Current Projects

Pluronic-based Nanoparticles as novel DNA transfection vectors

​This project is focused on the design of new non-viral DNA transfection vectors based upon neutral polymers that are non-toxic, are easily cleared from the body, and are biodegradable in the environment. This will be accomplished through a systematic determination of nanoparticle properties known to be important considerations for the design of non-viral transfection systems, and by correlating the results of these physicochemical studies with assays of transfection efficiency and gene expression. This will ultimately provide us with a detailed understanding of which properties provide the most insight into the design of more effective, new formulations. The eventual goal of our work is to apply our newly designed delivery systems to a gene therapy treatment for ovarian cancer, which is now the fourth leading cause of all cancer-related deaths.

Transfection data for pluronic nanoparticles

Gelatin Nanoparticles for Gene Therapy Applications

Derivatives of gelatin will be examined for their ability to form nanoparticles suitable for DNA transfection and application to gene therapy.  Gelatin is a natural amino acid polymer, derived from collagen, and is commonly used in pharmaceutical products due to its biocompatibility.  Nanoparticles will be formulated from the modified gelatin derivatives, DNA, pluronics, and other excipients and applyed to our ongoing projects investigating new therapies for ovarian cancer.

Scheme of alendronate modified gelatin

Self-Emulsifying Drug Delivery Systems (SEDDS)

Self-emulsifying drug delivery systems (including both self-microemulsifying (SMEDDS) and self nanoemulsifying systems (SNEDDS) are of great interest as candidate formulations for the delivery of low solubility drugs.  Self-emulsifying systems and in particular, microemulsions, are of extreme interest due to their small particle size and ability to self emulsify upon gastric contact, alleviating solubility and bioavailability issues.

Ternary phase diagram for microemulsions

Gold Nanoparticles for Prostate Cancer Treatment

​We are examining the application of targeted gold nanoparticles for the treatment of prostate cancer.  Gold nanoparticles will be functionalized with an extract from Green Tea, which has shown an affinity for prostate tumor cells.  Various effects of the gold nanoparticles on radiation therapy (radiosensitization, thermal sensitization, etc.) will be examined using cell viability assays prior to moving to in vivo testing.

This project is a partnership between our lab, Grand River Hospital, and the Ontario Veterinary College. 

cucurmin loaded gold nanoparticles at 20 nm scale
cucurmin loaded gold nanoparticles at 100 nm scale

Cucurmin loaded gold nanoparticles (above)

Langmuir Monolayer Studies of Model Cellular Membranes - Optimization of Drug Delivery Systems

​Using our CFI funded Brewster's Angle Microscope and Infrared Reflected Absorbance Spectrometer systems, we are conducting studies of model cellular membranes, and how the organization of the lipid components of these membranes are disrupted upon exposure to surface active components of drug delivery systems.  This information will allow us to design better formulations, particularly for systems under investigation for gene therapy applications.

Langmuir Isotherm plots
BAM images