Microscale Single Cell Cancer Metabolism Research Earns Honor for Coulter BME Assistant Professor
By Emma Ryan
Georgia Tech faculty member Ahmet Coskun has been named a Rising Star by the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (CMBE) Special Intertest Group. He is the first faculty member from Tech to receive the award in more than a decade.
The award recognizes a handful of outstanding junior investigators every year for work that advances the medical field through the study of cells, molecules, and microenvironments. BMES honored Coskun for his work on microscale metabolic imaging for cancer treatment. His team explores the connections between metabolism and immunity and examines cancer patients’ responses to treatments based on their individual lifestyles.
Coskun said examining cells on a micro-scale is the future of medicine, and he hopes the award will help him make immunotherapy more efficient.
“There’s no other technology out there that can do what we are doing in our lab,” said Coskun, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “Cells control everything in our body, and molecular bioengineering is key because we can understand tissues on the micro level.”
The award provides Coskun with a niche community and the opportunity to exchange findings with like-minded colleagues, he said. On January 6, he will present his research during the 2023 BMES-Cell and Molecular Engineering Conference.
“Mentorship mattered a lot in this process, and I’m very grateful for the supportive people in the Coulter BME Department and at the Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech,” Coskun said. “I’m also grateful to the dedicated students in my lab. They’ve published key papers in their respective fields that have made a real impact, and their perseverance, patience, and curiosity are the major drivers of my research group.”
Coskun has been developing technology to visualize tumor molecules at the single-cell level, a much higher resolution than traditional technologies. Coskun compared his process to examining the individual fruits in a smoothie, rather than the smoothie itself. With this level of detail, he then builds a microenvironment, cell by cell, that maps the metabolic activity of the different cell types in the tumor.
Coskun and his team use this cell data in conjunction with artificial intelligence to predict, design, and eventually prescribe treatments based on an individual’s metabolic activity. The end goal, Coskun said, is to understand how different diets and lifestyles affect a patient’s response to cancer and to help their immune system become more metabolically competent.
“The unresolved challenges of medicine and why we lose our loved ones go back to these mechanisms,” Coskun said. “If I can understand cells in their original environments and I can build environments that communicate what’s happening in their tissues, then I can contribute to healthy aging and the management of deadly diseases.”