Public Release: 

HIV, diagnostic health care tools top of list for UH researchers

Two UH professors invited to national nanotechnology conference

University of Houston

HOUSTON, Nov. 15, 2004 - Designing devices to combat HIV and biosensors to aid in diagnostic health care will be among the presentations of two University of Houston professors at a gathering of the top nanotechnologists in the nation Nov. 19-21.

The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative conference - "Designing Nanostructures at the Interface Between Biomedical and Physical Systems" - will bring together approximately 100 of the nation's top researchers to discuss the emerging science of nanotechnology Nov. 19-21 at the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center in Irvine, Calif. Kurt Krause, associate professor of biology and biochemistry at UH, and Rigoberto Advincula, associate professor of chemistry at UH, are two of only 12 researchers from the Gulf Coast area invited to attend the conference.

"The organizers of the Futures Initiative were particularly interested in my background on modifying surfaces with polyelectrolytes and dendrimers for the controlled adsorption and capture of DNA and proteins," Advincula said. "We are looking at applying these methods for microfluidic devices and biosensors."

Coming a long way from applications in such mundane gadgets as ink-jet printers, microfluidic devices - one of Advincula's specialties - now hold potential for pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, defense, public health and agriculture. This next generation of applications shows the flexibility of these devices that will be crucial to their commercial viability. Another of Advincula's research projects involves biosensors that can detect toxins and bacteria in an environment, ultimately leading to uses in diagnostic health care and biological/chemical detection.

Presenting some of his latest breakthroughs in the fight against HIV, Krause will present research on the design of proteins that can split DNA made by pathogenic organisms, which will produce nanomachines that could be used to combat latent infections caused by viruses like HIV. He also will join a focus group exploring energy production from biological nanosystems that could eventually lead to cleaner, more efficient energy supplies, reducing both costs and environmental consequences. Full details of these focus groups and research presentations will be available online, following the conclusion of the conference.

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Funded by a $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiatives is a 15-year effort to catalyze interdisciplinary inquiry and to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities and the general public. Representing science, engineering and medical disciplines, conference attendees convene with the common mission to explore questions related to nanotechnology and nanoscience. Working on matter that is 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, the practice of nanotechnology manipulates individual molecules and atoms. Seed grants will be awarded to selected researchers who attend. For more information, visit www7.nationalacademies.org/keck/keck_futures_conferences.html.

About the University of Houston
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