Fulbright scholar to study nano-sized polymer magnetic complexes

Blacksburg, Va., April 25, 2003 -- For his Ph.D. dissertation, Michael Zalich is working on polymer-magnetite complexes for potential biological applications.

Zalich, a student in synthetic-polymer chemistry at Virginia Tech, who is working with chemistry professor Judy Riffle, has received a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research at the University of Western Australia. This research will involve the synthesis and characterization of 30-100 nm magnetite particles coated with a biocompatible polymeric stabilizer. Understanding the structure-property relationships of these materials is crucial in developing new technologies based on polymer-coated magnetic nanoparticles. Current technology using magnetic particles is limited by the lack of control over the shape and size and a lack of understanding of magnetic nanoparticle properties. Perhaps even more important, the fundamental chemistry required for achieving precise non-toxic polymer sheaths around such particles will be critical for biomedical applications.

Advancements in preparing and understanding polymer-magnetic particle complexes may lead to our ability to localize high concentrations of drugs at a tumor site. The proposed technology could provide the core materials for localizing polymer-magnetic particle complexes in tumors. These technologies could reduce the extreme side effects that occur with systemic cancer therapies.

In Australia, Zalich will study with Tim St. Pierre, a professor of physics at the University of Western Australia. St. Pierre, an expert in the area of magnetic nanoparticle characterization, has been studying the structure and magnetism of nanoscale iron oxides since the mid-1980s.

Zalich and his group have been sending the particles they create, including those coated with biocompatible/biodegradable polymeric stabilizers, to St. Pierre for characterization to further understand their properties. A graduate student of St. Pierre's spent some time

Contact: Sally Harris
Virginia Tech

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