The University of Scranton Research Shows Shape Matters at Nano Level

Understanding how structures interact at the microscopic and even molecular scales has been studied for decades, with applications developed for numerous products ranging from pharmaceuticals and medical treatments to dry cleaning. In researching nanostructure interactions, certain approximations of structural properties that could not be precisely measured were commonly used.

New research by John Deák, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at The University of Scranton, combined two existing techniques for the first-time to test the approximations used for reverse micelle structural properties, which are often applied in studying microscopic interactions. The research, published in October in the Journal of Molecular Liquids, shows that assumptions of the shape of the structure at a certain scale range were incorrect.

“The research finding means a lot of text books will have to be updated,” joked Dr. Deák of the significance of his research, which will actually lead to more precise calculations of nano-level interactions that can be applied to drug delivery systems and other life-saving, or life-changing, applications.

Dr. Deák explained that approximations used for the reverse micelle structure assumed a spherical shape, which his research confirmed is correct in certain scale ranges. However, his research showed that the structure changes to an ellipsoidal or egg-like shape at another range of the scale. He said the research explains variations found in data collected in numerous other studies conducted over decades.

“There was speculation about the assumed shape of the reverse micelle structures, because data collected in studies didn’t always fall in the expected range of calculations, but we didn’t have the ability to determine the shape,” said Dr. Deák, who worked on this project for five years. He combined two existing research techniques to examine various shape considerations for the first time which revealed a decades-long misunderstanding about the structure.

“This shows that we cannot assume shapes of nanostructures. We must determine the shapes and develop techniques to enable us to do this,” said Dr. Deák.

His study is titled “Volumetric determination of reverse micelle structural properties and the validity of commonplace approximations.”

Dr. Deák’s research interests include the molecular dynamics of condensed phases and interfaces, energy transfer mechanisms over self-assembled liquid boundaries, and permeation enhancement of biological tissue. His research has been published in dozens of academic journals, including the prestigious journal Science. He is an inventor on more than two dozen patents.

A faculty member at Scranton since 2002, Dr. Deák earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Buffalo and his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Rochester. He completed post-doctoral studies at the University of Illinois, Champaign.

Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education’s Psychiatry Residency Presenting at Conference

Two scholarly research teams at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education have had their abstracts accepted for presentation at the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Drs. Angelina Singh and Erica Schmidt, resident physicians in the four-year psychiatry residency, and Dr. Sanjay Chandragiri, program director of the psychiatry residency and a psychiatrist at The Wright Center for Community Health’s Scranton Practice, co-authored the scholarly paper, “Catatonia Presenting as Major Depressive Disorder with Psychotic Features: The Case for Increasing the Use of the Lorazepam Challenge.”

The team’s case report demonstrates the importance and challenges of recognizing and treating catatonia, such as schizophrenia, in severely depressed patients with psychotic features, including delusions, hallucinations and paranoia.

Drs. Bilal Khan and Nathan Hoff , resident physicians in the psychiatry residency, co-authored the paper, “Serotonin Syndrome in a 50-Year-Old Female,” with Bretty Aziz, a fourth-year medical student at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine and Chandragiri.

The case report illustrates the potential for severe side effects that may result from interactions between multiple serotonergic agents in patients with serotonin syndrome.

The American Psychiatric Association was founded in 1844. It is the oldest medical association in the United States and the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,400 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. The annual meeting in May, with the theme, “Social Determinants of Mental Health,” is the largest conference in the world for psychiatrists and mental health professionals.

For more information about The Wright Center for Community Health, call 570-343-2383 or go to

Wright Center Student Physicians Present Scholarly Work at Regional Conference

Resident physicians at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education recently presented their scholarly research abstracts at the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Central Pennsylvania Virtual Conference.

The Society of Hospital Medicine’s regional conferences enable global hospitalists to present their research in the scientific abstract competition. Overall, the state conference accepted five abstracts for presentation from Wright Center of Graduate Medical Education student physicians in the internal medicine program. The abstracts are:

Dr. Brihant Sharma presented, “Lemierre’s Syndrome: The Forgotten Disease.”

“A Case of COVID-19 Pneumonia Superimposed by Stubborn Burkholderia” was presented by Dr. Viren Raheja.

Dr. Mohammed Musa Najmuddin offered his work, “Recurrent Venous Thromboembolism Following Paper Wasp Bite in an Adult Male.”

Dr. Omar Syed presented, “Internal Jugular Vein Thrombus in the Setting of Prothrombin Deficiency.”

“Myasthenia Gravis Masquerading Cranial Nerve Deficits: A Diagnostic Challenge” was presented by Dr. Peter Iskander.

Overall, resident physicians in The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education have had 71 scholarly abstracts, written on a wide array of topics in medicine, accepted for presentation at professional conferences since the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year.

Researchers Discover Protein Complex That Promotes Cancer Growth

A discovery by a team of researchers, led by a Geisinger professor, could yield a potential new treatment for breast cancer.

In a study published this month in Cell Reports, the team used small molecules known as peptides to disrupt a complex of two proteins, RBM39 and MLL1, that is found in breast cancer cells but not in normal cells.

The research team discovered that the abnormal interaction between RBM39 and MLL1 is required for breast cancer cells to multiply and survive. The team developed non-toxic peptides that prevent these proteins from interacting in breast cancer cells, disrupting their growth and survival.
“Because these proteins do not interact in normal cells, the peptides we developed are not harmful to them,” said Anne M. Moon, M.D., Ph.D., professor at Geisinger’s Department of Molecular and Functional Genomics and senior author of the study. “This offers promise for future non-toxic cancer treatment.”

Further laboratory tests are needed before the treatment could be trialed in humans, Moon said.

Geisinger’s cancer research also includes the MyCode Community Health Initiative, which returns clinically relevant results to participants at increased genetic risk for cancer, including breast, ovarian and colon cancers. The National Cancer Institute recently awarded Geisinger a 5-year, $3.6 million contract to study the role of genetic variation in cancer through the MyCode initiative.

Geisinger has an exciting research environment with more than 50 full-time research faculty and more than 30 clinician scientists. Areas of expertise include precision health, genomics, informatics, data science, implementation science, outcomes research, health services research, bioethics and clinical trials.

Researchers Find AI Can Predict New Atrial Fibrillation, Stroke Risk

A team of scientists from Geisinger and Tempus have found that artificial intelligence can predict risk of new atrial fibrillation (AF) and AF-related stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia and is associated with numerous health risks, including stroke and death. The study, published in Circulation, used electrical signals from the heart—measured from a 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG)—to identify patients who are likely to develop AF, including those at risk for AF-related stroke.

“Each year, over 300 million ECGs are performed in the U.S. to identify cardiac abnormalities within an episode of care. However, these tests cannot generally detect future potential for negative events like atrial fibrillation or stroke,” said Joel Dudley, chief scientific officer at Tempus. “This critical work stems from our major investments in cardiology to generate algorithms that make existing cardiology tests, such as ECGs, smarter and capable of predicting future clinical events. Our goal is to enable clinicians to act earlier in the course of disease.”

To develop their model, the team of data scientists and medical researchers used 1.6 million ECGs from 430,000 patients over 35 years of patient care at Geisinger. These data were used to train a deep neural network—a specialized class of artificial intelligence—to predict, among patients without a previous history of AF, who would develop AF within 12 months. The neural network performance exceeded that of current clinical models for predicting AF risk. Furthermore, 62% of patients without known AF who experienced an AF-related stroke within three years were identified as high risk by the model before the stroke occurred.

“Not only can we now predict who is at risk of developing atrial fibrillation, but this work shows that the high risk prediction precedes many AF-related strokes,” said Brandon Fornwalt, M.D., Ph.D., co-senior author and chair of Geisinger’s Department of Translational Data Science and Informatics. “With that kind of information, we can change the way these patients are screened and treated, potentially preventing such severe outcomes. This is huge for patients.”

Geisinger and Tempus continue to work together to advance precision medicine using practical applications of artificial intelligence. Funding for this project was provided by Geisinger Clinic and Tempus.

Geisinger has an exciting research environment with more than 50 full-time research faculty and more than 30 clinician scientists. Areas of expertise include precision health, genomics, informatics, data science, implementation science, outcomes research, health services research, bioethics and clinical trials.