NanoMaterials for Biology Group

Research

Sensors for Cellular Imaging​

One of the main challenges of understanding how nanomaterials interact with cells is determining exactly where the material is located inside the cell. Cells contain hundreds of sub-compartments that have different chemical and enzymatic environments, and understanding what these environments are like is critical to designing materials that will respond in a desirable fashion once they are inside the cell. The aim of this project will be to develop molecular sensors that can detect the local environment that the capsules are exposed to.

Understanding Cellular Processing of Nanoengineered Capsules

The therapeutic effect of most drugs occurs in specific locations within the cell, so the intracellular fate of drugs is vital. Nanoengineered materials are increasingly being used to deliver novel therapeutics, however the cellular processing of these nanoengineered materials is not well understood. This project will aim to understand the mechanisms of how nanocapsules enter cells and look at the role that particle size, surface functionality and targeting molecules play in this process. This work will have implications for improved vaccine and gene therapy, particularly for diseases such as HIV and cancer.

Quantifying Internalisation Into Cells

 

Uptake of material into cells plays a critical role in drug delivery, immunity and cell development. We have developed a simple, high throughput method for determining the uptake of proteins and nanoparticles using a DNA molecular switch. This method (SHIP) works by using a nucleic acid sensor that specifically quenches the fluorescence of material that remains on the surface of the cell, but does not affect the fluorescence of internalised material. The advantages of this technique over existing assays is that it is compatible with conventional cell phenotyping, it is independent of the cellular fate of the material and allows quantification of the internalised material.

Formulation of Self-Assembling Nano-Vaccines

 

In recent years there has been significant advances in vaccine technology to treat diseases such as HIV, flu and even cancer. However, a number of these new vaccines are limited in their in vivo activity as they degraded too readily by the body. Encapsulating the vaccine in nanoparticles protects the vaccine from degradation and can target it to specific immune cells. We have developed a new self-assembling polymer system which allows us to control the size and degradability by altering the composition of the particles. In this project, you will investigate the formulation of particles by varying the molecular weight of polymers used, and load a model vaccine into the carrier.