Stem Cells Show Promise in Treating Gastrointestinal Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 26, 2013

Researchers are working on using stem cells to grow healthy intestinal tissue for patients with gastrointestinal disorders.

For people living with gastrointestinal disorders, such as ulcers or Crohn’s disease, treatment often means relieving uncomfortable symptoms through medications or dietary changes. Scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) hope their research will someday bring patients relief by being able to grow new, healthy intestinal tissue.

In their recently published work, researchers were able to grow large numbers of intestinal stem cells and then coax them to develop into different types of mature intestinal cells.

“Being able to produce a large inventory of intestinal stem cells could be incredibly useful for stem cell therapy, where the cells could be delivered to patients to treat diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” says Dr. Jeffrey Karp, Division of Biomedical Engineering, BWH Department of Medicine, co-senior study author. “These cells could also be useful for pharmaceutical companies to screen and identify new drugs that could regulate diseases from inflammatory bowel disease, to diabetes, to obesity.”

Read More »

Determining the Course of Medical Research – Final Nominee

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 18, 2013

Today’s video and Q&A features our third and last finalist in the 2013 Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) BRIght Futures Prize competition, a research project from Bohdan Pomahac, MD, and Jeffrey Karp, PhD.

Stuck on You (Video)

Bohdan Pomahac, MD, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering

What is your research project about?

There have been few recent medical innovations to seal tissues and prevent leaks after surgery. Physicians still use sutures, which are very time-consuming and difficult to place, as well as staples, which can cause tissue damage when inserted and removed. This can result in infection or extreme pain for patients.

Imagine an adhesive that could easily attach to tissue to rapidly seal wounds and connect tissues without severe damage. Suppose this adhesive could also deliver drugs to wounds to prevent infection or speed the process of healing and tissue regeneration. It could provide a completely new way for doctors to treat damaged tissue, including severely burned skin.

Read More »

2013 BRIght Futures Prize: Promoting Innovative Medical Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 15, 2013

Dr. Robert C. Green, winner of the first BRIght Futures Prize.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) is routinely recognized as one of the top academic medical centers in the country. Last year, the BWH Biomedical Research Institute launched the annual $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize competition to support innovative research that is both compelling and promising to an audience that extends beyond just scientists. The competition is intended to generate excitement and motivation within the research community, while heightening the visibility of BWH research worldwide. It supports researchers as they work to answer provocative questions and better meet today’s medical needs.

The three finalists were selected through a rigorous two-step peer review process, and the winner will be determined by public voting. The public is encouraged to vote for their favorite research project by visiting The winner will be announced during the awards ceremonies at the 2nd annual BWH Research Day on November 21. This event has the same goal of raising awareness and celebrating research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Registration is open not only to internal employees, but any individuals interested in learning more about the comprehensive science that goes on at the institution every day. Patients, local scientists, health care professionals, and industry collaborators all come together to interact with and learn more from BWH investigators and clinicians. Topics of focus this year include technology and innovation, personalized medicine, neuro-degeneration, and allergies, among others.

Read More »

Worm Helps Researchers Build a Better Medical Patch

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 6, 2013

Figure 1 - The underside of the patch has rows of tiny, cone-shaped needles.

When giving thanks to Mother Nature for the bounty that she provides, a parasitic worm may not be on your top 10 list. But a Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research team has seen the beauty in a spiny-headed worm, the Pomphorhynchus laevis, and used this creature as inspiration for designing an adhesive patch that safely and strongly secures human skin grafts.

This unique worm establishes long-term residency in the intestines of fish by plunging head-first into the host’s intestinal wall and then swelling its head to create a secure hold in the intestinal tissue. Impressed by the strength and simplicity of this technique, a research team led by Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, developed a micro-needle patch that mimics the worm’s anchoring mechanism.

Read More »

Prickly Porcupine: Medicine’s Next Top Model?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 7, 2013

The North American porcupine is inspiring our latest line of medical device designs.

The North American porcupine is easily recognizable due to its impressive coat of long, sharp quills. These unique projections are designed so that they can easily penetrate animal flesh, but are extremely difficult to remove. While this may be bad news for a predator or a curious pet, this natural mechanism is a boon for a curious medical researcher trying to develop a better medical device.

A research team led by Jeffrey Karp, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Division of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Medicine, collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Robert Langer, PhD, has figured out the secret to the porcupine quill’s easy-in, not-so-easy-out design and demonstrated how that design could be applied to developing a better medical needle or adhesive patch.

Read More »