Northwestern Events Calendar


Rising Stars of SQI Lecture: Cara Smith

When: Thursday, August 31, 2023
2:30 PM - 3:30 PM CT

Where: Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center, Simpson Querrey Auditorium (Room 1-230), 303 E. Superior Street, Chicago, IL 60611 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Mark Karver  

Group: Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology (SQI)

Category: Lectures & Meetings


The Peptide Synthesis Core and the Analytical bioNanotechnology Equipment Core (ANTEC) of the Simpson Querrey Institute for BioNanotechnology (SQI) proudly announce the

Rising Stars of SQI Lecture


Cara S. Smith, PhD Candidate, Samuel Stupp Laboratory

who will present a lecture titled

"Supramolecular Netrin-1 Mimetic Nanofibers for Enhanced Neuron Growth and Functional Recovery Following Spinal Cord Injury"

The lecture will also be available as a Zoom Webinar, and a link will be emailed to all registrants prior to the event. Refreshments will be provided for in-person attendees.

For more information, see the talk abstract and speaker bio below.

Abstract: In the central nervous system, inhibitory factors and the formation of a glial scar hinders the functional recovery of neurons after injury. While exogenous protein delivery can help stimulate neural growth, this approach lacks long-term efficacy due to the short half-life and poor localization of many proteins in vivo. This talk will describe the design and characterization of novel netrin-1 mimetic supramolecular peptide amphiphile (PA) nanostructures that present signaling factors for enhanced neuron growth through activation of deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC) receptors. Netrin-1 mimetic PA (N1-PA) monomers that incorporate a cyclic peptide sequence were evaluated with coarse grained molecular dynamic simulations and material characterization techniques to elucidate nanostructure assembly and bioactive peptide presentation. Only nanofibers incorporating low concentrations of N1-PA monomer were able to specifically activate DCC-receptor related intracellular pathways to influence neurite growth and electrical activity similar to that of the native protein in primary cortical neurons. Hydrogels of N1-PA nanofibers were then applied in an in vivo severe contusion model of spinal cord injury. Three months after injury, N1-PA treated mice demonstrated significant functional recovery compared to a sham control. A histological analysis corroborated these results, with N1-PA treated mice showing enhanced neurite regrowth and reduced neuron degeneration caudal to the injury site. 

Biography: Cara Smith is a 6th year Biomedical Engineering graduate student in the Stupp Laboratory at Northwestern University. She received her B.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. Her research involves the development of supramolecular peptide amphiphile nanostructures for the treatment of central nervous system injuries and diseases. During her time at Northwestern, she has also participated in the Teaching Certificate Program offered by the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning.

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