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Johns Hopkins Researchers engineer tiny machines that deliver medicine efficiently

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IMAGE: When an open theragripper, left, is exposed to internal body temperatures, it closes on the instestinal wall. In the gripper’s center is a space for a small dose of a…
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Credit: Johns Hopkins University

Inspired by a parasitic worm that digs its sharp teeth into its host’s intestines, Johns Hopkins researchers have designed tiny, star-shaped microdevices that can latch onto intestinal mucosa and release drugs into the body.

David Gracias, Ph.D., a professor in the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering, and Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist Florin M. Selaru, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, led a team of researchers and biomedical engineers that designed and tested shape-changing microdevices that mimic the way the parasitic hookworm affixes itself to an organism’s intestines.

Made of metal and thin, shape-changing film and coated in a heat-sensitive paraffin wax, “theragrippers,” each roughly the size of a dust speck, potentially can carry any drug and release it gradually into the body.

The team published results of an animal study this week as the cover article in the journal Science Advances.

Gradual or extended release of a drug is a long-sought goal in medicine. Selaru explains that a problem with extended-release drugs is they often make their way entirely through the gastrointestinal tract before they’ve finished dispensing their medication.

“Normal constriction and relaxation of GI tract muscles make it impossible for extended-release drugs to stay in the intestine long enough for the patient to receive the full dose,” says Selaru, who has collaborated with Gracias for more than 10 years. “We’ve been working to solve this problem by designing these small drug carriers that can autonomously latch onto the intestinal mucosa and keep the drug load inside the GI tract for a desired duration of time.”

Thousands of theragrippers can be deployed in the GI tract. When the paraffin wax coating on the grippers reaches the temperature inside the body, the devices close autonomously and clamp onto the colonic wall. The closing action causes the tiny, six-pointed devices to dig into the mucosa and remain attached to the colon, where they are retained and release their medicine payloads gradually into the body. Eventually, the theragrippers lose their hold on the tissue and are cleared from the intestine via normal gastrointestinal muscular function.

Gracias notes advances in the field of biomedical engineering in recent years.

“We have seen the introduction of dynamic, microfabricated smart devices that can be controlled by electrical or chemical signals,” he says. “But these grippers are so small that batteries, antennas and other components will not fit on them.”

Theragrippers, says Gracias, don’t rely on electricity, wireless signals or external controls. “Instead, they operate like small, compressed springs with a temperature-triggered coating on the devices that releases the stored energy autonomously at body temperature.”

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The Johns Hopkins researchers fabricated the devices with about 6,000 theragrippers per 3-inch silicon wafer. In their animal experiments, they loaded a pain-relieving drug onto the grippers. The researchers’

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health

Papa John’s Raises More than $40 Thousand with the Shaq-a-Roni Pizza

Funding will support families and communities across Canada

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Papa John’s Canada announced the company raised more than $40 thousand through sales of the Shaq-a-Roni pizza for Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada to help address challenges posed by COVID-19 for kids and families, and to drive leadership development programs for kids in local communities.

“Thanks to the generosity of each customer who ordered a Shaq-a-Roni pizza and the support of our franchisees and team members, we raised more than $40 thousand to support a cause very close to my heart,” said Shaquille O’Neal, Papa John’s Board Member and franchise owner.

One dollar from every Shaq-a-Roni sold between June 29 and August 23 was donated to Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada.

“The money raised through the Shaq-a-Roni is going to incredible organizations that support causes like COVID-19 relief and the fight against racial injustice,” said Shaquille O’Neal. “As a Boys & Girls Clubs alum, I know the impact Papa John’s continued support is having on these kids and their families’ lives.”

“Papa John’s has been fortunate during the pandemic, as we have been able to deliver food to people who want or need to stay at home. It’s our privilege to both feed our communities and give back during these challenging times,” said Rob Lynch, president and CEO of Papa John’s. “Last year we launched The Papa John’s Foundation for Building Community, aligned with our company values of People First, Do the Right Thing and Everyone Belongs. Especially in these times of need, we’re proud to continue our work towards equality, fairness, respect and opportunity for all through our ongoing partnerships like Boys & Girls Clubs.”

“It has been incredible to see the enthusiasm of Shaq, the Papa John’s Canada corporate team, and local franchisees as they bring this partnership north of the border,” said Owen Charters, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada. “Our counterparts at Boys & Girls Clubs of America have been working with Shaq and Papa John’s for quite a while, so working with us was a natural fit—and more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful for their generous donations and advocacy for our Clubs, and we look forward to building this partnership here in Canada.”

The Shaq-a-Roni, offered for a limited time, is an extra-large pizza made with Papa John’s fresh, never-frozen six ingredient dough, topped with extra cheese and extra pepperoni, then cut into Papa John’s largest slice size to-date. More information about the Shaq-a-Roni pizza, including the Papa John’s Foundation and its grantees, can be found at www.papajohns.com/foundation.

About Papa John’s
Papa John’s International, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) opened its doors in 1984 with one goal in mind: BETTER INGREDIENTS. BETTER PIZZA.® Papa John’s believes that using high quality ingredients leads to superior-quality pizzas. Its original dough is made of only six ingredients and is fresh, never frozen. Papa John’s tops its pizzas with real cheese made from mozzarella,

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