Biomedical Engineering student David Moore interned at the vaccine branch of the National Cancer Institute, part of the NIH. (David Moore)
By Jennifer Reiley, Texas A&M University College of Engineering
Junior David Moore in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University is furthering his medical technology knowledge this summer with an internship at the vaccine branch of the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The overall goal of the research project Moore is a part of is to develop a method to use extracellular vesicles (EVs) as clinical biomarkers for cancer. Extracellular vesicles are tiny spherical particles that are released by cells and are involved heavily in cell-to-cell communication and in transporting compounds, such as proteins, DNA and RNA in and out of cells. Moore said research interest in EVs has skyrocketed due to their potential use as biomarkers for disease as well as their therapeutic potential.
“Since they are released from cell membranes, the surface makeup of extracellular vesicles closely matches the surface of the parent cell,” Moore said. “Thus, the analysis of a cell’s EVs can yield much information about that cell, which is why they could be useful in analyzing how cancer cells as well as normal cells are responding to treatment.”
Moore said the research could have a significant impact on the way doctors treat cancer, especially for early detection.
“In recent years, there has been a huge emphasis on personalized cancer treatment — targeted medicine — as there are many different types of cancers, and everyone responds the disease differently,” Moore said. “Thus, if the method we are working on turns out to be successful it could be incredibly beneficial to doctors in determining very quickly if the treatment they are using is working on the particular patient being treated or if they need to change the type of treatment.”
The team is working on creating an analysis pipeline for detecting/isolating certain types of EVs released by cancer cells within the body and using the isolated EVs and their cargo to determine the effectiveness of cancer treatments. Dr. Jennifer Jones, the team lead, is a radiological oncologist, and Moore said one of the eventual goals of this research would be to use collected EVs from the blood of her cancer patients to determine if they are responding positively to radiation treatments.
Each intern is assigned their own task that fits into the main framework of the project and collaborate to complete tasks. Moore is collaborating with a team of two other undergraduates, two post-baccalaureates and one post-doctoral researcher. He is working with one of the post-baccalaureates to learn the different techniques to help him carry out his summer project, and will be expected to be the flow cytometry expert among the undergraduate summer intern team by the time he leaves.
“Flow cytometry is an analysis tool used to gain information on cells and other small cellular particles such as extracellular vesicles,” Moore said. “Throughout the summer I will be learning techniques such as (EV) isolation and flow cytometry data analysis.”
One of Moore’s first responsibilities will be to cultivate two cell lines — prostate and colorectal cancer cells — in order to collect their EVs for future analysis. He said he is drawing from previous research with cell cultures in the Pharmacoengineering Laboratory directed by Dr. Corey Bishop in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. The Texas A&M lab aims to engineer drug delivery platforms for personalized and targeted medicine, augment, restore or inhibit cellular functions of interest via gene modulation, and elucidate structure-function relationships to enable the design of superior drug carriers.
Moore said the decision to study biomedical engineering came as a result of a love of the science and an interest to pursue a career in medicine, either in research or as a practicing doctor.
“I decided I wanted to apply my passion for chemistry and biology, to approach medicine from a more innovative, technological perspective,” Moore said. “That is how I decided biomedical engineering might be the best choice of major for me.”
This story by Jennifer Reiley originally appeared on the College of Engineering website.