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Rapid City, SD  57701

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Research@Mines - by Subject
Medical Research

Research Developed at South Dakota Mines Could Lead to Cure for Osteoarthritis

South Dakota Mines Ph.D. student Ram Saraswat works on research being done to help find a cure for osteoarthritis. The research has led to the creation of the company CellField Technologies.

RAPID CITY, SD (Feb. 2, 2021) — A South Dakota Mines research team has developed technology – and established a subsequent startup company – that could be a key to finding a cure for osteoarthritis. 

Scott Wood, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the NanoScience and NanoEngineering Program, and Ph.D. student Ram Saraswat lead the research and development of the nanoscience technology now utilized by their startup, CellField Technologies. “We’re excited about the potential future of the technology and the company,” Wood says. “We hope it will be a gamechanger in osteoarthritis research.”   

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Most often it occurs in the hands, hips and knees. Osteoarthritis develops when the cartilage within a joint begins to break down, causing pain, stiffness and swelling. More than 32.5 million adults in the United States suffer from osteoarthritis, and current treatments offer little more than temporary pain control, Wood says. 

Wood says that for hundreds of years, doctors have considered osteoarthritis a “wear and tear disease, but we know now that it’s more complicated … It’s actually an imbalance of the behavior of the cells in the joint.”

Wood says CellField’s t...

Last Edited 2/2/2021 06:21:34 PM [Comments (0)]

University Epidemiologists Debunk Myths Related to COVID-19 Vaccine

Two epidemiologists at South Dakota Mines, Elizabeth Racz, Ph.D., MPH (left) and Christine Mathews, Ph.D., MPH, (right) say myths circulating online about the COVID-19 vaccine may reduce the number of people who get vaccinated which could prolong the pandemic.

Epidemiologists at South Dakota Mines say misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine currently circulating on the internet may frighten some people away from becoming inoculated. 

Dr. Elizabeth Racz, MPH, says falsehoods include the accusation that corners were cut in development of this vaccine. “On the contrary,” Racz says. “The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant the emergency use authorization for the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was based on scientific data. The process was made a priority — as vaccine development goes it was definitely done quickly, but not sloppily.”

Racz adds that there is no evidence to substantiate internet rumors. She says fetal stem cells were not used in COVID-19 vaccine or its development. The vaccine will not cause infertility and won’t change DNA. “The vaccine helps your body recognize and respond to the virus. The vaccine teaches your immune system. Once your immune system has learned to detect the virus it can act more quickly and accurately to eliminate it. Your immune system also has ‘memory’ cells. These specialized cells remember how to protect you from the disease in the future — in this case COVID-19,” Racz says. 

Dr. Christine Mathews, MPH, explains that the mRNA vaccine cannot give anyone COVID-19. “mRNA, like DNA, is a nucleic acid found in all living cells. DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell and contains all the instructions necessary for making proteins in the body. Howe...
Last Edited 1/26/2021 03:03:10 PM [Comments (0)]

South Dakota Mines receives $1.3 Million Grant for New Scanning Electron Microscope to Benefit Research and Industry

South Dakota Mines is installing a new Scanning Electron Microscope in the university’s Engineering and Mining Experiment Station.

South Dakota Mines is installing a new Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) in the university’s Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES) thanks to a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The new microscope is just one of many state-of-the-art scientific instruments inside the recently expanded EMES which serves high-tech industry alongside university researchers across the state.

The powerful SEM microscope is a centerpiece of the EMES. It allows researchers to perform high resolution imaging, chemical analysis and sample manipulation for various materials at scales ranging down to 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The new microscope is a critical resource for a wide variety of research across multiple disciplines.

“The SEM is the most heavily used research instrument on campus,” says Grant Crawford, Ph.D., the director of the Arbegast Materials Processing and Joining Laboratory at Mines and an associate professor in the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering.

The new SEM is equipped with a focused ion beam that dramatically expands its capability over the old system. The ion beam allows researchers to extract samples for separate analysis and cr...

Last Edited 1/19/2021 04:07:49 PM [Comments (0)]

South Dakota Mines EMES Facility Expands to Include Array of Instruments with Environmental Applications

Dr. Scott Beeler uses a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC-MS) in the Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES) at South Dakota Mines. The GC-MS is used to identify and quantify organic compounds with applications in a wide range of fields such as environmental monitoring, medicine, and oil and gas.

The Engineering and Mining Experiment Station (EMES) at South Dakota Mines has begun overseeing the operation and maintenance of instrumentation within the Shimadzu Environmental Research Laboratory (SERL).

The EMES was founded on the Mines campus in 1903 with a mission to serve mining industry research. Today the mission has expanded to include a much broader range of academic and industry needs with a wide array of scientific equipment that is utilized by industry professionals and university researchers across the region. The EMES has seen equipment investments by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the National Science Foundation totaling more than $2.8 million since 2011. The EMES website lists the range of scientific equipment available for academic research and industry use including the Shimadzu instrumentation.

The SERL was established in 2015 in partnership with Shimadzu Scientific Instruments by Lisa Kunza. Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Chemistry Biology and Health Sciences at Mines. The SERL is a multidisciplinary research facility that contains a suite of state-of-the-art instrumentation with a focus on environmental applications. SERL instruments enable the chemi...

Last Edited 1/6/2021 03:48:20 PM [Comments (0)]

Mines Mechanical Engineering Alumnus Conducts Research on Dental-Related Infections

Joree Sandin, 2018 South Dakota Mines mechanical engineering graduate, participated in research in the area of antibiotic resistant infections as a master’s student at the University of Kentucky.

As a mechanical engineering graduate from South Dakota Mines, Joree Sandin never expected to do medical research, but the 2018 graduate has spent the past two years focused on antibiotic resistant infections. 

“Three or four years ago, as a mechanical engineering major at Mines, I would never have imagined that I would have gained this experience … my car took a random exit toward this bio world and I’m so glad it did,” she says. 

Sandin recently completed her master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky College of Engineering. She returned to Mines in October to co-present the research seminar, “A Mechanical Engineer’s Approach to Bacterial Infections,” alongside Dr. Martha E. Grady, assistant professor in mechanical engineering at UK and lead researcher on the work. 

The UK research Sandin has been a part of focuses on biofilm formations, specifically in dental care.  

Biofilms are a collection of microorganisms that grow on surfaces. The microorganisms that make up biofilms can include bacteria, protists and fungi. “Biofilms are really everywhere,” Sandin say...

Last Edited 12/3/2020 08:32:39 PM [Comments (0)]

Developing the Spacesuit of the Future at South Dakota Mines

Dr. Zhengtao Zhu and his research team are using ordinary helmets in their work to develop wireless sensors to monitor health vitals of astronauts in space.

Researchers at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have entered their third year of development of a wearable and wireless body sensor system – with the ability to be powered remotely  – that will revolutionize NASA spacesuits. 

NASA has set a lofty goal of human travel to Mars by 2030. In order to meet this goal, better spacesuits are essential, says Dr. Sayan Roy, assistant professor in electrical engineering at South Dakota Mines and a member of the research team. “One of NASA’s strategic goals is to send astronauts into deep space for future exploration missions. The dangerous and unfriendly space environment dramatically affects astronauts’ health status. To ensure astronauts’ health and safety, NASA is taking actions to minimize the negative effects of space travel on the human body,” he says. “There is a need for innovation in space suit design.”

Roy says the research “fits seamlessly with the priorities in NASA’s   Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and the Space Technology Mission Directorate. This project is closely relevant to NASA’s Technology Roadmap TA 6: Human Health, Life Support and Habitat...

Last Edited 2/5/2020 04:31:34 PM [Comments (0)]

Nanopareil: Where Tiny Fibers Reap Huge Rewards

Dr. Todd Menkhaus, a professor of biological and chemical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, is one of the researchers to develop the Nanopareil technology. Nanopareil produces a material used to filter out impurities in such industries as pharmaceuticals, reducing costs and speeding up the process significantly.

The technology at the heart of Nanopareil revolves around nanofibers a thousand times smaller than a human hair, but its potential impact on the pharmaceutical industry could be massive.

“The pharmaceutical industry really needs this technology,” says Todd Menkhaus, PhD, a professor of biological and chemical engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and one of the researchers to develop the Nanopareil technology. “We developed this technology specifically to lower the costs of purifying lifesaving vaccines and medications so that they would be more accessible and more economical around the globe.”

Nanopareil LLC got its start on the SD Mines campus in 2008 when Menkhaus and Hao Fong, PhD, a professor in chemistry, biology, and health sciences, began collaborating on research into nanofibers and separations. They quickly found some pretty exciting results. By spraying or “electro spinning” polymer nanofibers into multiple layers, Fong and Menkhaus created sheets of a filter or sponge-like material. In its initial state, the material feels almost spongy to the touch. After final preparation, however, the sheet material feels and looks much like simple white paper.  

Fong and Menkhaus discovered that when the material is used as a filter, it works as a sponge and collects or traps the targeted materials while allowing the inactive ingredients to flow through. Used in a pharmaceutical setting, ...

Last Edited 12/3/2019 09:37:21 PM [Comments (0)]

Mines researchers explore killing cancer with cold plasma

Kristen Haller, a mechanical engineering major at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology with plans to go to medical school after graduation in December 2019, and Jordan Hoops, a chemical and biological engineering PhD student, demonstrate the cold plasma technology.

While using cold plasma to kill cancer cells isn’t an entirely novel concept, a team of researchers and students at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are exploring new ways to regulate cold plasma technology to target and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alive.

If successful, the technique would prove to be a drug-free, minimally invasive cancer treatment that would affect the lives of millions of patients around the world.   

Plasma is ionized gas – an energetic state of matter where some of the electrons in the outer atomic orbitals have become separated from the atom. In other words, it’s a collection of ions and electrons no longer bound to each other. Cold plasma is a partially ionized gas where particles possess much higher energy.

SD Mines assistant professors Prasoon Diwakar, Ph.D., of the mechanical engineering department, and Timothy Brenza, Ph.D., of the chemical and biological engineering department, are overseeing the research with undergraduate mechanical engineering students Kristen Haller and Nicole Miller. Chemical and biological engineering PhD student Jordan Hoops and applied biological sciences undergraduate student Taylor Bright are also contributing to the work. Bright will be continuing the research in this area as an accelerated master’s student in biomedical engineering.

Diwakar began researching cold plasma cance...

Last Edited 10/29/2019 07:21:23 PM [Comments (0)]

2D Materials, Biofilm and Microbial Research at SD Mines Brings in $32 Million in National Science Foundation Grants

Govind Chilkoor, Ph.D., an SD Mines research scientist, examines a biofilm on a steel sample following its exposure to corrosive bacteria. Dr. Chilkoor is working to develop new ultrathin two-dimensional (2D) coatings that resist microbial corrosion. His research is one component of a newly announced $20 million NSF grant titled “Building on the 2020 Vision: Expanding Research, Education and Innovation in South Dakota.”

In the past three years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded  $32 million in funding for research led by faculty at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology that expands human understanding of the microbial world. Much of the research focuses on the environment microbes occupy when they attach to surfaces and create what is commonly known as a biofilm.

The broad range of studies on microbes and biofilms, funded by these grants, has a wide potential for applications across many sectors of industry and society including energy generation, new medicines, wastewater purification, agriculture, corrosion resistance, new materials and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The research effort of the newly announced $20 million NSF grant titled “Building on the 2020 Vision: Expanding Research, Education and Innovation in South Dakota” will be led by researchers at SD Mines, SDSU and USD. The funding was awarded through the South Dakota Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (SD EPSCoR) and the South Dakota Board of Regents. The state of South Dakota is providing $4 million in matching funds for the grant. The Governor’s office of Economic Development and Board of Regents are providing $3 million and there is a ...

Last Edited 1/8/2020 09:08:07 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Receives Imaging Scientist Grant for Cutting-Edge Live Cell Imaging

Brandon Scott, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at SD Mines, adjusts part of the Lattice Light Sheet Microscope (LLSM) used to make dynamic 3D movies showing the inner workings of living cells.

Brandon Scott, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, and  affiliated with the imaging core of BioSystems Networks / Translational Research, or BioSNTR (pronounced "bio-center") at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, is one of 17 scientists in the United States to be supported by a $17-million dollar grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) to select imaging centers across the country. The grant will support Scott to continue his work on cutting-edge imaging science using the Lattice Light Sheet Microscope (LLSM) and a suite of state-of-the-art imaging tools established by the imaging core of BioSNTR at SD Mines.

The centerpiece of the application was 3D imaging of living cells using the LLSM. This powerful tool allows the visualization of life at the cellular level in ways previously not possible, giving researchers the ability to view the inner workings of cells dynamically. The work could have impact on a wide range of medical research, from immunotherapy to cancer research. These new imag...

Last Edited 3/20/2019 09:49:54 PM [Comments (0)]

Lasers Light the Way to New Technologies

Steve Smith, Ph.D., professor and director of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at the SD Mines, works with student Laura Brunmaier.

This year, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three individuals for “groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics”: Arthur Ashkin with Bell Laboratories in the United States; Gerard Mourou of the École Polytechnique, Palaiseau, France, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; and Donna Strickland from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Steve Smith, who earned his Ph.D. doing research in a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center directed by Mourou at the University of Michigan, was pleased to hear Mourow was receiving a share of the Nobel Prize.

“It’s nice he received a part of this prize. But it also gives acknowledgement to a lot of people in different areas of laser physics. That’s usually how it works—one person gets the prize but there are hundreds of people doing similar work that is very impactful, and this elevates their research as well,” said Smith, who is a professor and director of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SD Mines).

At Deep Talks: Nobel Day, Smith will discuss the topics relating to this year's Nobel Prize in Physics, including Mourou’s work in the field of laser physics and how it has impacted a variety of scientific and technologica...

Last Edited 11/27/2018 04:51:18 PM [Comments (0)]

Engineering an End to Back Pain

Marit Johnson, a PhD candidate at SD Mines, is focusing her research on intervertebral discs in the lower back.

There is a good chance you are sitting down right now. It’s possible you’ve been sitting all day, or maybe you’ve even been sitting every day for the last few decades.

“There is a trend in the 21st century that 80 percent of our jobs require sitting, and it’s even more so when you include leisure time,” says Marit Johnson (CE 96), a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering at SD Mines.

You may guess that spending all this time in a chair is not so good for your health. In fact, research is now showing prolonged sitting may contribute to lower back pain. “Eighty percent of us will experience back pain in our lifetime,” says Johnson. "If your job requires long hours in a chair, back pain can be a real issue."

Johnson’s research is focused on the intervertebral discs of the lower back. These discs are in between the vertebrae, or bones, of the spine, and their softer tissue provides cushion and flexibility. They are key components of a healthy and functional spine.

Research shows that intervertebral discs need to exchange fluid to maintain a healthy environment, similar to how our bodies need breathing to exchange carbon dioxide with oxygen for our survival. “Typically, when we wake up in the morning we’re taller,” says Johnson. At night when we sleep the discs pull in fluid and they expand. As the day goes on,...

Last Edited 7/30/2018 07:35:16 PM [Comments (0)]

Microscopy Trifecta Examines How Cells Engulf Nutrients, Viruses

As part of her doctoral research at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology nanoscience and nanoengineering program, Amy Hor examines chemically fixed cells using correlated fluorescence and atomic force microscopy. She worked under the direction of professor Steve Smith. The collaborative research, which also involved microscopy teams from South Dakota State University and the National Institutes of Health, showed that membrane bending occurs at all stages of clathrin assembly.

Scientists have a better understanding of a mechanism that allows cells to internalize beneficial nutrients and not-so-beneficial viruses, thanks to collaboration among researchers from two South Dakota universities and the National Institutes of Health.           

South Dakota State University associate professor Adam Hoppe, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology professor Steve Smith and NIH scientists Justin Taraska and Kem Sochacki combined three unique types of microscopy to track how a protein called clathrin triggers cell membrane bending. They found that clathrin, which creates a honeycomb shaped scaffold on the cell membrane, has an unexpected amount of plasticity when pinching off small portions of the cell membrane. Their work was published in the Jan. 29, 2018, issue of Nature Communications.

Hoppe and Smith work collaboratively through the South Dakota BioSystems Networks and Translational Research (BioSNTR) center, which is funded through the South Dakota Research Innovation Center program and the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program. A greater understanding of how cells internalize material will help BioSNTR researchers working with Sioux Falls-based SAB Biotheraputics to develop new alternative treatments for influenza.

The contributions of NIH scientists Justin Taraska and Kem Sochacki were made possible through a federally fund...

Last Edited 4/26/2018 07:37:40 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines Researchers Pioneer New Testing Method That Identifies Pathogenic Potential in South Dakota Waterways

The project included over 1000 DNA extractions from bacteria in water samples taken out of Rapid Creek and the Big Sioux River over a two-year period.

Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have completed a groundbreaking study on harmful bacteria found in two important South Dakota waterways. The research, undertaken by Ph.D. candidate Kelsey Murray, found genes related to harmful E. coli in parts of the Big Sioux River and Rapid Creek.  

Public health officials often test streams and rivers for fecal coliform bacteria or E. coli, as this group of bacteria can be an indicator of pollution from animal or human waste. But, not all forms of E. coli are dangerous to humans; in-fact most are harmless. This study pioneered new testing methods that more accurately assess the public health risk from fecal contaminated waters by singling out and testing for genes associated with harmful forms of E. coli, including Shiga-toxigenic E. coli (STEC). 

Murray’s research, performed under Linda DeVeaux, Ph.D., and Lisa Kunza, Ph.D., is titled “Path-STREAM: Development and Implementation of a Novel Method for Determining Potential Risk from Pathogenic Bacteria in Surface Water Environments” Path-STREAM stands for Pathogenicity Profiling: Shiga Toxins and Related E. coli Attributes identification Method.

The project included over 1000 DNA extractions from bacteria in water samples taken out of Rapid Creek and the Big Sioux River over a two-year period. The effort built a method to identify the pathogenic genes associated with STEC and other...

Last Edited 9/11/2020 01:52:10 PM [Comments (0)]