Creating Smarter Life-Saving Drugs and Gene Therapy Through Nanobiotechnology with Dr. Jordan Green

The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools.

Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Dr. Jordan Green 

Jordan Green_2015 Nifty Fifty SpeakerAs a researcher, Jordan Green, Ph.D. is on the front lines of creating innovative technologies and therapeutics that can directly benefit human health.

Specifically, this involves employing techniques in cellular engineering and nanobiotechnology to develop effective drug and gene therapies to treat cancer and other medical conditions.

¨The research findings and technologies developed by my research group are applied in the fields of ophthalmology, oncology, stem cell research and regenerative medicine,¨ says Jordan, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Ophthalmology, Neurosurgery, and Materials Science & Engineering at the Translational Tissue Engineering Center of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

¨At Johns Hopkins, we seek out collaborations where we can combine our technologies with a clinical need to hopefully be able to make a difference to patients," he explains. ¨One of the areas where there is a great need for improved therapeutics is cancer. One and a half million Americans develop cancer each year and over 550,000 Americans tragically die from it annually.¨

Nanobiotechnology (the merger of biological research with various fields of nanotechnology), Jordan says, can improve cancer therapy by enabling smarter targeting of tumors and reduced off-target side effects in healthy cells.

Research by Jordan and his laboratory (the Green Group) are yielding promising results. For instance in 2014, through studies in mice, the lab demonstrated that "nanoparticles" can be created via nanotechnology to carry genetic material to cancer cells left in the brain after surgery. In such situations, Jordan's studies suggest that these nanoparticles could one day be especially successful in treating glioblastoma, the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans.

In another pivotal study using nanotechnology, his lab reported success in creating flattened, football-shaped artificial particles that impersonate, or mimic, immune cells. These artificial particles, he says, seem to be better than traditional basketball-shaped particles at teaching immune cells to recognize and destroy cancer cells in mice.

Says Jordan, ¨One of the greatest challenges in the field of cancer medicine is tracking down and killing tumor cells once they have metastasized, or spread, and escaped from a tumor mass.¨ One strategy, he explains, has been to create tiny artificial capsules that stealthily carry toxic drugs throughout the body so that they can reach the escaped tumor cells.

"Unfortunately, traditional chemotherapy drugs do not know healthy cells from tumor cells, but immune system cells recognize this difference. We wanted to enhance the natural ability of T-cells to find and attack tumor cells.¨

Jordan is the author of numerous scientific journal articles in his field. He holds a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a Bachelors of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

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