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Drake University alumna Albena Ivanisevic, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and chemistry at Purdue University, returns to Drake on Tuesday, April 4, to discuss her groundbreaking research on retinal transplants for age-related macular degeneration that could ultimately restore sight for millions.
Ivanisevic, who was named one of the Top 100 Young Innovators in the world by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in Bulldog Theater in Olmsted Center, 29th Street and University Avenue. Her speech, titled “Fabrication and Characterization of Biological and Chemical Architectures,” is free and open to the public as is the reception that follows.
In addition to her speech, Ivanisevic will meet informally with Drake students at a pizza luncheon at noon Wednesday, April 5, in the resource room in Fitch Hall, 28th Street and Forest Avenue.
Ivanisevic, 31, was recognized by MIT for her work to create scaffold-like patterns on the surface of a pig's retina, making templates out of molecular compounds called peptides that could promote the growth of transplanted healthy cells to treat age-related macular degeneration. Placing templates on the retina might enable transplanted cells to take hold and grow.
She and her students used an instrument called an atomic force microscope and a device called a cantilever to lay down lines of peptides in a process known as dip-pen nanolithography. The pattern was permanently attached to a dime-size piece of retina extracted from a pig's eye.
“We demonstrated that we could perform lithography, or patterning, on something other than a metal, semiconductor or insulator surface,” Ivanisevic said. “We are interested in making surfaces that can eventually be used for transplant strategies.”
Peptides are made of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
Macular degeneration is an incurable eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness for people 55 years old and older in the United States, affecting more than 10 million Americans. Retinal pigment epithelial cells deliver nutrients to the retina and remove waste products. Macular degeneration is caused by a deterioration of these cells.
Ivanisevic joined the Purdue faculty in 2002 after completing a two-year National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University. She earned a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2000 and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Drake in 1996. She received the Dr. E. Hirschfelder Award for Women in Chemistry, Math and Physics and the Belle Crowe Fellowship, both from the University of Wisconsin in 2000, and a Dr. William Coppock Chemistry Research Award from Drake in 1996.
Ivanisevic is associated with two centers in Purdue's Discovery Park: the Birck Nanotechnology Center and Bindley Bioscience Center, which funded the research. Her work also is supported by the NASA Institute for Nanoelectronics and Computing at Purdue.