Advisory Board

Professor Dean Ho

The PhysOrg article Nanodiamond drug device could transform cancer treatment said

A Northwestern University research team has developed a promising nanomaterial-based biomedical device that could be used to deliver chemotherapy drugs locally to sites where cancerous tumors have been surgically removed.
“The thin device — a sort of blanket or patch — could be used to treat a localized region where residual cancer cells might remain after a tumor is removed,” said Dean Ho, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, who led the research.
If a surgical oncologist, for example, was removing a tumor from the breast or brain, the device could be implanted in the affected area as part of the same surgery. This approach, which confines drug release to a specific location, could mitigate side effects and complications from other chemotherapy treatments.
“Several surgeons at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, as well as other medical schools and hospitals, are very interested in the device because it is biocompatible and provides such stable and consistent drug release,” said Ho, a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.

Dean Ho, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering in the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Full Member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University where he directs the Laboratory for Nanoscale Biotic-Abiotic Systems Engineering (N-BASE).
Dean is currently an Associate Editor of the Journal of Nanotechnology Law and Business, Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, and Advanced Science Letters, and is a member of Sigma Xi.
Dean and his colleagues were the first to develop nanodiamond materials for therapeutic delivery. In addition, he has been among the first to demonstrate the coupling of protein function with a polymer film to fabricate nano energy conversion systems. This work was published in a cover article in the peer-reviewed journal, Nanotechnology as well as a featured article in Nanotechnology. He has published over 80 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers in the areas of nanomedicine, drug delivery, and nanomaterials.
His research interests include:
Active Substrates for the Study of Cellular Gene Program Response to Nanoscale Stimuli
In addition to supporting the activity of a plethora of proteins such as Bacteriorhodopsin from Halobacterium halobium, he has utilized copolymeric materials as amphiphilic supports at the air-water interface for the deposition of cellular adhesion factors, anti-inflammatory glucocorticoids, carbon nanotubes, and beyond. By interfacing various cell lines from macrophages to muscle cells with these functional substrates, he has demonstrated dramatic reductions in stress specific cellular gene programs as evidenced by quantitative PCR analysis of mRNA production of inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-12 p40 utilizing drug-functionalized polymeric coatings.
He has also initiated aggressive programs to examine observed influences of these substrates upon directed cellular architecture formation through chemical and topographical stimuli.
Protein-Functionalized Membranes: From Bioenergetics to Cytomimicry
Membrane proteins and intra/extracellular signaling molecules drive some of nature’s most intricate and important processes, from metabolism to energy transduction. Bacteriorhodopsin is capable of collecting sunlight and transducing this stimuli into photoelectric currents as well as transmembrane pH gradient formation enabled by nanoscale actuation/conformational changes of the retinal molecule. The supporting matrix used to preserve protein functionality represents a key advancement towards possessing the robustness that is requisite of protein-based device engineering.
In addition, he is constantly seeking new avenues to enhance the biomimicry of these abiotic materials to match desired properties exhibited in nature (e.g. fluidity) while possessing engineered advantages such as increased robustness and configuration versatility.
Nanoscale Medicine: Cellular Interrogation as a Foundation for Next-Generation Therapeutic Technologies
He is developing nanofabricated electrode arrays functionalized with transmembrane internalization-promoting materials to non-invasively investigate cellular activity for both fundamental as well as translational studies. His work has shown that cells can sense even the smallest artificial features that come into contact with their surfaces by initiating stress and inflammatory responses. As such, novel interrogative technologies must take into consideration how effectively their job can be performed while remaining cloaked from the host.
In addition, he is developing self-assembling “molecular glue” that will simultaneously enable electrode insulation and preserved cell-electrode interfacing through bio-adhesion promoter integration with attenuated inflammation.
Dean coauthored Fabrication of biomolecule-copolymer hybrid nanovesicles as energy conversion systems, Monolithic 3-D Microfluidic Device for Cell Assay with an Integrated Combinatorial Mixer, Protein-driven energy transduction across polymeric biomembranes, Hybrid protein-polymer biomimetic membranes, A Monolithically Fabricated Combinatorial Mixer for Microchip-Based High-Throughput Cell Culturing Assays, Active Nanodiamond Hydrogels for Chemotherapeutic Delivery, Copolymeric Nanofilm Platform for Controlled and Localized Therapeutic Delivery, and Engineering Novel Diagnostic Modalities and Implantable Cytomimetic Nanomaterials for Next-Generation Medicine.
Dean earned his B.S. in Physiological Science at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001, his M.S. in Bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2003, and his Ph.D. in Bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2005. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Departments of Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering, California Institute of Technology and then was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering University of California, Los Angeles.
Watch Nanotech Today: Nano-Engineered Medicine – Dean Ho – Pt. 1, Nanotech Today: Nano-Engineered Medicine – Dean Ho – Pt. 2, and Functionalized Nanomaterials at the Interface of Biology and Technology. Read his LinkedIn profile.