Biodegradable immunotherapeutic nanoparticles: Prevention rather than cure… or both?

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The most cost effective way to treat a disease is prevention. Vaccines have eradicated polio and smallpox globally, and major diseases such as tuberculosis and meningitis in many countries. The global race to develop vaccines against malaria and HIV has accelerated  discoveries in the area of immunology and vaccine technology, raising the  possibility that even diseases without a driving infection, such as  autoimmunity, cancer, and asthma, will also be preventable by vaccines.

Associate Professor Cordelia Selomulya from  the Department of Chemical Engineering, Professor Magdalena Plebanski from the  Department of Immunology, and Professor Ross Coppel from the Department of  Microbiology, have developed DNA-based malaria vaccines, which for the first  time exploit the superparamagnetic property of iron-oxide nanoparticles for  cellular targeting using a magnetic field to enhance immunity.

Based on paradigm changing insights by  Professor Plebanski’s team on how the exposure to nanoparticles and  microparticles beneficially modify immune cells, ongoing joint studies with  researchers in Chemical Engineering are further showing tremendous promise for  these ‘nanomagnets’ and other biocompatible nanoparticles for prevention, as  well as treatment, of diseases including ovarian cancer, malaria and asthma.  The design of micro-carriers for pulmonary delivery using the unique  microfluidic drying technology at Chemical Engineering also paves the route to  utilise these nanoparticles for treatment of chronic lung diseases.

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Using gold nano particles for drug delivery

Associate Professor Wenlong Cheng and  Professor James Whisstock have collaborated as part of an ARC Super Science  project on the development of a ring-forming-protein-based nanoparticle drug  delivery system. This project will incubate new drug delivery techniques and  new knowledge at the nano-bio interface. Wenlong has also collaborated with  Prof David Jans and Dr Kylie Wagstaff on the development of  DNA-nanoparticle-based anticancer therapeutics. This project will lead to novel  “switch-release” gold nano rods as drug delivery to the nucleus of tumour cells  targeted specifically through SELEX-selected RNA-aptamers.