$6.5M nanomedicine center includes Yale engineer

10/14/05



David A. LaVan
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New Haven, Conn. --A Yale scientist is among the recipients of a special $6.5 million center grant from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, intended to rapidly launch revolutionary ideas in the use of nanomedicine and serve as the centerpiece of its Nanomedicine Roadmap Initiative.

David A. LaVan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and member of Yale's Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, will participate in the National Center for Design of Biomimetic Nanoconductors, one of the four centers funded. The center will be led by Professor Eric G. Jakobsson at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The five-year grant will support a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional project to design, model, synthesize and fabricate nanomedical devices based on natural and synthetic ion transporters, proteins that control ion motion across the membrane of every living cell. Nanomedicine operates at the biological molecule scale of 100 nanometers or less to cure disease or repair damaged tissues. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.



Schematic design of the Biobattery showing possible systems of natural and synthetic transporters.
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The first target for the center will be to design a class of devices for generating electric power --biobatteries -- for a wide array of implantable devices, including an artificial retina. LaVan, who was recently awarded a grant from the Keck Foundation to develop novel materials to convert sunlight into electricity, will oversee design of the biobattery for the Center.

"This focus is intended to leverage our significant understanding of ion transport at the molecular level," said LaVan, who chaired a group at the 2004 National Academies Keck Futures Conference, Designing Nanostructures, where aspects of this project were formulated. "We are set to develop revolutionary new devices to treat disease and to develop implantable devices that mimic natural functions."

The team expects to construct several categories of devices including sensors, power sources, energy transducers and osmotic pumps to be used as either research platforms or as the basis for new generations of implantable medical devices.

Other Center participants are from the Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California-Davis, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Oxford, UK, Wabash College and Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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