DUBOIS – This year’s Umbaugh Lecture at Penn State DuBois featured Eric Brown, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. During his lecture, From Bacteria to Cancer: Detecting and Destroying Unwanted Biological Agents with Nanoparticles, Brown spoke about groundbreaking methods for combating some of the greatest health threats of the day.
Brown’s research brings together the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and environmental science. He has done extensive work with nanoparticles, which are microscopic particles that can be used to manipulate the structures in human cells, ultimately fighting off cancer and other disease.
“We can use the nanoparticles to detect certain types of cancer on the molecular level,” Brown said. “We can identify a single gene on a strand of DNA, and basically, blow it up.”
Brown said the nanoparticles can work like weapons to destroy things like cancer cells when they are stimulated with light. In his lab, he is currently experimenting with dyes that work best for eliminating the cells. The cells are first coated in a dye, which reacts with the nanoparticles when exposed to light. The result is the elimination of the targeted cell.
Nanoparticles, Brown said, could also be used to identify and kill bacteria. He is conducting research into this as well. Brown said, at this point, a timeframe for when nanoparticles could be widely used in medicine is unclear.
Brown received his Ph.D. in Bionanotechnology from Northwestern University in Chicago in 2009. While at Northwestern, he was trained within the university’s Cancer Center for Nanotechnology Excellence. After receiving his doctorate, Brown joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he teaches Genetics and Biotech Laboratory Methods and engages undergraduate students in bionanotechnology research.
Made possible by the generosity of Robert and Joyce Umbaugh, the Umbaugh Lecture brings highly qualified speakers in the fields of science and technology to the campus each year.
Steve Harmic, Penn State University