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Yang's $1.25 million NIH grant advances work on polymers

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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Media Contact: Herb Booth, Office:817-272-7075, Cell:214-546-1082, hbooth@uta.edu

A UT Arlington bioengineering professor has been awarded a $1.25 million National Institutes of Health grant to continue his work in creating safe, biodegradable, photoluminescent polymers that can improve cancer therapy.

Jian Yang, an associate professor of bioengineering at The University of Texas at Arlington, will use his latest grant to continue work established through a 2009 NIH program.

Jian Yang

The polymers Yang has developed have a multitude of uses, including implants, nanoparticle creation for cancer imaging, drug delivery, construction of temporary stents and even tissue regeneration.

“This grant will expand our chemistry capabilities to safely create the polymers that deliver the drugs to specific cancer cells,” Yang said. “We also will evaluate the biocompatibility of the biodegradable photoluminescent polymers and test those.”

Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said Yang’s work in polymers will have a far-reaching impact on the way medicine fights cancer in the future.

“Dr. Yang’s research shows promise in the important fields of cancer detection and drug delivery,” Bardet said. “The opportunities for better health care through Yang’s innovation is what makes his research so vital.”

Biomedical engineering had a revolution of sorts when quantum-dot imaging was discovered a few years ago, Yang said. Quantum-dot imaging uses nanoparticles, which are used in the making of transistors, LEDs and lasers.

But because the quantum dots are metallic, they proved toxic to the body. They could not be used for drug delivery, tissue repair or implant material.

Yang’s biodegradable polymers have proven a better vehicle to move cancer-fighting medicine where it needs to go without hurting the body. He said the technology also is more exact than using a positron emission tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging and can allow medicine to be used in smaller clusters of cancer cells.

“Doctors will be better able to guide treatment,” Yang said.

Yang’s findings were initially published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2009. Ralph Mason, professor of radiology and director of the UT Southwestern Cancer Imaging Center, authored the PNAS paper.

Mason, along with others at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and UT Arlington’s Liping Tang from bioengineering, Kevin Schug of chemistry and biochemistry and Wei Chen of physics make up the polymer research team.

UT Arlington has partnered with UT Southwestern to operate four laboratories in the Bill and Rita Clements Advanced Medical Imaging Building on the Dallas medical school campus. The joint effort, which opened in 2008, marked the first time UT Southwestern had dedicated space exclusively to an engineering school.

Yang’s work is representative of the breakthrough optics-related research under way at The University of Texas at Arlington, a comprehensive research institution of 33,439 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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