UTA bioengineer wins grant to train Ph.D. students to use nanotechnology to fight ailments


Credit: UT Arlington

Nanotechnology, including nanomedicine and nanomaterials, is an increasingly important tool in the treatment of many diseases, and a new grant will allow The University of Texas at Arlington's Bioengineering Department to take the lead in training doctoral students to develop and use those tools to battle cardiovascular and pulmonary ailments.

Kytai Nguyen, a UTA bioengineering professor with extensive experience in healthcare applications for nanotechnology, recently was awarded a National Institutes of Health T-32 grant totaling more than $1 million over five years to recruit and train outstanding doctoral students. The grant will pay for a stipend, tuition and travel.

"While nanotechnology has been used extensively in cancer research, its use against cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases is a newer trend," Nguyen said. "There are no other training grants in North Texas, so this grant will allow us to recruit highly qualified students who will pursue collaborative research in new areas."

The program will offer collaboration opportunities with UT Southwestern, as well as UTA's Computer Science and Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Physics Departments, and College of Nursing and Health Innovation. This has important implications for future research, according to Nguyen.

"Students' collaborations with other disciplines and their successes in the classroom and the lab will lead to new research partnerships. They will have truly multi-disciplinary training, which will lead to innovative ideas and, ultimately, more research funding and greater discoveries," Nguyen said.

The program's goals include providing an integrative nanoengineering program, enhancing students' expertise and knowledge in broad-based nanoengineering areas, and developing the next generation of leaders in the field. As a result, students will be able to bring multidisciplinary fields together to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.

The research is just one example of how UTA contributes to health and the human condition, a theme of the university's Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

"I was very excited to learn that our department has received this highly prestigious grant," said Michael Cho, the Alfred H. and Janet R. Potvin Endowed Chair in Bioengineering and Chair of the Bioengineering Department. "Dr. Nguyen's efforts in creating a competitive program to train bioengineering graduate students in the areas of nanomaterials, nanoengineering and nanomedicine have resulted in a 'game changer' for UTA, allowing us to take a leadership role in the field and focus on training the next generation of top-notch biomedical engineers."

Current UTA research in medical nanotechnology at UTA includes:

  • Nguyen's work to develop a nanoparticle drug delivery system that will help stimulate lung growth and function after partial lung removal or destructive lung disease.
  • Physics Professor Wei Chen's discovery that Cu-Cy nanoparticles, combined with X-ray exposure, significantly slow tumor growth in lab studies. Chen is co-director of UTA's Center for Security Advances Via Applied Nanotechnology.
  • Nguyen's $1.4 million National Institutes of Health grant to create a nanoparticle system to shore up arterial walls following angioplasty and stenting procedures to treat coronary arterial disease.
  • Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Samir Iqbal's $480,000 National Science Foundation grant that led to a novel cancer cell detection method that will improve early diagnosis through a tool that tracks cellular behavior in real time using nanotextured walls that mimic layers of body tissue.
  • Yaowu Hao, a Materials Science and Engineering associate professor, received a $477,000 R15 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop radiotherapeutic nanoseeds that will work from inside inoperable solid tumors and cause less damage to healthy cells.
  • Iqbal's $400,000 National Science Foundation Early Career Development Program award to create a nanoelectronic microfluidic biochip to detect biomarkers.


About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a Carnegie Research-1 "highest research activity" institution. With a projected global enrollment of close to 57,000, UTA is one of the largest institutions in the state of Texas. Guided by its Strategic Plan 2020 Bold Solutions|Global Impact, UTA fosters interdisciplinary research and education within four broad themes: health and the human condition, sustainable urban communities, global environmental impact, and data-driven discovery. UTA was recently cited by U.S. News & World Report as having the second lowest average student debt among U.S. universities. U.S. News & World Report lists UTA as having the fifth highest undergraduate diversity index among national universities. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as the top four-year college in Texas for veterans on Military Times' 2017 Best for Vets list.

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