To research how this technique can be performed on humans, Lawrence partnered with the University to create Iris BioMed, a drug delivery company.
Lawrence said the benefits of the technique may include making treatment accessible for people at home, decreasing the need for surgery and allowing individuals who need multiple medicines — such as cancer patients — to focus their medicine in an area, decreasing medicine-related symptoms.
Stem cells used to carry drugs
UNC pharmacoengineer Shawn Hingtgen has developed a new technique to treat glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor. He uses stem cells carrying anti-cancer drugs that can seek out cancer cells and deliver the drugs.
While surgery can remove most of the tumor, some parts of the cancer can remain in inaccessible parts of the brain. Hingtgen transform the gene expression of skin cells into brain stem cells. These new stem cells can sense the cancer cells and then deploy the anti-cancer drugs.
These drugs contain both clinical and experimental candidates that can slow the growth and lead to cancer cell death. The stem cells carrying the drugs are inserted directly into the brain after surgery to remove the tumor.
However, Hingtgen faced problems keeping the stems cells inside the brain long enough to deploy the drugs before being destroyed by the body’s immunity system. The UNC and NCSU Biomedical Engineering departments partnered to create a scaffold, holding the stem cells, which keeps them in place until the cancer cells can be destroyed.
Hingtgen has been testing his techniques on mice, but hopes to get FDA approval for human trials soon.
Religion as protection against gang violence
Religious professor Brendan Thornton’s research on gang and church membership in the Dominican Republic shows the power of Pentecostalism to change individual’s lives.
In his book, “Negotiating Respect: Pentecostalism, Masculinity and the Politics of Spiritual Authority in the Dominican Republic,” Thornton wrote of the similarities between Pentecostal church members and gang members and how many left their gangs to convert to the religion.
After nine months regularly attending a Pentecostal church in Villa Altagracia, Thornton began recording people’s accounts of their experience in the church — many telling him the most viable way to leave a gang was to convert to Pentecostalism. When Thornton asked a 19-year-old active gang member in the Dominican Republic what his plans for his life were, the teenager told Thornton he would eventually convert.
Thornton said so long as converts maintained a pious life and did not return to areas the gang controlled, they would not have to fear violence from their respective gang or rival gang. Then, Thornton said, these individuals could pursue leadership opportunities in the church community — something the former gang members weren’t able to do when affiliated with their gang.