Amber Doiron, PhD Microbiology and Biochemistry
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Research interests: My research efforts lie in several interrelated topics: molecular imaging, drug delivery, and nanotoxicity. In my lab, we use nanoparticles in several capacities, study their properties, and attempt to understand their impact on the human body. Current efforts in magnetic resonance imaging are limited by an inability to characterize the functional state of atherosclerotic plaques that lead to heart attacks and stroke. My research attempts to overcome this limitation by creating nanoparticles that are targeted to biomolecules indicative of the disease functional state and with imaging properties that are activated only in the presence of disease processes, thereby selectively detecting a functional disease process critical to plaque stability. Additionally, with the rapid expansion of nanoparticle use in research, manufacturing, and consumer products, understanding the risk of nanoparticle exposure to population health grows paramount. We use in vitro mimics of the vascular endothelium, a critical barrier between blood flow and body tissues, as a means of determining nanoparticle uptake in living systems. Our work currently focuses on elucidating the impact of nanoparticles on the ability of the endothelium to serve as a barrier by investigating the permeability of the cellular monolayer, the cell’s biomechanical response to nanoparticle exposure, and markers of toxicity.
Biofilm focus: Finally, in my work relating to biofilms research, we create polymeric nanoparticles to combat the problem of surface-associated bacterial communities (biofilms) that pose significant problems in medicine. Recent evidence suggests that biofilms require a specific metabolite for growth and maintenance of the biofilm structure. The goal of our research project is to develop a nanoparticle capable of delivering an enzyme that breaks down the metabolite as a treatment strategy for biofilm-related infections.