The University of Alabama at Birmingham Concert Choir will perform in choral festivals in England and the Netherlands in May.
The Concert Choir is an ensemble in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Music.
At least 42 students will leave May 17 and travel first to London, where the group will perform a recital in Canterbury Cathedral and participate in the London Sangerstevne Festival. The festival performances include the Fringe Concert at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, the main festival concert and the Fringe Concert in St George-in-the-East Church. The students will enjoy four days in London, with opportunities to take in the sights including walking tours of Windsor and Canterbury, a boat ride on the River Thames, a guided tour of London, and the chance to visit Hyde Park and local museums and attend a concert or West End show.
The choir will depart May 22 for Velp/Doesburg, the Netherlands, where they will sightsee and rehearse, then travel to Kerkrade to participate in the CantaRode Festival opening concert May 26. The students will also participate in a gospel workshop at Kerkrade Music School, perform a concert in the Wittern Historical Library and participate in the closing concert in Roldec Abbey. The group will then travel to Cologne, Germany, for sightseeing before departing for home on May 30 from Dusseldorf.
The UAB Concert Choir is raising money through a crowdfunding drive to help make the trip possible for those students who may not have the means and resources to do so. Nearly $7,000 has been raised toward the $20,000 goal. Contributions to the drive can be made at crowdfund.uab.edu/project/6105, says Director Brian Kittredge, DMA.
“Through generous support by the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Music, and many other donors, we have been able to defray costs quite significantly for these students, but are still in the process of raising support and awareness,” Kittredge said. “This is a very exciting opportunity for our choir members, as these are some of the finest sites in the world, especially for singers.”
Since the Concert Choir’s last experience participating in the 2014 World Choir Games and performance appearances in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Italy and Latvia, there have been a number of invitations to choral festivals across the world, Kittredge says.
“In considering some of our possibilities and experiences that would benefit our current student body, we decided to honor an invitation to participate in the London Sangerstevne and the CantaRode International Choral Festivals,” Kittredge said. “It is in the interests of the UAB Department of Music and the choral program to find transformative experiences like this for our current and future students. I think this tour does just that, and opens the door for future interdisciplinary opportunities.”
Tours like this are transformative experiences, says Director Brian Kittredge. The choir is requesting donations to help make the trip a reality for as many students as possible.
These microcarriers may offer an entirely different approach to treating solid human tumors of numerous pathologic subtypes by delivering their encapsulated drug cargo to a tumor and protecting against collateral tissue damage.Chemists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have designed triple-threat cancer-fighting polymer capsules that bring the promise of guided drug delivery closer to preclinical testing.
Click to enlargeThese multilayer capsules show three traits that have been difficult to achieve in a single entity. They have good imaging contrast that allows detection with low-power ultrasound, they can stably and efficiently encapsulate the cancer drug doxorubicin, and both a low- and higher-power dose of ultrasound can trigger the release of that cargo.
These three features create a guided drug delivery system to target solid tumors. Therapeutic efficacy can be further improved through surface modifications to boost targeting capabilities. Diagnostic low-power ultrasound then could visualize the nanocapsules as they concentrated in a tumor, and therapeutic higher-dose ultrasound would release the drug at ground zero, sparing the rest of the body from dose-limiting toxicity.
This precise control of when and where doxorubicin or other cancer drugs are released could offer a noninvasive alternative to cancer surgery or systemic chemotherapy, the UAB researchers report in the journal ACS Nano, which has an impact factor of 13.3.
“We envision an entirely different approach to treating solid human tumors of numerous pathologic subtypes, including common metastatic malignancies such as breast, melanoma, colon, prostate and lung, utilizing these capsules as a delivery platform,” said Eugenia Kharlampieva, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “These capsules can protect encapsulated therapeutics from degradation or clearance prior to reaching the target and have ultrasound contrast as a means of visualizing the drug release. They can release their encapsulated drug cargo in specific locations via externally applied ultrasound exposure.”
Kharlampieva — who creates her novel “smart” particles while working at the intersection of polymer chemistry, nanotechnology and biomedical science — says there is an urgent, and so far unmet, need for such an easily fabricated, guided drug delivery system.
The UAB researchers, led by Kharlampieva and co-first authors Jun Chen and Sithira Ratnayaka, use alternating layers of biocompatible tannic acid and poly(N-vinylpyrrolidone), or TA/PVPON, to build their microcarriers. The layers are formed around a sacrificial core of solid silica or porous calcium carbonate that is dissolved after the layers are complete.
By varying the number of layers, the molecular weight of PVPON or the ratio of shell thickness to capsule diameter, the researchers were able to alter the physical traits of the capsules and their sensitivity to diagnostic ultrasound, at power levels below the FDA maximum for clinical imaging and diagnosis.
For example, one-fourth of empty microcapsules made with four layers of TA/low-molecular weight PVPON were ruptured by three minutes of ultrasound, while capsules made of 15 layers of TA/low-molecular weight PVPON or capsules made from four layers of TA/high-molecular weight PVPON showed no rupture. The ruptured capsules had a lower mechanical rigidity that made them more sensitive to ultrasound pressure changes. Experiments showed that the ratio of the thickness of the capsule wall to the diameter of the capsule is a key variable for sensitivity to rupture.
Left to right, Eugenia Kharlampieva, Jun Chen, Sithira Ratnayaka, Veronika Kozlovskaya and Aaron Alford.To test the ultrasound imaging contrast of the microcapsules, the UAB researchers made capsules that were 5 micrometers wide, or about two times wider than the capsules used in the rupture experiments. This size is small enough to still pass through capillaries in the lung, while a larger size for various microparticles is known to greatly improve ultrasound contrast. Red blood cells, for a size comparison, have a diameter of about 6 to 8 micrometers.
Researchers found that 5-micrometer-wide, empty capsules that were made with eight layers of TA/low-molecular weight PVPON showed an ultrasound contrast comparable to the commercially available microsphere contrast agent Definity. When the UAB capsules — which have a shell thickness of about 50 nanometers — were loaded with doxorubicin, the ultrasound imaging contrast increased two- to eightfold compared to empty capsules, depending on the mode of ultrasound imaging used. These doxorubicin-loaded capsules were highly stable, with no change in ultrasound imaging contrast after six months of storage. Exposure to serum, known to deposit proteins on various microparticles, did not extinguish the ultrasound imaging contrast of the TA/PVPON microcapsules.
A therapeutic dose of ultrasound was able to rupture 50 percent of the 5-micrometer, doxorubicin-loaded microcapsules, releasing enough doxorubicin to induce 97 percent cytotoxicity in human breast adenocarcinoma cells in culture. Adenocarcinoma cells that were incubated with intact doxorubicin-loaded microcapsules remained viable.
Thus, Kharlampieva says, these TA/PVPON capsules have strong potential as “theranostic” agents for efficient cancer therapy in conjunction with ultrasound. The term theranostic refers to nanoparticles or microcapsules that can double as diagnostic imaging agents and as therapeutic drug-delivery carriers.
The next important preclinical step, Kharlampieva says, in collaboration with Mark Bolding, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Radiology, and Jason Warram, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Otolaryngology, will be studies in animal models to explore how long the UAB capsules persist in blood circulation and where they distribute in the body.
Besides Kharlampieva, Chen and Ratnayaka, co-authors of “Theranostic multilayer capsules for ultrasound imaging and guided drug delivery” are Aaron Alford, Veronika Kozlovskaya, Ph.D., Fei Liu, Bing Xue, UAB Department of Chemistry; and Kenneth Hoyt, Ph.D., Department of Bioengineering, University of Texas at Dallas. Hoyt was an associate professor in the UAB Department of Radiology when he did his work for the paper.
Funding came from a National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research award, 1608728, and a National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering K25 grant, EB017222.
Undergraduate student scores his own lab to develop exercise innovations.Joe Moore is an undergrad with a lab. Originally, he was an undergrad with a storage room—until the researchers at UAB’s Engineering and Innovative Technology Development (EITD) unit gave him the opportunity to clean it out and set it up for science. Now the space is a well-lit, open room circled with project stations where Moore either is assembling or dismantling something.
A 21-year-old junior majoring in electrical engineering, Moore seems a bit young to have this kind of resource at his disposal. But as an employee with EITD, part of UAB’s School of Engineering, the Atlanta native tests his high-tech knowledge and skills against some unique challenges. Currently, Moore is harnessing digital technologies to make exercise and physical rehabilitation more engaging—and perhaps more effective—for people with disabilities.
Together with Nick Bowen, a programmer and junior majoring in computer and information sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, Moore is developing three projects to benefit individuals at Birmingham’s Lakeshore Foundation, an internationally recognized leader in fitness and disability. But they also could signal the future of exercise for everyone:
- Imagine going to the gym, stepping onto a treadmill, stair machine, or bike, and putting on a virtual reality (VR) visor. Suddenly you’re in a digital world where your steps and pedaling actually get you somewhere. Meanwhile, the machine sends the visor your vitals and details including speed and acceleration, which interact with the VR software. Speed up or slow down, and the VR world keeps up with you. Moore and Bowen initially based this new interface on a forgotten piece of software written in 1997 known as CSAFE. However, during the holidays, when most students are taking a break from school, they decided to change course and build their own monitoring device. They hope the end product will eventually help programmers improve the “fitness gaming” field.
- Nintendo’s Wii Fit helped pioneer the use of gaming technologies for exercise, being adopted by health clubs and rehabilitation centers alike. Now Moore and Bowen have taken a Wii Balance board “and made it ginormous for wheelchair users,” providing people who could not use standing peripherals with a new exercise option, Moore says.
- The two students also are collaborating on a better, more precise fitness app. Their Walk and Roll project uses ultra wideband radio frequencies to locate the user within centimeters, providing more accurate details about distance traveled, time per lap, and other measures of progress.
Kitchen appliances to space fridgesMoore’s expertise with engineering, coding, and robotics has its roots in his experience as a young, precocious, destructive tinkerer. As a child, he would take apart old kitchen appliances. If his parents no longer wanted something, “it was probably in pieces by the end of the day,” Moore recalls. “Then I would learn to put it back together.”
When it came time to select a university, UAB’s urban environment attracted Moore. “Seeing a college surrounded by a city, I saw a large amount of potential”—particularly the chance to find a job and build connections throughout his college career—Moore says. “I was considering other major engineering schools, but the opportunity base here per the amount of students is just phenomenal.”
One of those opportunities—the chance to present at a symposium in Washington, D.C.—brought Moore into EITD’s orbit. That’s where he met Lee Moradi, Ph.D., EITD director and associate professor of engineering. While Moradi finds most of EITD’s undergraduate employees through his courses, observing Moore and working with him at the symposium impressed him. “He stayed up until 3:00 in the morning making sure his equipment was up and running,” Moradi recalls. “Then he was up at 7:00 to present it. I knew we needed to hire him.”
Soon, Moore was devising a sophisticated technology to reduce fridge buzz. EITD’s big project is Polar, a NASA-commissioned space freezer. Joe’s solution to keep Polar quiet: active noise cancellation, the same technology used in headphones to offset incoming noise frequencies with a counteractive noise. Moore’s promising concept uses a speaker and microphone to “catch sound of the cryocooler making a lot of noise and output it through the ductwork to cancel out the noise.”
New views of technologyNow, Moore has 24-hour access to his EITD lab, where he can turn his ideas into something tangible. “Can I build or fix it? Usually I can, because I have all these resources,” Moore says.
He points to his “baby,” the subtractive manufacturing machine, as an example. It’s a hybrid of a 3-D printer and an automatic wood router. “You put a block of wood in there and create a design,” Moore explains. “Then the machine routes out a 3-D model backwards.” He’s currently working on getting a better enclosure for it, because modeling, as it turns out, can be messy. When he first used the machine, the resulting sawdust took two days to clean, “and I was the person burdened with it,” he recalls.
After graduation, Moore hopes to continue working with EITD and to build a career around his passion for product development. “I want to do work that could potentially change the way we see technology as a whole,” he says.