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Development of magnetic nanoparticles for improved targeted delivery of growth factors


Department of Chemistry

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Dr V Chechik Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only
York United Kingdom Materials Science Pharmaceutical Chemistry

About the Project

Background
Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) can be heated by applying oscillating magnetic field. MNPs can hence be used to thermally destroy biological tissue (e.g., cancer cells) by remote magnetic activation. This method however suffers from lack of specificity and the requirement for high magnetic field exposure. An improved approach involves coating MNPs with a thermally-responsive shell which can release encapsulated drug upon heating. Although this has been demonstrated for delivery of small molecules, this approach has not been used for growth factors (which are proteins, this is very different from small molecule delivery), and this will be the focus of the PhD project.

In this project, we will therefore use MNPs with a thermally-responsive shell to target the delivery of a growth factor that can be released by magnetic activation and trigger cell differentiation. This has no precedent in the literature. Importantly, as all proteins have the same chemical nature, proposed technology can be applied for encapsulation/release of any protein-based therapeutic agents.

Objectives
The main aim of the project is to further develop magnetic nanoparticles for growth factor delivery, based on our preliminary results. Particular emphasis will be on making a modular toolkit for attaching antibodies to magnetic nanoparticles. This will enable versatile targeted delivery of growth factors and other biomacromolecules.

Experimental Approach
The project will benefit greatly from collaboration with colleagues in Biology and Physics/Electronics departments. The synthesis of nanoparticles coated with a thermally-responsive shell is now well established in our laboratories. You will prepare the nanoparticles and demonstrate the feasibility of delivery of model proteins. The project will then focus on chemical conjugation of antibodies to the nanoparticles and a study of targeted delivery of these composites.

Novelty
Our preliminary results demonstrated the feasibility of our approach. We believe that functionalisation of nanoparticles with antibodies will enable targeted delivery of any protein-based therapeutic agents. This will have very significant benefit for many different branches of medicine.

Training
The project is very interdisciplinary. The main research activities are focussed on modification of nanoparticles, and the student will be trained in nanoparticle synthesis and characterisation, polymer synthesis and characterisation, nanoparticle functionalisation. In collaboration with colleagues in Physics/Electronics, the student will be trained to use different techniques to characterise magnetic properties of nanoparticles. Finally, the student will carry out experiments with cells and the training will be provided by colleagues in Biology.

All Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills: https://www.york.ac.uk/chemistry/postgraduate/idtc/

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel: https://www.york.ac.uk/chemistry/ed/.

You should expect hold or expect to achieve the equivalent of at least a UK upper second class degree in Chemistry or a related subject. Please check the entry requirements for your country: https://www.york.ac.uk/study/international/your-country/

Funding Notes

This project is available to students from any country who can fund their own studies. The Department of Chemistry at the University of York is pleased to offer Wild Fund Scholarships. Applications are welcomed from those who meet the PhD entry criteria from any country outside the UK. Scholarships will be awarded on supervisor support, academic merit, country of origin, expressed financial need and departmental strategy. For further details and deadlines, please see our website: https://www.york.ac.uk/chemistry/postgraduate/research/funding/wild/
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