Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering News

Breger Takes Diabetes Technology Bronze

Breger Takes Diabetes Technology Bronze

An islet of Langerhans (orange) encapsulated in an alginate bead measuring about 500 µm in diameter.
An islet of Langerhans (orange) encapsulated in an alginate bead measuring about 500 µm in diameter.

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering graduate student Joyce Breger, co-advised by Professor Nam Sun Wang and Dr. Dan Lyle (Food and Drug Administration [FDA]), was awarded the Diabetes Technology Peterson Student Research Bronze Prize for her abstract titled "Investigation of Inflammatory Potential of Biomaterials Intended for Cell Encapsulation or Device Coating." Her paper was selected as one of the top three among over 180 submissions.

The award includes an invitation to the Eighth Annual Diabetes Technology Meeting in Bethesda, Md. In November, $300 in prize money, and the opportunity to submit a solicited original research article to the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

Breger is working on the development of a bioartificial pancreas for diabetics. It consists of islets of Langerhans–groups of specialized cells responsible for producing hormones, including insulin—donated from healthy individuals, encased in a biocompatible gel called alginate. The donated cells could live in a patient's body, producing the insulin he or she cannot, but remain protected from his or her immune system by the alginate. The abstract Breger submitted addressed the immune system's response to alginate and other materials used in tissue engineering. If a biomaterial is improperly formulated or contaminated, the body may attack it, leading to the failure of the artificial organ.

Breger conducts much of her research at the FDA's Center of Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), where she is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow. She also worked at the FDA as an undergraduate in its Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition fellowship program (JIFSAN). "There are lots of friendly scientists here to collaborate with," she says of the CDRH. "I bring a different perspective to our lab since I mainly look at the material properties of the materials that we use." She is also benefiting from the FDA's consolidation of its branches into a single campus. "All the labs are brand new. I'm now collaborating with some scientists in the Division of Chemistry and Materials Science, and before the relocation I would not have been able to do that. I'm also getting their perspective on how to present research ideas and how to tailor them so they fit under the FDA umbrella."

September 18, 2008


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