Polymeric discovery opens door for biomedical research

A team of researchers from the University of Central Florida, along with collaborators from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have reported an important research finding that could prove instrumental in biomedical research. The study, led by Abouraddy, an assistant professor from UCF’s College of Optics and Photonics (CREOL), builds on a technique discovered last year to produce uniformly sized polymeric particles.

Polymeric particles (micro or nanoscale) play an important role in medical diagnostics and therapeutics, since they can serve as beacons for detecting pathogens or as vessels to transport drugs. Many approaches have been developed by researchers to produce such particles. However, each technique is typically limited to specific materials and, therefore, produces particles with particular sizes and structures. Using heat and a “stack-and-draw” process, researchers can produce cable-like fibers containing multiple round cores made with the polymer of choice, all encased in a cladding comprised of another polymer.

Controllable access to such a wide range of sizes enables broad applications in cancer treatment, immunology and vaccines. With a tumor, for example, no single nanoparticle size can reach all areas.

Biological application of Abouraddy’s discovery was conducted in Associate Professor Ratna Chakrabarti’s laboratory at the UCF Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, where the research promises significant applications in biomedical science, specifically cancer treatment and disease recognition.

“A major problem these days is the inability to specifically target cancer cells,” says Chakrabarti. “The advantage of this methodology is that it is polymer-independent and allows for the fabrication of a hollow or solid core. The significance of this is that the polymeric particles can be conjugated with antibodies or proteins for specific recognition of a certain type of cancer cell in the body. Also, the shell can be made of a biodegradable polymer, and the hollow core can be filled with a particular drug. This way, the particles could target and deliver drugs specifically to the cancer cells without disturbing normal cells.”

The Sept. 9 edition of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Journal published the UCF CREOL team research, marking the school’s inaugural entry in the journal.