Center for Molecular Imaging & Nanotechnology: Projects

Our researchers are working on the following pilot projects funded by the CMINT.

Cancer Vaccines Based on PRINT Technology

CMINT investigators have partnered with Liquidia, Inc. to develop a new type of cancer vaccine using PRINT technology, a lithographic method used to fabricate nanomaterials. The vaccine will be designed to harness the immune system to prevent or treat malignant melanoma and will be based on two approaches: delivering cancer-associated antigens to dendritic cells and developing nucleic acid vaccines based on the design of virus-like replicon vector particles.

Using Liposomal Nanosensors to Interrogate Radiation Therapy Response

We employ a unique nanosensor particle to interrogate a novel biological effector in radiation therapy. The particle makes it possible to visualize the activity of the metabolic enzyme Acid Sphingomyelinase (ASMase) in vivo by magnetic resonance imaging, noninvasively and in near real time. We are exploring its potential to develop a clinical tool for immediate assessment of radiosensitivity of tumors in cancer patients.

Delivery of siRNA with Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes

CMINT researchers are conducting proof-of-concept experiments to demonstrate that small interfering RNAs (siRNA) can be delivered to cells using functionalized single-walled carbon nanotubes (f-CNT) as the delivery vehicle, and that this siRNA can be off-loaded to silence the expression of reporter genes in vitro and in vivo. In addition, we are evaluating the pharmacokinetic profiles for tissue biodistribution and clearance of these particles.

Engineering of T cell-Regenerating Tissue Using Native Extracellular Matrix Nanofibers and Synthetic Biodegradable Polymer Nanofibers

We use two methods to generate three-dimensional nanofiber scaffolds designed to support T cell regeneration:  decellularization of human thymic tissue, and engineering of biomimetic fiber scaffolds using synthetic and natural polymers. Animal studies will show whether the implantation of these nanofiber-based tissue constructs can enhance immunity after transplantation and potentially benefit patients by decreasing the risk for opportunistic infections and cancer progression.

Nanosensor for miRNA Detection in Live Cells and Tissues

We are developing a nanoscale sensor platform to spatially detect the presence concentration of specific micro RNAs (miRNAs) within live cells and tissues in real time, with the goal to apply the technology as an early cancer detection or diagnostic tool. We use the changing fluorescence signal to develop these label-free sensors with high specificity and multiplexing ability of different miRNA sequences. 

Targeting Skeletal Metastases Using Novel Mechanisms of HPMA Copolymer Delivery and Retention

CMINT investigators are developing a new system to detect and therapeutically target metastatic carcinoma tumors in the bone. We study cell populations that are capable of taking up and retaining copolymers of HPMA, a nanometer-size, water-soluble polymer that can be used to link pharmaceutical or detections agents.

Systemic Approach for In Situ Detection, Imaging, and Analysis of Carbon Nanotubes and other Nanomaterials in Mice

We are creating standardized approaches to be able to detect single-walled carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials in tissue sections with increased precision. These approaches will enable us to better understand and interpret data on the pharmacokinetics of nanomaterials, including delivery, accumulation, and excretion.

A General Cancer Detection Method Using Surface-Enhanced Resonance Raman Scattering Nanoparticles

We are developing an intraoperative detection method to discriminate between malignant and benign tissues using a set of ultra bright surface-enhanced resonance Raman scattering (SERRS) nanoparticles. These particles are targeted against a four-protein signature known to be specific to cancer. The method will be validated for use with small handheld wireless Raman scanners to detect tumors in patients during surgical procedures.

Development of Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticles for Bone Marrow Targeting

CMINT researchers are developing mesoporous silica particles functionalized with a bifunctional chelator DOTA (1,4,7,10-tetraazacyclododecane-1,4,7,10-tetraacetic acid) for optimal targeting of the reticuloendothelial system. The particles are labeled with the PET radiometals gallium-68 and copper-64 to allow us to image and quantify their uptake in the bone marrow. The goal of the project is to develop noninvasive methods to quantify bone marrow, and to potentially deliver radioprotective agents such as WR2721 to bone marrow cells to prevent radiation-induced injury. 

Covalent Immobilization of Nanomaterials on Malignant Tissues In Vivo

We are developing new technology applicable for PET imaging and radiotherapy by targeting nanomaterials via the interaction of a tetrazine and trans-cyclooctene. The technology has the potential to reduce hepatic and renal side effects of radiotherapy while permitting higher tolerated doses.