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Photodynamic Cancer Therapy Using Gold Nanoparticles

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Volk
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Supervisors: Dr. M. Volk and Prof. M. Brust

Applications are invited for a graduate to join the Department of Chemistry, University of Liverpool, UK, for a 42-month Graduate Teaching Assistant PhD studentship.

The project will investigate the use of gold nanoparticles (GNPs) as alternative sensitizers in photo¬dynamic cancer therapy, making use of their high photostability, the possibility of passive or even active targeting, and the ability to use Near Infrared (NIR)-light with better tissue penetration.

Whereas the potential of GNPs for photothermal therapy, i.e. the induction of cancer cell death by heat, has been clearly established, the feasibility of a photochemical route, which may provide better localisation and thus selectivity of the effect, is still under investigation. Preliminary results in our group show that laser irradiation of GNPs in cancer cells can lead to morphological changes of the cells and cell death in the absence of significant heating (Nano Lett. 2010, 10, 4549). More recent results confirm the photochemical mechanism of cell killing by citrate-stabilised GNPs; in contrast, GNPs with a peptide capping layer were found to achieve cell death only via the photothermal route. The mechanism of the photochemical effect has been shown to be the generation of singlet oxygen, which is prevented by a dense capping layer.

The work above used spherical GNPs which do not absorb in the NIR; in this project, we plan to extend the work to gold nanorods (GNRs) whose plasmon band is in the NIR. Unlike GNPs, GNRs cannot be prepared without capping layer, but reports in the literature suggest that suitable capping layers exist that allow photogeneration of singlet oxygen by GNRs. The student will develop such layers, test GNRs for singlet oxygen photo¬generation, optimise cell uptake and investigate laser-induced cancer cell killing. In parallel, the student will, in collaboration with clinical researchers, aim to bring the approach closer to practical applications. Potential targets for this are malignant cutaneous T lymphocytes, whose location in the skin makes them accessible to visible light, or post-surgical treatment of certain types of head and neck cancers which also are directly accessible by light.

The studentship includes a commitment to work up to 144 hours per academic year to help with teaching-related activities in modules currently taught at the Department of Chemistry, as assigned by the Head of Department or his representative.

The successful applicant should have (or expect to obtain in 2016) a good degree in Chemistry, Physics, Biophysics or a closely related subject at Masters level (MChem, MPhys, MSc or equivalent). The candidate should be highly motivated, curious, have competent English communication skills and be able to work both as part of a team and independently. Experience with nanomaterials, photochemistry and/or cell culture work would be an advantage, but is not a prerequisite.

The position is available from 1st October 2016.

Applications should be submitted as soon as possible,and no later than 29 February 2016, by completing the online postgraduate research application form at, clearly stating the project title and supervisors. For informal enquiries, please contact Dr. Martin Volk, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, ++44-151-794-3317, [Email Address Removed].

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to UK/EU nationals only and will pay full tuition fees and a maintenance grant for 42 months (£14,057 in 2015/2016). Non-EU nationals are not eligible for these positions and applications from non-EU candidates will not be considered.

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