New Inventions

Physics ‘Office Hours’ educational learning platform

A physics education researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has designed a novel and interactive app-based study aid platform for students in STEM disciplines. The platform’s interface is built around education research into how students conceptualize problems they do not understand. It is a novel tool to help students see why they are struggling with a particular problem, and what might help them solve it, rather than solving the problem for them. The team’s first working prototype, the Physics Office Hours app, has been designed for use in introductory-level college physics. The app is designed to mimic a scenario students might face during ‘office hours’ with a professor: Rather than offering an answer, the instructor guides the students through problems via a series of questions. A user-friendly online interface allows app content to be easily updated and changed over time and as more problem sets become available. In addition, the app architecture can easily be adapted to problem sets in other STEM disciplines and therefore serves as a platform technology.
(Jun 27, 2017) T150035US01

Efficient In Vitro Assay for Antigen-Specific Tolerance

Building on their work, UW–Madison researchers have now developed a T cell-bound cytokine (T-CBC) assay for detecting and quantifying regulatory T cells specific to self-antigens or donor alloantigens. The new method comprises (a) culturing the subject’s T cells for 24 hours in the presence of one or more target antigens and (b) analyzing the cultured T cells for expression of a marker (EBi3; TGFβ/LAP) indicative of antigen-specific immune suppression.
(Jun 9, 2017) P160186US02

Rhinovirus-C Peptide for Development of Vaccines and Antivirals

UW–Madison researchers have identified novel immunogenic peptides from RV-C that are useful targets for therapeutic antibodies.

Recent advances in microscopy enabled the researchers to determine (with atomic resolution) the structure of an RV-C strain, both in its full, infectious form and as native empty particles. The structures highlighted immunogenic surfaces that could be used to design antivirals or vaccines against RV-C.
(Apr 19, 2017) P160341US02

New and More Potent UGM Inhibitors for Treating Tuberculosis, Other Microbial Infections

UW–Madison researchers have developed a new set of UGM inhibitors to fight tuberculosis and other diseases caused by microbial infections. The compounds feature an N-acylsulfonamide motif and are more potent in vitro than inhibitors previously identified by the researchers.
(Mar 13, 2017) P160093US02

Compound Combination Targets Bacterial Virulence

The researchers have discovered that two lead compounds (E22/M64) can be combined to target multiple QS pathways at the same time (Rhl/Pqs), resulting in enhanced activity against P. aeruginosa and potentially other pathogens. This new cocktail approach is superior because it attenuates virulence factor production across a range of relevant environments where single compounds fail.
(Feb 13, 2017) P160176US02

Rechargeable Desalination Battery

UW–Madison researchers have designed a rechargeable desalination cell that can operate on seawater and is capable of performing a desalination/salination cycle with a net potential input as low as 0.2 volts. The cell comprises a sodium-storage electrode coupled to a chloride-storage electrode made of nanocrystalline bismuth foam.

The bismuth-based electrodes are able to store chloride ions in their bulk by oxidizing Bi to BiOCl in the presence of an oxygen source, such as water. Advantageously, BiOCl is insoluble in water over a wide pH range and inert against water oxidation. It also is stable over a wide range of anodic potentials. As a result, the new electrodes can be used for chloride removal in a variety of aqueous sources.

The BiOCl electrode can be converted back to a bismuth electrode by a reduction reaction, where the chloride ions are released into the electrolyte. This reverse reaction allows for the repeated use of the electrode for chloride storage/release via multiple chlorination/dechlorination cycles.
(Jan 18, 2017) P170083US01

Inhibiting Metadherin/SND1 Interaction to Treat Cancer

UW–Madison researchers and collaborators have developed a method to fight tumor growth and metastasis using novel peptides that inhibit interaction between MTDH and a protein called SND1.

The researchers found that MTDH-SND1 protein interaction is important for the expansion and function of prostate tumors as well as luminal and basal breast tumor initiating cells. Their work provides novel peptides that target this protein complex to help control tumor initiation, recurrence and metastasis by combating tumor initiating cells, with minimal impact on normal tissues.
(Dec 22, 2016) P140424US02

Nylon-3 Polymers to Treat Fungal Infections

UW–Madison researchers have found that nylon-3 polymers developed in their lab display potent antifungal activity against a broad spectrum of common fungal pathogens, with minimal toxicity towards mammalian cells. The polymers have some activity alone, and when used in combination with existing drugs provide synergistic effects against Candida albicans, Cryptococcus neoformans and Aspergillus fumigatus strains, including some resistant strains.

Synergistic combination offers efficacy with significantly reduced amounts of drug and corresponding toxicity, which could potentially expand the relevant patient population.

The polymers were designed to resemble host-defense peptides (HDPs), which are natural molecules that exhibit antimicrobial activities.
(Dec 21, 2016) P170021US01

Monomeric Fluorescent Protein-Ligand Complexes with Strong Fluorescence in the Far-Red Region

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Washington County in collaboration with the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India, has resulted in the development of monomeric variants of the naturally occurring Sandercyanin Fluorescent Protein (SFP) using site-directed mutagenesis. This work has stemmed from earlier research focused on development of the tetrameric form of SFP, a biliverdin-binding lipocalin protein originally isolated from the mucus of the blue walleye fish, Sander vitreus. Monomeric variants of SFP (mSFPs) have been found to possess the same non-covalent, bili-binding characteristics of the tetramer but are one-quarter the size (~18.6kDa) and do not oligomerize. They are therefore anticipated to be more useful in a host of biotechnology applications. Like the tetrameric form, the mSFPs have a large stokes shift (375nm/675nm) and fluoresce in the far-red or near infrared region, which is advantageous for a wide range of applications including investigation of protein-protein interactions, spatial and temporal gene expression, assessing cell biology distribution and mobility, studying protein activity and protein interactions in vivo, as well as cancer research, immunology, and stem cell research and sub-cellular localization. In addition, the newly developed mSFP’s far-red fluorescence is particularly advantageous for in vivo, deep-tissue imaging.
(Dec 20, 2016) T150029WO01

Enhanced Endotoxin Detection: New Advantages in Liquid Crystal Assays for Gram-Negative Pathogens

UW–Madison researchers have now demonstrated enhanced endotoxin detection in the presence of masking agents in their previous liquid crystal system.

Unlike the LAL assay, the LC-based method does not suffer from LER or any loss of sensitivity due to the presence of cations (e.g., Ca2+ or Mg2+), buffers (e.g., citrate), surfactants (e.g., SDS), chelating agents (e.g., EDTA), proteins or nucleic acids (e.g., DNA or RNA). Thus, the LC-based method provides faster and cheaper detection of endotoxin when compared to existing methods, such as the LAL assay.
(Dec 9, 2016) P160072WO01