Work within the group focusses on three main areas.
The development of stimuli responsive theranostic nanotechnologies for targeted cancer therapy, development of novel antimicrobial nano-formulations to combat resistance and the nano-formulation of bioactive compounds for crop protection.
Stimuli responsive theranostic nanotechnologies
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth biggest killer in the western world, after diagnosis, the most a patient can currently hope for is a 30% chance of surviving more than 5 years. Late diagnosis and delays in treatment, reduces the probability of successfully treating the cancer. Theranostics are emerging platforms which offer simultaneous diagnosis and therapy resulting in decreased treatment times. These allow for real time imaging after administration enabling location mapping before initiating drug release. By coupling treatments to diagnostics, and controlling drug release a rapid and localised clinical effect can be achieved.
Hybrid nanoparticles (HNPs) composed of an iron oxide core surrounded by a gold shell have been shown to undergo physical manipulation due to inherent magnetism of the core and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) of the gold shell. This allows for tracking using magnetic resonance imaging, whilst laser irradiation at the SPR can trigger drug release.
The overarching aim in our work is to develop novel theranostic ‘nano-ninjas’ which undergo triggered release upon laser irradiation.
Anti-microbial resistance is a global problem that is affecting modern healthcare from the treatment of minor infections to interference with chemotherapies. This work concerns the use of metallic nanoparticles, and designer polymers which will be used to bombard bacteria in combination therapies to overcome such resistance and therapy interference. By targeting more than one bacterial function, it is proposed that increased efficacy and reduced resistance will be achieved.
Nano-formulation of bioactive compounds
New solutions for managing insect pests are urgently needed due to evolution of resistance to current insecticides. Insect pests cause annual losses of US$17.7 billion to the Brazilian economy. Our project led by Professor Toby Bruce focuses on development and bioactivity testing of nanotech and metallic coordination complexes as novel delivery mechanisms for bioactive phytochemcials, to provide new options for crop protection. By using defensive non-host phytochemicals, outside the metabolome of inbred crops, we can deliver phytochemcials that crop pests have not evolved with. UK-Brazil collaboration provides an ideal opportunity to share expertise and strengthen this new and promising area of research.