Duke researchers design DNA | Treatments for childhood obesity and cancer

Flyover Country is filled with researchers who are working on life-saving technology. Here are just a few standouts we wanted to mention this week:

Duke researchers design DNA

DURHAM, NC–A new open source software platform developed by Duke University Ph.D. student Dan Fu with his adviser John Reif lets users take drawings or digital models of rounded shapes and turn them into 3D structures made of DNA. The software could allow researchers to create tiny containers to deliver drugs, or molds for casting metal nanoparticles with specific shapes for solar cells, medical imaging and other applications.

Dish-grown retinal cells could help treat blindness

MADISON, WI–Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are making headway in treating blindness. David Gamm, ophthalmology professor at the school, and collaborators are dish-growing retinal cells that respond like those in healthy retinas. Gamm patented the organoids and co-founded Madison-based Opsis Therapeutics, which is adapting the technology to treat human eye disorders based on the UW–Madison discoveries.

Detecting glaucoma early

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN–Startup BVS Sight, spun out of Purdue University, is developing smart contact lenses to detect glaucoma at its earliest stages by monitoring intraocular pressure (IOP) in a person’s eye. IOP is the only known modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, which can steal a person’s vision without early warning signs or pain. BVS Sight Inc. is the first company created through a partnership between Boomerang Ventures Studio, Purdue Foundry and the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

Treatments for childhood obesity and cancer

AMES, OH–An Iowa State University research team is working to find more effective treatments for childhood obesity and cancer by modifying the function of an enzyme crucial to fat production. Hua Bai, an associate professor of genetics, development and cell biology, says the team has identified a “metabolic switch” like the accelerator on a car.

Cancer screening tech via microfluidic chips

LAWRENCE, KS–Researchers at the The Center of BioModular Multi-Scale Systems for Precision Medicine (CBM2) at the University of Kansas are using microfluidic chips to detect hard-to-diagnose diseases by analyzing bodily fluid through plastic strips. Now CBM2 wants to commercialize the screening tests. The platform is called the LiquidScan and can detect when someone likely has ovarian cancer.

Other university research news:

A new kind of solar panel

ANN ARBOR, MI–In a major leap in solar technology, researchers at the University of Michigan have created a new kind of solar panel. The panel has achieved 9% efficiency in converting water into hydrogen and oxygen—mimicking a crucial step in natural photosynthesis. The technology is nearly 10 times more efficient than solar water-splitting experiments of its kind.

Keeping pedestrians safe

COLUMBUS, OH–Pedestrian-related traffic crashes are becoming a major problem. In Ohio alone, between 2017 and 2021, there were almost 14,500 such crashes. Professors at the College of Engineering at Ohio State University are developing an app to keep those crashes from happening. With the app, drivers will be alerted to slow down because there is a pedestrian they may not be able to see around their vehicle.

Iowa State tests agriculture innovation for John Deere

AMES, IA–Deere & Co. (doing business as John Deere) has been collaborating with Iowa State University for 25 years on agricultural innovations. Most recently, the two announced a strategic partnership to establish an 80-acre demonstration site with eight different fields and processes that will allow Deere to test sustainable solutions for large grain production systems in real-world scenarios.

Big funding for university system in Missouri

MISSOURI–UM System leaders will receive $130 million from the $1.7 million federal spending bill. The UM System leaders said the $130.4 million worth of funding will support the top priorities of the university’s system, including health and research priorities. MU’s Columbia institution will receive more than $94 million, UMKC will receive $10 million for a new medical and dentistry building at the university, and Missouri S&T will receive $26 million for the construction of the Missouri Protoplex, an advanced manufacturing building.