A paper just published in Nature Communications by the Single-Molecule Biophysics Laboratory of Assistant Professor Weihong Qiu reports an unexpected mechanical property of a “motor” protein that offers new insights into how motor proteins help build and maintain the mitotic spindle, the American football-shaped macromolecular structures that animal and fungi cells depend on to ensure accurate chromosome segregation during cell division. Located inside cells, motor proteins are tiny molecular machines that convert chemical energy into mechanical work. They interact with train-track-like structures called microtubules to transport cargos or exert forces.

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The motor protein KlpA moves in one direction on a single microtubule track and switches to the opposite direction between a pair of microtubules. Illustration credit: Kuo-Fu Tseng, Oregon State University.
[click on image to see the motion] The motor protein KlpA moves in one direction on a single microtubule track and switches to the opposite direction between a pair of microtubules. Illustration credit: Kuo-Fu Tseng, Oregon State University.
In this study, Qiu and colleagues focused on a particular motor protein called KlpA, and used a high-sensitivity microscopy method to directly visualize the motion of individual KlpA molecules on microtubules. The Qiu team shows that, while all other KlpA-like motor proteins are believed to move in only one direction on the microtubule track, KlpA has a “reverse” gear that allows it to go in different directions. This enables KlpA to behave differently in when it is operating at different locations within the mitotic spindle. This research may open the door to understand the similar KlpA-like motor proteins in mammals that are implicated in cancer cell proliferation. Understanding the design principle underlying the bidirectional motion of KlpA may also guide the engineering of motor protein-based molecular devices for targeting drug delivery in a controllable manner.

Math (and Physics) Professor Tevian Dray has been awarded the MAA University Teaching award.

2017 Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), in recognition of his exemplary mathematics teaching and his positive influence on college mathematics curriculum development and teacher training on a regional and national level.

See the IMPACT article below!

Math professor receives national award for teaching excellence

Pavel Kornilovich is a runner-up in the “Physics in 2116” essay contest run by AIP’s “Physics Today”. Pavel’s essay, “African Arrow sees hints of structure in the fabric of space”,  imagines the result of a giant accelerator experiment 100 years in the future that probes energy scalepavels at which the four known forces would be unified.  Of about 200 entries, four essays were chosen for publication in the December 2016 edition of “Physics Today”.  The other essays speculated about the implications of future technologies for privacy, emergent consciousness, and a future telescope, the “Asteroid Belt Astronomical Telescope”, built from polished asteroids.  Happy reading!

Pavel Kornilovich is a Courtesy Professor of Physics at Oregon State University and a Senior Technologist at HP Inc in Corvallis.

Prof. Bo Sun and student Amani Alobaidi’s work on 3-D tumor modeling technology has been highlighted in an article in Advantage-Impact.

DIGME discoids shaping the growth of tumor cells.
DIGME diskoids shaping the growth of tumor cells. (full caption in article below)

Here is the full article

DIGME shapes better cancer therapies

A new 3-D tumor modeling technology could drastically change the way cancer is treated. Diskoid In Geometrically Micropatterned Extracellular matrix (DIGME) is a tissue-patterning solution that uses a low-cost device to control the shape of tumors — as well as the directionality and rigidity of their surrounding matrix — to stop cancer cells from spreading.

Bo Sun, an assistant professor of physics in Oregon State’s College of Science, says DIGME will help doctors test their own cancer treatments and create new ones. And it could even improve the efficiency of early cancer detection.

“Right now, cancer detection is relying on techniques that were developed decades ago,” Sun says. “I think tumor modeling is going to show us the new things we should look at. There may be a different set of metrics that make the accuracy and sensitivity of early detection much better.”

Sun’s device can facilitate development of new cancer treatments by better mimicking the physiological condition of tumors. Oregon State University has filed for a patent and is looking for potential licensees and research collaborators to further develop the technique.

Understanding how cancer cells spread

In order for a cancer cell to dissociate from the main tumor and spread — also known as metastasis — it must dig a hole through the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM is the area that surrounds a tumor, which is made up of connective tissues like collagen. It can act as a barrier to keep tumor cells in or out, depending on its porousness.

For example, an ECM that is very porous provides a soft environment for cancer cells to easily squeeze through and enter other areas of the body. An ECM that is very rigid, on the other hand, provides a barricade that is very difficult for a cancer cell to dig into. However, a rigid ECM also promotes tumor growth; therefore the relationship between ECM and cancer is anything but simple. This relationship is one of the central problems of cancer research.

Modeling tumors

Sun’s team worked with standard cancer cell lines in the lab. To shape a tumor, a micro-fabricated stamp is used to create a mold made of collagen. Tumor cells are then suspended in a collagen solution and poured into the mold. The liquid collagen turns into a gel and links to the mold. The device can precisely control the location and rotation of the stamp, creating an exact shape.

Different tumor shapes equal different clinical outcomes for patients, Sun explains. If a tumor has very high curvature corners, these sharp corners are more likely to become cancer stem cells, which are very invasive and lead to metastasis.

Changing directions

Directionality is an equally important factor. The ECM — which is covered in polymer fibers — can be rotated with the help of DIGME technology. When the ECM is polarized — or given positive and negative charges — the orientation of those fibers can be rotated circularly, preventing additional cancer cells from disconnecting and spreading throughout the body. Controlling the shape and directionality allows DIGME to create challenging environments for cancer cells, testing their adaptability and understanding how they respond to treatments in complex physiological conditions.

“A tumor — no matter where it starts — is going to experience many different environments when it metastasizes into many parts of the body,” Sun says. “If a cell has no way to adapt to this new environment, it is going to stop there and won’t be able to spread.”

Sun’s research began with the goal of determining how tumors migrate and communicate with one another. Two-and-a-half years later, DIGME has the potential to help save lives.

For licensing information, please contact Jianbo Hu at jianbo.hu@oregonstate.edu or 541-737-2366.

This figure shows a breast cancer cell.

(A) DIGME consists of a diskoid – a tumor cell aggregate whose shape is tightly controlled. The example shown in A is a hexagonal diskoid of monolayer thickness. Typical diskoid thickness can range from one to five cell layers. (B) A triangle diskoid of MDA-MD-231 cells (green) in collagen matrix (labeled with fluorescent particles, blue). Top: top view. Bottom: side view. (C) A MDA-MD-231 diskoid (green) surrounded by two layers of collagen matrix with different concentrations (1.5 mg/ml, red and 3 mg/ml, blue). Top inset: the diskoid invasion into the surrounding ECM after five days. Bottom inset: confocal reflection imaging showing distinct fiber microstructures across the interface of two collagen layers. (D) A MDA-MB-231 ring diskoid with its sounding ECM circularly polarized. The configuration mimics the ductal carcinoma in vivo. Scale bars: 200 μm.

Oksana Ostraverkhova has won the Milton Harris Award in Basic Research!!!

She was honored (and surprised!) at a ceremony on October 17 at the Horizon Room.

In her ten years at OSU, Oksana has built a successful program demonstrating creative and productive basic research in the study of photophysics in organic semiconductors.  She has  also collaborated with Prof. Sujaya Rao (entomology) to study bee color vision. This interdisciplinary collaboration has led to while new insights in the basic science field of bee color vision.

Oksana also won the Harris Graduate Teaching award this year and has supervised dozens of undergraduates and graduate students in her lab.

About the award:

This award was endowed by G. Milton Harris, a Portland native who received his bachelor’s degree in 1926 from OSU and his PhD from Yale. He was a pioneer in polymer, fiber and textile science and was founder and for many years president of Harris Research laboratories which later became part of Gillette. His distinguished career in chemistry included service with the National Bureau of Standards and five years as the chair of the American Chemical Society.

The purpose of the Harris award is to recognize exceptional achievement in basic research by honoring an outstanding faculty member in the College of Science. Special consideration is given to recent research that was carried out at OSU and that will have a significant impact on its field. The recipient of the Harris award not only receives a monetary award, but also is given the opportunity to present a public lecture that highlights his or her research.

 

We just heard that Corinne Manogue is the APS Woman of the Month

August 2016 Woman of the Month: Corinne Manogue, Oregon State University 

Corrine Manogue
Corrine Manogue

Corinne Manogue obtained her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in 1984. She studied black holes with Denis Sciama and field theory in curved spacetime with Bryce DeWitt, and joined the physics faculty at Oregon State University (OSU) in 1988 after postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, the University of Durham in England, and as an Indo-American Fellow of the Comparative and International Education Society. Professor Manogue played a key role in the early work relating division algebras and supersymmetry. In her infinite free time, she continues explore how to use the octonions to describe the symmetries of high-energy particle physics.

Since its inception in 1996, Professor Manogue has been the driving force behind the Paradigms in Physics project at OSU, a complete redesign of the physics major. This redesign involved both a rearrangement of the content to better reflect the way professional physicists think about the field and also the use of a number of interactive pedagogies that place responsibility for learning more firmly in the hands of students.

Her curriculum development/research interests are in helping students make the difficult transition from lower-division to upper-division physics. Professor Manogue is the recipient of a number of teaching awards, among them the 2008 David Halliday and Robert Resnick Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the American Association of Physics Teachers.  She was voted a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2005 and named a Fellow of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 2014. After more than three decades in her career, she continues to be amazed to find herself a physicist.

Janet Tate setting up her superconducting demonstration.
Janet Tate setting up her superconducting demonstration.

The Spectrometer has been operating from the Oort cloud for the past few months, hence some delays in the signal reaching you.

A big event Spring quarter was Janet Tate’s masterful Gilfillan Lecture, “It’s a Materials World” on May 9th.

If you ever wanted to know what goes on in her lab, this is the lecture to watch.

You can find photos at:

Scenes from 2016 Gilfillan Memorial Lecture

and a video, featuring some great superconducting material at: