Michael S. Yu, a Johns Hopkins faculty member who is
developing ways to use common collagen
to build new blood vessels and detect disease, was honored
Dec. 19 in a White House ceremony that
paid tribute to the nation's top scientists who are
beginning their independent careers.
Yu was among 67 young researchers who received
Presidential Early Career Awards for
Scientists and Engineers in the 2007 competition. This
program aims to recognize outstanding
scientists and engineers who, early in their careers, show
exceptional potential for leadership at the
frontiers of knowledge. The award is the highest honor
presented by the U.S. government to
scientists and engineers at this stage of their
The National Science Foundation nominated 20 of the
recipients, including Yu. They were
chosen from among the 448 researchers who had previously
been selected for the NSF's 2007 Faculty
Early Career Development Program.
The remaining 47 Presidential Early Career honorees
were nominated by other government
Yu, an associate professor in the Department of Materials
Science and Engineering, joined the
faculty of Johns Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering in
2001. He also is affiliated with the
Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins.
Yu's research focuses on collagen, the body's most
common protein. Collagen promotes blood
clotting and provides the spongelike scaffold upon which
cells build nerves, bone and skin. Because it is
nontoxic, dissolves naturally over time and rarely triggers
rejection, collagen is commonly used in
cosmetics, drug delivery systems and biocompatible
coatings. Yu's goal has been to change some of
collagen's biochemical or mechanical properties to give it
new medical applications.
To accomplish this, he has developed ways to modify
collagen molecules by attaching smaller
molecular partners called collagen mimetic peptides. He is
using this approach to "tag" collagen so that
it can easily be seen by medical imaging devices. In
collaboration with a radiologist, he is developing
techniques that could lead to early detection of collagen
deposits associated with cancer, heart
disease and other ailments.
In partnership with a biomedical engineering
colleague, he is using modified collagen to build
three-dimensional tissue scaffolds upon which new networks
of tiny blood vessels may be coaxed to
grow before being implanted in patients.
The Presidential Early Career honorees also were
selected for their community service efforts.
Yu and his students have been working with the
Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind in
developing materials science lab experiments for visually
impaired young people.