Engineering the Nano-Bio Interface for Applications in Nanomedicine

The convergence of the fields of nanotechnology and medicine has resulted in numerous innovative approaches for sensors, new therapies for diseases, and biomolecular machines. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges for effectively using nanoparticles in biology is the physical interface between the nanomaterial and individual biomolecules, as well as its biological environment. Nanoparticles are highly prone to non-specific adsorption, where proteins and DNA non-covalently stick to their surfaces. This often results in formation of a protein corona, a cloud of weakly bound proteins surrounding the nanoparticle. However, non-specific adsorption can actually be exploited for biological applications. We show how the unique properties of the nano-bio interface can be utilized for different applications. We discuss how we use gold nanorods to reversibly control blood clotting with laser excitation by using the unique size and shape dependent properties of gold nanorods. In addition, we will discuss the use of gold nanoparticles in rapid diagnostics for different infectious diseases such as dengue, zika, chikungunya, Ebola, and others in rugged environments.

hamad-schifferliDr. Kim Hamad-Schifferli is an Associate Professor of Engineering in the College of Science and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus. Her research focuses on revolutionizing biological and medical tools by harnessing nanoscale systems.

The synergistic combination of nanotechnology and biology has resulted in numerous innovative approaches for sensors, new therapies for diseases, and biomolecular machines. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges for effectively using nanoparticles in biology is non-specific adsorption, where proteins and DNA non-covalently stick to nanoparticles. We are studying the fundamental properties of the interface between nanoparticles and biomolecules or their biological surroundings to better engineer nanomaterials for biomedical applications. Also, we are developing ways to exploit the unique properties of non-specific adsorption and protein coronas.