The Biomedical Nanotechnology and Molecular Imaging Laboratory is interested in developing new strategies and technologies for the early detection and treatment of disease.
Our current projects focus on creating nanoparticles for drug delivery and molecular imaging with a focus on detection and treatment of atherosclerosis (heart disease) and other inflammatory diseases.
The design of nanoparticles at a molecular level can have a large influence on particle function, targetability, and toxicity.
By understanding the impact of the chemical building blocks, we aim to create nanoparticles that better detect or treat disease with fewer side effects than conventional agents.
The overall motivation of our lab is to better human health through earlier disease detection, more specific detection of disease severity, and improved understanding of the impact of nanoparticles on living systems.
Nanoparticles are useful in a number of biomedical applications (see some below), and their properties are intimately connected with the chemistry building blocks used to create the particles. We currently have projects involving the synthesis and characterization of gold nanoparticles, superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, and polymeric nanoparticles.
Molecular Imaging Agents for the Detection of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a complex disease that causes heart attacks and strokes, and the disease accounts for thirty percent of worldwide deaths. Information gained from imaging studies helps identify patients at risk for heart attacks and strokes and is used to determine the appropriate treatment. In our lab, we aim to improve patient lifespan and quality of life by creating contrast agents that more effectively detect the dangerous plaques and allow doctors to make the right patient care decisions. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful and useful imaging modality for detection of atherosclerosis, and we design new imaging agents based on gadolinium and superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles for use with MRI. We also have interest in creating drug delivery approaches for atherosclerosis.
People are increasingly exposed to nanoparticles in consumer products and many promising technologies currently in research rely on nanoparticles; however, the effects of nanoparticles on human health are not well understood. This is in part because of the complicated interplay between the human body and the many variable particle properties—size, shape, material composition, surface charge, surface chemistry, etc. In our lab, we aim to study how nanoparticles affect the health and function of human cells grown in vitro, with an emphasis on vascular endothelial cells in a simplified, physiologically-relevant environment in order to generate data from which we can make predictions about the risks of nanoparticle exposure.
Nanoparticles for Enhanced Treatment of Biofilm-Related Infections
Bacterial infections are a common complication of burn wounds, with surface-associated communities of bacteria known as biofilms forming within human burn wounds within 10-24 h of thermal injury. The presence of biofilms in burns is problematic as biofilms are recalcitrant to killing by antimicrobial agents, thus rendering conventional treatment strategies ineffective, with 75% of extensively burned patients dying as a consequence of severe infection. Recent evidence suggests that biofilms require a certain metabolite for both growth and maintenance, with enzymatic depletion of that metabolite impairing biofilm formation and enhancing biofilm disaggregation. However, the enzyme quickly loses its activity at physiological temperature and pH. In order to prolong the activity of the enzyme, we are developing a nanoparticle to encapsulate and protect it. The goal of this project is to improve the stability of the enzyme activity for the highest possible impact on biofilms to translate this as a viable drug delivery formulation.
Biomedical Engineering Society , (Professional Organization)
World Molecular Imaging Society (Professional Organization)