5640 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
chunge at uchicago.edu
My research interests involve the design, development, characterization, and application of peptide amphiphiles for cardiovascular and cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. Specifically, we are currently investigating monocyte-targeting, peptide amphiphile spherical micelles for early diagnosis of atherosclerosis. One of the first markers of atherosclerotic plaques is the inflammatory activation of endothelial cells which recruit monocytes in large quantities. Therefore, a molecular imaging tool that binds specifically to monocytes may provide a noninvasive, detection system for early-staged atherosclerosis. In addition to optical imaging, micelles are being tailored for detection using MRI and CT. Moreover, we are developing micelles that incorporate therapies as well as markers specific to vulnerable plaques.
For cancer, in collaboration with the Lesniak group, peptide amphiphile micelles that bind to brain cancer markers are investigated as diagnostic tools and chemotherapy carriers. By taking advantage of the leaky vasculature and the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect characteristic to tumors, the brain blood barrier (BBB) is bypassed and the payload delivered.
Eun Ji Chung received her BA in Molecular Biology at Scripps College (Claremont, CA) and her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Northwestern University. As an undergraduate thesis student at Scripps, Eun Ji investigated the role of histone deacetylases in Tetrahymena thermophila in the laboratory of Dr. Emily Wiley. At Northwestern, she developed novel, citric acid-based polymers and nanocomposites for bone and ligament tissue engineering under the direction of Guillermo A. Ameer. Upon receiving the IBNAM-Baxter Early Career Award, she continued her research as a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern, where she focused on fabricating self-assembling membranes derived from natural ECM proteins and carbohydrates for applications in regenerative medicine. Eun Ji joined the Institute for Molecular Engineering in 2012 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Matthew Tirrell’s group, and also a recipient of the American Heart Association postdoctoral fellowship. Her current research aims to develop an early detection system and a minimally invasive, diagnostic tool for atherosclerosis through the molecular design of peptide amphiphile micelles. Her overall research interests and goals seek to develop biomaterials that can be utilized in medicine.