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Research Communications

Physicist Receives NSF CAREER Grant for Biomedical Research, New Lab Course 

February 23, 2006

ATHENS, Ohio – David Tees, Ohio University assistant professor of physics and astronomy, has received a five-year, $400,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the National Science Foundation to create a new biophysics laboratory course and to conduct research on how flow and adhesion in the smallest blood vessels of the cardiovascular system affect the way the body responds to inflammation and infections.

The highly competitive national program is designed to support faculty members in their early careers. Applicants must include both teaching and research projects in their proposals.

Tees, who joined the Ohio University faculty in 2001, will study adhesion of white blood cells, which travel to sites of inflammation or infection in the body and attach to the inside of blood vessels. Tees investigates what happens when white cells are trapped in capillaries, the smallest blood vessels in the body. In some diseases, trapped cells are activated and cause an overly aggressive immune response that damages healthy tissue. That’s especially problematic in the lung, where very dense capillary networks are found, he explained.

Tees has proposed a new research tool to investigate the problem: an artificial system that uses micropipettes to mimic the flow in capillaries. Micropipettes are thin glass tubes that can be created in very small sizes, and made to taper just like small blood vessels. Because the tubes are transparent, researchers can observe what happens when white blood cells travel through them. The tubes also can be coated with proteins, similar to the ones found in blood vessel walls, to recreate the vessels’ sticky surface.

“This is a research tool that allows you to answer questions you couldn’t answer before,” says Tees, who will involve undergraduate and graduate students in his research. The scientist, also an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, conducted preliminary work for the grant proposal with Associate Professor Doug Goetz and graduate students Prithu Sundd and Anand Pai in that department.

The system also could later be used to test drug treatments for serious infections or inflammation, as it could determine whether the treatments block or enhance white blood cell adhesion in these model capillaries. This would be less complicated than conducting such preliminary tests in animal models.

Tees also will use the new NSF CAREER grant to create a laboratory course in biophysics. Ohio University currently offers an introductory lecture class in this area, but the scientist believes that a laboratory experience is important to expose students to the research process.

Tees is a member of Ohio University’s Quantitative Biology Institute, the Nanoscale & Quantum Phenomena Institute, and the Biomimetic Nanoscience and Nanoscale Technology Initiative. The latter project is part of the university’s larger $8 million NanoBioTechnology Initiative, a broad coalition of researchers tackling fundamental issues in nanoscience, biomedical science, technology and health care. It is one of three major research priorities for the institution.

In addition to the NSF CAREER grant, Tees has support from the American Heart Association for his research.

By Christina Dierkes

Attention Reporters, Editors: A photo of David Tees can be downloaded here: http://www.ohiou.edu/news/pix/Tees_David.jpg.

Contact: David Tees, (740) 593-1694, tees@ohio.edu.