University of Texas at San Antonio biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate Anand Srinivasan has been awarded a $25,000, one-year doctoral fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA). This highly competitive fellowship provides significant funding to doctoral students to support research and training in cardiovascular and stroke discoveries.
For nearly four years, Srinivasan has developed and tested a series of prototype nanochips under the guidance of UTSA biomedical engineering assistant professor Anand Ramasubramanian and biology professor Jose Lopez-Ribot in collaboration with the director of science at the U.S. Institute of Surgical Research, Dr. Kai P. Leung. Their nanochips aid in high-throughput screening, an automated process that allows researchers to quickly test small molecules against an array of thousands of microbial biofilms.
Supported by the AHA, Srinivasan will develop a new chip-based platform that can be used to test the effectiveness of drug treatments for infective endocarditis, a dangerous bacterial-fungal infection of the heart's inner lining. The research is a challenge because it requires Srinivasan to develop a chip that will facilitate bacterial and fungal co-culture biofilms at a nano scale.
Infective endocarditis is an example of a health care-associated infection (HAI), devastating and even deadly infections caused by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungus. Patients generally acquire HAIs when they receive health care treatment for other conditions, often as a result of their compromised immune systems. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one out of every 20 hospitalized patients will contract an HAI.
While the medical community is fighting back against HAIs by testing thousands of microbial biofilm samples from hospital surfaces throughout the world, the process is time-consuming and costly. The technology currently in use is also outdated.
"The industry standard process currently in place was developed back in the 1950s and tests only a few hundred samples at a time," said Srinivasan. "Using chip-based high-throughput technology, we have developed a process that is quicker and cheaper. Just one of our nanochips can test 1,200 samples simultaneously."
"We are fortunate to have Anand work on this project," said professor Ramasubramanian. "He has shown tremendous dedication, resolve and passion all along in integrating microbiology into chip design and fabrication, which is a big challenge."
Srinivasan has authored seven peer-reviewed journal articles and has been invited to give presentations on his discoveries at several conferences across the country, including the American Society of Microbiology and Biomedical Engineering Society. Most recently, his paper entitled "A High-Throughput Nano-Biofilm Microarray for Antifungal Drug Discovery" was accepted by mBio, the peer reviewed journal of the American Society for Microbiology, and will be published later this month.