Drug-Loaded Patches for Cell-Directed Drug Delivery

Primary Advisor: Brad Berron, Chemical Engineering
Co-advisor:  Hainsworth Shin, Biomedical Engineering

Many promising therapeutics are fundamentally limited by a combination of poor solubility, stability, and temporal biodistribution. Nanoparticle drug carriers are a simple approach for the solubilization and stabilization of therapeutics. This exciting new field of therapeutics is limited by the transport of the therapy in vivo. Most intravenously delivered nanoparticles do not have sufficient time to interact with the intended site, owing to their rapid clearance from the bloodstream. Because of this rapid clearance, some drugs may need to be administered several times a week. We seek to find a way of getting these nanoparticles to stay in the bloodstream longer, so we can inject them less frequently.

In the human body, cells often function as nature’s delivery-vehicle. One specific example is how red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body. Interestingly, these cells circulate in the bloodstream 10-100x longer than most nanoparticles. In this project, we seek to attach nanoparticles to red blood cells, where they can “hitch hike” around the body for weeks. This summer, we will explore the concept of drug release from a small patch of nanoparticle-loaded polymer on red blood cells. In the Berron Lab, the student will learn to make these polymer coatings on glass, study the release of a cancer drug from these patches, and make the patches on cells. In the Shin lab, the student will study if these patches change the cell’s ability to travel through the circulatory system.

Objective: To develop patches for the outside of red blood cells, to allow long delivery times for a drug.

Major project outcomes:

  • Design drug loaded polymer coatings on glass.
  • Quantify the release of a cancer drug from these patches.
  • Determine how patch design influences the release of drugs from the patch.
  • Put patches on cells.
  • Evaluate how the patches influence red blood cell function.

Potential methods the student will use: polymer chemistry, photochemistry, cell culture, flow cytometry, cell analysis, fluorescent microscopy techniques.