am, Mon Feb 15, 2016.By GINNIE GRAHAM News Columnist | Tulsa World

OU-Tulsa researchers Dr. Hazem Refai (left) and Omar Al Kalaa are leading the way in development of wireless medical devices with assistance from the Tandy Supercomputer at the Oklahoma Innovation Institute. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World

 Imagine a hospital room without wires. A patient could move freely as sensors instantly send information about heart rate, organ functions and hormone levels to the doctor.

Advances in wireless medical devices go beyond a medical facility’s walls.

Parents with a diabetic toddler could check the child’s glucose levels from their smartphones. Patients with chronic illnesses wouldn’t have to stop by offices for vital-sign checkups.

This is a sliver of the research being conducted by the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa’s Telecommunications Engineering program in partnership with the Oklahoma Innovation Institute’s Tandy Supercomputer. This type of innovation originating in Tulsa is expected to be transformative to the medical community.

It’s an optimistic — and inspiring — view of the future when told by Hazem Refai, Williams professor in Telecommunications Networking and Electrical and Computer Engineering at OU-Tulsa. He’s also the director for the Center for Wireless and Elecromagnetic Compliance and Design.

Read more.