Headlines at Hopkins: news releases from across
university Headlines
News by Topic: news releases organized by subject News by Topic
News by School: news releases organized by the 
university's 9 schools & divisions News by School
Events Open to the Public (campus-wide) Events Open
to the Public
Blue Jay Sports: Hopkins Athletic Center Blue Jay Sports
Search News Site Search the Site

Contacting the News Staff: directory of university 
press officers Contacting
News Staff
Receive News Via Email (listservs) Receive News
Via Email
Resources for Journalists Resources for Journalists

Virtually Live@Hopkins: audio and video news Virtually
Hopkins in the News: news clips about Hopkins Hopkins in
the News

Faculty Experts: searchable resource organized by 
topic Faculty Experts
Faculty and Administrator Photos Faculty and
Faculty with Homepages Faculty with Homepages

JHUNIVERSE Homepage JHUniverse Homepage
Headlines at Hopkins
News Release

Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 | Fax (410) 516-5251

April 4, 2001
CONTACT: Phil Sneiderman

Student's Microparticles May Deliver Life-Saving Medicine
Undergraduate Research Grant Let Eric Krauland Conduct
Demanding Lab Project

A Johns Hopkins University student has developed tiny biodegradable plastic particles that could be used in an aerosol spray to carry DNA vaccines and other important medications deep into human lungs.

Eric Krauland, 21, a 1997 graduate of North Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pa., spent last summer in a lab at Johns Hopkins, conducting experiments to produce the unusual drug- delivery vehicles, called cationic polymer microspheres. His efforts were funded through an undergraduate research grant from the university.

Eric Krauland.
Photo by Jay Van Renssalaer

Krauland's faculty sponsor, Justin Hanes, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, had seen a scientific paper describing similar particles and encouraged Krauland to create a version that could carry life-saving drugs deep into the lungs. The deep lung area, where oxygen enters the bloodstream, may be an effective entry point for DNA vaccines and other medications used to treat ailments ranging from cystic fibrosis to cancer.

Krauland began making the particles last summer. First, he formed nascent aerosol particles by emulsifying DNA-containing solutions into polymer-containing solutions to produce tiny droplets. Using freeze-drying equipment, he next removed the liquid, leaving behind hard polymer spheres that resemble a white powder. During this process, Krauland added a surfactant, a material that moved to the surface of the spheres, giving them a positive charge. When they are mixed in a solution with dissolved DNA molecules, which have a negative charge, DNA clings to the surface of the particles. Forming these particles in the lab was not easy. "It took me most of the summer before I could actually make these cationic microspheres," Krauland said. "Then I had to begin refining them so they would work in an aerosol device that could spray them deep into the lungs."

Eric Krauland and his faculty sponsor, Justin Hanes, assistant professor of chemical engineering, at right, discuss the results of a test that shows how well the new polymer microspheres might travel into human lungs.
Photo by Jay Van Renssalaer

In recent months, he has tinkered with his formula by changing mixing speeds, chemical concentrations and water-to-oil ratios. These variations alter the size, density and surface charges of his particles. Krauland's goal is to produce microspheres that are light and do not stick together when shot out of an aerosol device. The spheres must be capable of carrying large molecules such as DNA and proteins deep into the lungs, where they can be released into the body over a prescribed period of time.

Krauland hopes to have results ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal by late summer and intends to seek a patent for his particles. "It's unusual for an undergraduate to take the lead on a demanding research project like this," says Hanes, the faculty advisor. "But we have some pretty remarkable students here at Hopkins."

Krauland completed his undergraduates studies in December but is remaining at Johns Hopkin as a biomedical engineering master's degree student. As one of 43 Johns Hopkins students who received Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards in the 2000-2001 academic year, he will present an overview on his project during upcoming awards ceremony. The event will take place 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, in the Mattin Center on the Homewood campus, 3400 N. Charles St., in Baltimore.

The Johns Hopkins University is recognized as the country's first graduate research university, and has been in recent years the leader among the nation's research universities in winning federal research and development grants.

The opportunity to be involved in important research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of an undergraduate education at Johns Hopkins. About 80 percent of the university's undergraduates engage in some form of independent research during their four years, most often alongside top researchers in their fields.

The Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards is one of these research opportunities, open to students in each of the university's four schools with full- time undergraduates: the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering, the Peabody Conservatory and the School of Nursing. Since 1993, about 40 students each year have been awarded up to $2,500 to propose and conduct original research, some results of which have been published in professional journals. The awards, begun by then provost Joseph Cooper and funded through a donation from the Hodson Trust, are an important part of the university's commitment to research.

Return to Provost's Undergraduate Research Awards news release.

Johns Hopkins University news releases can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.jhu.edu/news_info/news/
   Information on automatic e-mail delivery of science and medical news releases is available at the same address.

Go to Headlines@HopkinsHome Page