A Decade of Scholarly Pursuit and Discovery

New technologies highlight 10 years of breakthroughs

Part of the A Decade at Duke Series
Bogdan Popa, a research scientist in electrical and computer engineering, shows off the 3D acoustic cloak he helped design and build as a member of Steven Cummer’s laboratory

Research from a New Point of View

Aerial shot of a small boat near whales

Over the past decade, drone technology has provided new opportunities for Duke research — both within the university and out in the field. Across the university, researchers found myriad uses for these relatively inexpensive new tools that provide a valuable new vantage point for examination of everything from ancient Roman ruins to the eating habits of whales to the migratory patterns of turtles.

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Duke Health Team Performs First Bilateral Hand Transplant

Debra Kelly, recipient of first bilateral hand transplant in North Carolina, looks at her new hands

In April 2017, Debra Kelly developed an invasive strep A infection that almost killed her and required her hands and legs to be amputated. Just 10 months after learning about Duke’s hand transplant program, Kelly became the first person in North Carolina to receive a bilateral hand transplant. The surgery, which took place on Thanksgiving Day 2018, took 14 hours and involved a team of 40 Duke medical personnel.

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Finding Philosophy’s Female Voices

Andrew Janiak and the Project Vox team.

Andrew Janiak and a research team of staff and students — along with colleagues at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania — are pushing fundamental, seismic changes to how philosophy is taught. To reach the larger philosophy world, Janiak’s team is developing Project Vox, an open-source website to provide resources for teachers. It will include sample syllabi and translated writings of philosophers that until now have been under-studied.

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Dr. Jeffrey Lawson and Shawn Gage implant a bioengineered blood vessel into a patient

In a first-of-its-kind operation in the United States, a team of doctors at Duke University Hospital helped create a bioengineered blood vessel and transplanted it into the arm of a patient with end-stage kidney disease. The procedure was a milestone in the field of tissue engineering. The new vein was an off-the-shelf, human cell-based product with no biological properties that would cause organ rejection.

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Diego Bohórquez delivers a Ted Talk

For decades, researchers believed that hormones in the bloodstream were the indirect channel between the gut and the brain, but recent Duke research suggests the lines of communication behind “gut feeling” is more direct and speedy than a diffusion of hormones. Using a rabies virus jacked up with green fluorescence, Duke researchers traced a signal as it traveled from the intestines to the brainstem of mice. They were shocked to see the signal cross a single synapse in under 100 milliseconds, faster than the blink of an eye.

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Duke RESEARCHERS use polio virus therapy to treat brain cancer

Dr. Alan Friedman performs a glioblastoma biopsy at Duke University Hospital

A new therapy developed at Duke Cancer Institute showed significantly improved long-term survival for patients with recurrent glioblastoma. The therapy includes a genetically modified form of the poliovirus vaccine, which is infused directly into the brain tumor via a surgically implanted catheter. Developed by
Matthias Gromeier in his lab at Duke, the modified virus preferentially zeroes in on tumor cells, igniting a targeted immune response.

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Beyond Materials:From Invisibility Cloaks to Satellite Communications

Bogdan Popa, a research scientist in electrical and computer engineering, shows off the 3D acoustic cloak he helped design and build as a member of Steven Cummer’s laboratory

The Center for Metamaterials and Integrated Plasmonics (CMIP) consists of a group of researchers dedicated to the exploration of artificially structured materials and their potential impact across a broad range of technologies. In 2012, CMIP demonstarted not only acoustic cloaking but also the use of metamaterials to form a microwave imager for security applications.

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Duke Graduate Student Discovers Haiti's Original Declaration of Independence in British Archives

Newspaper clip featuring graduate student Julia Gaffield

While researcing the early independence of Haiti, graduate student Julia Gaffield found what is believed to be the only known printed copy of Haiti's Declaration of Independence. Gaffield found the document, an eight-page pamphlet dated Jan. 1, 1804, in the British National Archives in London. It is only the second declaration of its kind in the world, the first being the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Gaffield, who was researching early 19th century Haiti for her doctoral dissertation in history, said the document had been overlooked in the British archives, even as researchers spent decades searching for it in Haiti.

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Duke Launches Autism Research App

An iPhone app that helps screen young children for signs of autism creates landmarks on the child’s face for software analysis of her facial expressions

A team of researchers and software developers from Duke University and the Duke Medical Center introduced a free iOS app to learn more about autism in young children living around the world. Beginning in 2015, the Apple store offered a ResearchKit app called “Autism & Beyond” for use on iOS devices. Resaerch published in 2018 found that the app is easy to use, welcomed by caregivers and good at producing reliable scientific data.

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Brain Tumor 'Pied Piper' Device Gains Breakthrough Status

Ravi Bellamkonda

A biomedical tool developed by Pratt School of Engineering dean Ravi Bellamkonda and team was designated a “Breakthrough Device” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2019. Dubbed the Tumor Monorail, the device mimics the physical properties of the brain’s white matter to entice aggressive tumors to migrate toward the exterior of the brain, where the migrating cells can be collected and removed. The purpose of the device is not to destroy the tumor, but to halt its lethal spread, making the disease more of a condition to manage than a death sentence.

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