One nanometer is the radius of a DNA molecule. Although the length scale for nanotechnology is under debate, we all agree that their potential to advance new medical breakthroughs is sizeable. Our laboratory prepares nanoscale devices using various techniques.
We routinely formulate nanoparticles to develop new therapies for various diseases (see the Drug & Gene Therapy section). Our philosophy for developing medical devices, especially with regards to nanotechnology, is the careful understanding of their biological interactions. Our favorite biomaterial for nanoparticle formulations is LTP. This biomaterials and its degradation products are non-cytotoxic and not seem to elicit the immune response. We also have the ability to functionalize our nanoparticles with features that are useful for drug delivery, such has targeting specific cells, decorating the surface with PEG to minimize the protein adsorption and cellular interactions, controlling the sizes for enhanced endocytosis, and incorporating a “smart” polymers. Based upon the need of a specific application, our laboratory can adapt the nanoparticle formulations for optimal delivery.
Electrospinning is a versatile method for producing nano-sized fibers and for developing tissue-engineering scaffolds with architecture similar to the extracellular matrix. This technique has been around for almost a century and has been originally developed for textiles. Dr. Darrell Reneker, Distinguished Professor at the University of Akron, is the first to recognize the value of electrospinning for producing nanotechnology.
We fabricate our scaffolds with LTU, biodegradable polyurethane, and other polymers that are appropriate for biomedical applications. We also apply nanofibers as a drug- and gene-delivery platforms and are able to control their surface properties for either enhancement or the inhibition of cellular adhesion. Recently, our investigations in to electrospinning have resulted in novel phenomenon (more to come once we publish the manuscript).
Schematic of LTP nanoparticle that has been encapsulated with a small-molecular-weight drug. Their surface has been decorated with PEG and a targeting molecule.
LTU electrospun fibers encapsulated with a drug (blue). Note the random fiber orientation that results from the electrospinning with a stationary-collections process.