Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems: bridging the translational research gap

Dr. Eric Blough, Director of the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems

When Dr. Eric Blough established the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology in late 2003, his goal was to one day develop it into a thriving, interdisciplinary laboratory that would help bridge the gap between basic and clinical sciences. Over the ensuing years, the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems was born.

Research in nanotechnology can involve substances as small as one nanometer, or one billionth of a meter, in size. In the words of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, “Although focused on the very small, nanotechnologies offer tremendous potential benefits. From new cancer therapies to pollution-eating compounds… nanotechnologies are changing the way people think about the future.” This is due to the fact that, as objects diminish in size, they begin to exhibit very different properties. For example, nanoparticles have a high surface area and can be very reactive. Consequently, drugs deployed using nanotechnology can potentially be five to six times as effective as those delivered traditionally. Nanoparticles can also be developed to target specific types of cells, avoiding exposing the rest of the body to a toxic medication, such as in chemotherapy.

A result of an initiative merging participants within the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and the Marshall College of Science, the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems aims to find better ways to diagnose, monitor, and treat chronic illness. As Dr. Blough envisioned, this center is one of a very few that is designed to bring together researchers from distinctly different areas of expertise together to work on common problems. Within the center, there are over a dozen different projects underway. Each project is centered on a research area that is of national importance and all have a high degree of relevance to Appalachia.

Currently, projects include work done in humans, animals, C. elegans, and cell culture. Areas of inquiry include the elucidation of new “biomarkers” for disease (cardiovascular, cancer and pulmonary conditions), the development of new types of sensors for point of care testing, and the effects that nanomaterials may have on cellular function and the environment. In addition, they are also in the process of developing new ways to “package” and deliver drugs using nanotechnological approaches.

Dr. Blough says that he is always looking for new students, new scientists, and new collaborations. He hopes to continue to grow and improve the program through new initiatives. If you would like more information about the groundbreaking research being performed at the Center for Diagnostic Nanosystems at Marshall University, please refer to its website: http://www.marshall.edu/cdn/.