Lederle Graduate Research Tower
710 N PLEASANT ST
Amherst, MA 01003
Principal Research Interests:
A key issue in the use of nanomaterials is controlling how they interact with themselves and with the outer world. We take a multidisciplinary approach to this question, bringing together the fields of chemistry, biology, biomedical engineering and biology. Our research program focuses on the tailoring of nanoparticles of surfaces for a variety of applications, coupling the atomic-level control provided by organic synthesis with the fundamental principles of supramolecular chemistry. Using these nanoparticles, we are developing new strategies for biological applications. In one project we Have developed highly efficient tools for the delivery of proteins and nucleic acids into the cytosol, including functional CRISPR gene editing systems. We are currently translating these into effective in vivo systems.
In another project, we are targeting multi-drug-resistant (MDR) bacteria; a rapidly emerging threat to human health causing thousands of deaths each year in the US alone. The emergence of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria is rapidly accelerating, with strains observed that are resistant to all known antibiotics beginning to emerge. In addition to their immunity to antibiotics, pathogenic bacteria are commonly found in biofilms, making the resulting infections particularly difficult to address. Biofilm formation causes persistent diseases and implant-associated infections, for example, the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) biofilms commonly found in wound infections. In our research we have used self-assembly of polymers to create new constructs that are highly effective against both dispersed and biofilms. These antimicrobials feature low toxicity against mammalian cells (including red blood cells), making them promising as therapeutics for both wound and internal infections.
In a third project, we use the "chemical nose/tongue" approach as a powerful alternative to specific biomarker approaches. In this strategy a sensor array is generated to provide differential interaction with analytes via selective receptors, generating a stimulus response pattern that can be statistically analyzed and used for the identification of individual target analytes and also for profiling of complex mixtures. In our research, we have applied this methodoloy to sensing of proteins, bacteria, and cell surfaces, focusing on areas of biomedical importance. We are using these simple array systems to rapidly diagnose disease. We are also using our use of these systems for cell-surface phenotyping, with applications in the determination of drug mechanisms and in the identification and analysis of cancer stem cells.