Washington University chosen as NIH Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology

ive agent and then a permeation peptide that allows entry into cells, and the nanomaterial becomes more sophisticated. Incorporated into the nanoparticle will be a chelater that will hold onto copper 64 enabling collaborator Michael Welch, Ph.D., professor of radiology in the Washington University School of Medicine, to image the injured tissue with positron emission tomography (PET); once the nanoparticles concentrate at the injury sight , they will light up under PET imaging.

But how do the nanoparticles know how to find the specific tissue? Enter John-Stephen Taylor, Ph.D., Washington University professor of chemistry, a synthetic organic chemist who identifies a genetic sequence made by the over expression of messenger RNA (mRNA), a hallmark of tumor cells. Taylor can make a sequence that binds to the cancerous mRNA, making a docking site for the nanoparticles.

PEN collaborators Jean Frechet, Ph.D., of the University of California-Berkeley, and Craig Hawker, Ph.D., of the University of California-Santa Barbara, are working on a function that will trigger a breakdown of the nanoparticles after they deliver their payload a drug or antiviral agent, for instance.

Wooley and her collaborators have been able to make this nanosystem work in vivo, targeting cancer cells. One prime goal is to use it to image gene therapy. This is just one of many applications that Wooley and her collaborators believe will come out of the research performed in the Program, with emphasis, ultimately, on translation to treat pulmonary and acute vascular inflammation and injury in humans.

"We're excited by the many possibilities collaboration such as this affords, and gratified that NHLBI has chosen us," Wooley said. "We are going to make sure that this technology is learned, shared, improved and disseminated through publications and presentations nationwide."


Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis

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