A Lab Like no Other: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

October 24, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a lab like no other, and some day what's happening inside it could change or even save your life. Right now a big group of doctors and scientists are creating what could be medicine's next big thing or things.

Geckos may make you think of TV ads, but inside a lab the little lizards' feet are the inspiration for this innovation, a nanoscale adhesive.

"That can almost serve as like a duct tape or like a band aid but for internal procedures," said Jeffrey M. Karp, Ph.D., assistant professor in medicine and health sciences and technology at Harvard Medical School, laboratory for advanced biomaterials and stem-cell-based therapeutics at Brigham & Women's Hospital.

It could be used after a variety of surgeries to prevent leaking or bleeding and to heal hearts after a heart attack. Chemical and bioengineer doctor Jeffrey Karp runs the KarpLab.

"We have chemists, material scientists and immunologists," Dr. Karp said.

While a lot of labs focus on a particular technology or disease, here, they're tackling a ton. Inspired by oil drilling, a needle with a clutch, so it never overshoots its mark. A gel is designed to be injected into an arthritic joint and wait to attack pain.

"And only in the presence of inflammation, when there's lots of enzymes that are secreted this gel will then disassemble and release the payload," Dr. Karp said.

The gel could also be used to prevent brain tumors from re-growing. A nanoparticle cream could help you cope with a nickel allergy. The doctor is one of millions who suffer from it. Just rub it into your skin.

"It'd be able to capture the nickel and prevent it from penetrating the skin," Dr. Karp said.

A small sampling of the work this dedicated team is doing right now to make your life better and maybe longer.

Money from the American Heart Association and the Brain Science Foundation helped pay for some of the research at the lab. Doctor Karp tells us the nickel allergy cream could be available to the public within a few years. Some of the other devices and technologies could take a lot longer to hit the market.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Jeffrey M. Karp, PhD
Laboratory for Advanced Biomaterials and Stem-Cell-Based Therapeutics
Brigham & Women's Hospital
jeffkarp@mit.edu


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