Johns Hopkins Gazette | January 5, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University January 5, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 16
White House Ceremony Honors Johns Hopkins Materials Scientist

Michael S. Yu
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

By Phil Sneiderman

Michael S. Yu, a Johns Hopkins faculty member who is developing ways to use common collagen to build new blood vessels and detect disease, was honored Dec. 19 in a White House ceremony that paid tribute to the nation's top scientists who are beginning their independent careers.

Yu was among 67 young researchers who received Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers in the 2007 competition. This program aims to recognize outstanding scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge. The award is the highest honor presented by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers at this stage of their professional careers.

The National Science Foundation nominated 20 of the recipients, including Yu. They were chosen from among the 448 researchers who had previously been selected for the NSF's 2007 Faculty Early Career Development Program.

The remaining 47 Presidential Early Career honorees were nominated by other government agencies.

Yu, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering in 2001. He also is affiliated with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins.

Yu's research focuses on collagen, the body's most common protein. Collagen promotes blood clotting and provides the spongelike scaffold upon which cells build nerves, bone and skin. Because it is nontoxic, dissolves naturally over time and rarely triggers rejection, collagen is commonly used in cosmetics, drug delivery systems and biocompatible coatings. Yu's goal has been to change some of collagen's biochemical or mechanical properties to give it new medical applications.

To accomplish this, he has developed ways to modify collagen molecules by attaching smaller molecular partners called collagen mimetic peptides. He is using this approach to "tag" collagen so that it can easily be seen by medical imaging devices. In collaboration with a radiologist, he is developing techniques that could lead to early detection of collagen deposits associated with cancer, heart disease and other ailments.

In partnership with a biomedical engineering colleague, he is using modified collagen to build three-dimensional tissue scaffolds upon which new networks of tiny blood vessels may be coaxed to grow before being implanted in patients.

The Presidential Early Career honorees also were selected for their community service efforts. Yu and his students have been working with the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind in developing materials science lab experiments for visually impaired young people.


Related Web sites

Michael Yu
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Institute for NanoBioTechnology


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