X-ray triggered nano-bubbles to target cancer

13 July 2018:

Innovative drug filled nano-bubbles, able to be successfully triggered in the body by X-rays, have been developed by CNBP and Macquarie University researchers, paving the way for a new range of cancer treatments for patients.

The tiny bubbles, known as liposomes, are commonly used in pharmacology to encapsulate drugs, making them more effective in the treatment of disease. Researchers have now been able to engineer these liposomes to discharge their drug cargo on-demand, once activated by standard X-rays. Initial testing has shown this technique to be highly efficient in killing bowel cancer cells.

“The development and application of various nanomaterial designs for drug delivery is currently a key focus area in nanomedicine,” says lead author of the research Dr Wei Deng (pictured), Associate Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and scientist at Macquarie University when the research was undertaken.

“Liposomes are already well established as an extremely effective drug-delivery system. Made out of similar material as cell membranes, these ‘bubbles’ are relatively simple to prepare, can be filled with appropriate medications and then injected into specific parts of the body. The issue however, is in controlling the timely release of the drug from the liposome,” she says.

“We have ensured that the liposomes release their drug pay-load at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place to ensure the most effective treatment. One way of doing this is to trigger the collapse of the liposome when and where it is needed. Our X-ray triggerable liposomes allow this on-demand drug-release to occur,” says Dr Wei Deng.

“The approach we took was to embed gold nanoparticles and the photo-sensitive molecule verteporfin into the wall of the liposome.”

“The radiation from the X-ray causes the verteporfin to react and to produce highly reactive singlet oxygen which then destabilises the liposomal membrane, causing the release of the drug,” says Dr Wei Deng.

“The gold nanoparticles are added into the mix as they focus the X-ray energy. This enhances the singlet oxygen generation and hence improves the speed of the membrane breakup”, she says.

Read the full media release here.

Journal: Nature Communications.

Publication title: Controlled gene and drug release from a liposomal delivery platform triggered by X-ray radiation.

Authors: Wei Deng, Wenjie Chen, Sandhya Clement, Anna Guller, Zhenjun Zhao, Alexander Engel & Ewa M. Goldys.

Below – Dr Wei Deng.

Research translation is focus of CNBP workshop

11 July 2018:

The take-home message from CNBP’s two day ‘Research Translation’ workshop, held in Adelaide, the 5th and 6th of July, was that high quality science can change people’s lives and that the research that CNBP undertakes is truly transformative with huge translation potential.

Over 75 CNBP researchers, students, partners and invited guests attended the workshop which was based at the University of Adelaide on Day One and which then moved to the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institution (SAHMRI) on Day Two.

During the workshop CNBP researchers worked in small groups with senior clinicians to learn about clinical problems and discuss how their research could be translated. They also heard from several leading clinicians about what it’s like to be part of a clinical translation project.

Additional talks described clinical translation from ‘the other side’ – with technical researchers explaining the steps involved in translating a new technology, and drawing on their real-world experiences and outlining key learnings that had been made. Dr Anne Collins then brought insight from a commercial perspective, providing a detailed case study of one of Trajan Scientific and Medical’s most recent market products.

A number of CNBP researchers, from all nodes across the Centre, then presented brief updates on clinically-related projects that are currently underway. This culminated in a master-class led and coordinated by CNBP CI Nicki Packer on seeing nanoparticles at super resolution in cells.

CNBP Director Prof Mark Hutchinson wrapped-up workshop proceedings noting that he had been highly impressed with the science and information presented and encouraged the CNBP team to keep ‘commercialisation impact’ top of mind as this was one of the Centre’s core values.

Prof Rob McLaughlin, Founder of Miniprobes and Senior CNBP Investigator, who helped host the event noted, “We’d like express our gratitude to all of the clinicians who made the workshop such a success: Jillian Clark, Rob Fitridge, Adam Wells, Phan Nguyen, Nam Nguyen, Tarik Sammour, Hidde Kroon, Sam Parvar and Nagendra Dudi-Venkata. Our thanks also to Anne Collins from Trajan Scientific and Medical, and Andrew Abell.”

Informal feedback from attendees at the event was that they had experienced a highly informative and rewarding two days of translational workshop activity.

Note – a brief visual video of the event has been produced by Dr Johan Verjans here.

Below – Dr Johan Verjans CNBP AI at SAHMRI discusses the need to work closely with clinicians to successfully translate research into the clinical environment.

Vitamin D no defence against dementia

10 July 2018:

New research from South Australian scientists has shown that vitamin D (also commonly known as the sunshine vitamin) is unlikely to protect individuals from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease or other brain-related disorders.

The findings, released today in the science journal ‘Nutritional Neuroscience’ reported that researchers had failed to find solid clinical evidence for vitamin D as a protective neurological agent.

“Our work counters an emerging belief held in some quarters suggesting that higher levels of vitamin D can impact positively on brain health,” says lead author Krystal Iacopetta (pictured), PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide.

“The results of our in-depth review and an analysis of all the scientific literature indicates that  there is no convincing evidence supporting vitamin D as a protective agent for the brain,” she says.

Mark Hutchinson, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) and Professor at the University of Adelaide worked with Ms Iacopetta on the research and findings.

“This outcome is important and is based on an extremely comprehensive review and analysis of current data and relevant scientific publications,” Professor Hutchinson says.

“We’ve broken a commonly held belief that vitamin D resulting from sun exposure is good for your brain.”

Interestingly, Professor Hutchinson notes that there may be evidence that UV light (sun exposure) could impact the brain beneficially, in ways other than that related to levels of vitamin D.

“There are some early studies that suggest that UV exposure could have a positive impact on some neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis,” he says. “We have presented critical evidence that UV light may impact molecular processes in the brain in a manner that has absolutely nothing to do with vitamin D.”

“We need to complete far more research in this area to fully understand what’s happening,” says Professor Hutchinson.

Read the full media release here.

Journal: Nutritional Neuroscience.

Publication title: Are the protective benefits of vitamin D in neurodegenerative disease dependent on route of administration? A systematic review.

Authors: Krystal Iacopetta, Lyndsey E. Collins-Praino, Femke T. A. Buisman-Pijlman, Jiajun Liu, Amanda D. Hutchinson & Mark R. Hutchinson.

Fresh Science with a nano-diamond twist

20 June 2018:

Approximately 100 patrons at the Belgian Beer Cafe in Melbourne were treated to ten researchers showcasing their science as part of the ‘Fresh Science’ initiative (Victoria), June 20th, 2018.

One of those ten researchers was CNBP student Marco Capelli from RMIT University who was a successful applicant to Fresh Science – a program that trains early career scientists on how to best communicate and present their  activity to the media and to the wider general public at large.

Studying the brain using ulta-small diamonds was the scientific narrative practiced and delivered by Marco as part of his public presentation at the Cafe.

“Fresh Science was an amazing experience,” says Marco.

“Over the course of two days, I had the chance to interact with journalists from different media (including television, radio and newspaper) as well as representatives from industry and policymakers. From each of them, I learned how to tailor my scientific exposition to a variety of audiences, how to highlight my research and how to successfully pitch my ideas.”

“I particularly enjoyed testing myself in front of professionals from each field as well as receiving immediate feedback on my presentation skills. Fresh Science is an experience I strongly endorse to any ECR researcher (PhD students included) looking to improve their communication skills.”

Below: CNBP PhD student Marco Capelli talks nano materials at the Belgian Beer Cafe in Melbourne. Image courtesy of Science in Public (Fresh Science).

New X-ray-induced photodynamic therapy system

19 June 2018:

Researchers from CNBP have developed an X-ray-induced photodynamic therapy (PDT) system where nanoparticles incorporating a photosensitizer, verteporfin, were triggered by X-ray radiation to generate cytotoxic singlet oxygen. This system offers the possibility of enhancing the radiation therapy commonly prescribed for the treatment of cancer by simultaneous PDT.

Lead author on the paper was Dr Sandhya Clement (pictured).

Journal: International Journal of Nanomedicine.

Publication title: X-ray radiation-induced and targeted photodynamic therapy with folic acid-conjugated biodegradable nanoconstructs.

Authors: Sandhya Clement, Wenjie Chen, Wei Deng, Ewa M Goldys.

Abstract:
Introduction: The depth limitation of conventional photodynamic therapy (PDT) with visible electromagnetic radiation represents a challenge for the treatment of deep-seated tumors. Materials and methods: To overcome this issue, we developed an X-ray-induced PDT system where poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) incorporating a photosensitizer (PS), verteporfin (VP), were triggered by 6 MeV X-ray radiation to generate cytotoxic singlet oxygen. The X-ray radiation used in this study allows this system to breakthrough the PDT depth barrier due to excellent penetration of 6 MeV X-ray radiation through biological tissue. In addition, the conjugation of our NPs with folic acid moieties enables specific targeting of HCT116 cancer cells that overexpress the folate receptors. We carried out physiochemical characterization of PLGA NPs, such as size distribution, zeta potential, morphology and in vitro release of VP. Cellular uptake activity and cell-killing effect of these NPs were also evaluated. Results and discussion: Our results indicate that our nanoconstructs triggered by 6 MeV X-ray radiation yield enhanced PDT efficacy compared with the radiation alone. We attributed the X-ray-induced singlet oxygen generation from the PS, VP, to photoexcitation by Cherenkov radiation and/or reactive oxygen species generation facilitated by energetic secondary electrons produced in the tissue. Conclusion: The cytotoxic effect caused by VP offers the possibility of enhancing the radiation therapy commonly prescribed for the treatment of cancer by simultaneous PDT.

 

New CNBP partnership announced

13 June 2018:

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) is pleased to announce that the Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (CIAC) is now a Partner Organisation of the CNBP with Dr Xiaohui Wang (pictured) leading the relationship from the CIAC side as a formal CNBP Partner Investigator.

Collaboration activity to take place between CNBP and CIAC will be focused in the areas of innate immune targeted biosensors and novel pharmacology. More specifically, CIAC expertise will feed into CNBP’s advanced research program exploring the impact of innate immune signalling in pain processing.

In a similar manner, CNBP will bring to CIAC and Dr Xiaohui Wang’s team a unique set of pre-clinical behavioural models and application areas that will advance the CIAC research program more broadly across the synthetic chemistry space.

Prof Mark Hutchinson, CNBP Director, noted that Dr Xiaohui Wang already possessed strong linkages with CNBP following Dr Wang’s visits to several CNBP nodes, and the decadal collaboration between the two researchers stemming from their time working together at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder USA.

“I look forward to our future co-operative activity,” says Prof Mark Hutchinson. “CNBP and CIAC are an excellent strategic partnership fit in the novel innate immune targeted chemistry and pain-signalling space and I’m extremely excited to see where our joint research activity takes us.”

As a part of the partnership, CIAC will fund a full-time PhD student working on CNBP-CIAC related projects as well as provide additional research funding to support project activity and materials.

Below – Dr Xiaohui Wang.

Fluorescence microscopy gets the BAMM treatment!

7 June 2018:

A novel technique developed by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) will help shine new light on biological questions by improving the quality and quantity of information that can be extracted in fluorescence microscopy.

The technique, ‘bleaching-assisted multichannel microscopy’ (BAMM) takes a current long-standing weakness of fluorescence microscopy – photobleaching – and turns it into a strength that improves imaging output by up to three times, with no additional hardware required.

Reported in the journal ‘Biomedical Optics Express’ (lead author Dr Antony Orth, CNBP Research Fellow at RMIT University), BAMM will help researchers gain biological insights into the intricate processes taking place within living cells. This includes the interplay between proteins and molecules which have the potential to impact a wide range of health areas from fertility, to pain, to heart disease and more.

Publication authors: Antony Orth, Richik N. Ghosh, Emma R. Wilson, Timothy Doughney, Hannah Brown, Philipp Reineck, Jeremy G. Thompson, and Brant C. Gibson.

Read more about this innovative technique from our media release or access the publication online.

Below – This figure shows the information-rich cellular images made possible by using the newly reported BAMM technique. The ‘Original’ image shows cells containing multiple fluorescent targets, all having similar colours. This results in a monochrome image. With BAMM, photobleaching rates are colour coded red, green and blue for visualisation, so that each fluorescently labelled structure can be identified even though the fluorophore’s native colour information was never used.

Seminar and lab visit at Zhejiang University

7 June 2018:

CNBP’s Dr Jiawen Li has given a science talk at the College of Optical Science and Engineering, Zhejiang University, China, 7th June, 2018. The talk’s title was ‘Miniaturized multimodal fibre-optic probes for biomedical applications’.

While at the college, Dr Li also visited laboratories specialising in super resolution microscopy, holography and optical coherence tomograpy (OCT). She also shared with undergraduate and master students, her experiences of studying in both the United States and Australia, and provided her perspective on potential career paths for post-doctorate researchers.

Detecting glycosylated hemoglobin

Jagjit Kaur7 June 2018:

A new review paper from CNBP researchers (lead author PhD student Jagjit Kaur) outlines current research activities on developing assays including biosensors for the detection of  glycosylated hemoglobin  (HbA1c). Measurement of HbA1c is used for assessing long term glycemic control in individuals with diabetes.

Journal: Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

Publication title: Different strategies for detection of HbA1c emphasizing on biosensors and point-of-care analyzers.

Authors: Jagjit Kaur, Cheng Jiang, Guozhen Liu.

Abstract: Measurement of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) is a gold standard procedure for assessing long term glycemic control in individuals with diabetes mellitus as it gives the stable and reliable value of blood glucose levels for a period of 90–120 days. HbA1c is formed by the non-enzymatic glycation of terminal valine of hemoglobin. The analysis of HbA1c tends to be complicated because there are more than 300 different assay methods for measuring HbA1c which leads to variations in reported values from same samples. Therefore, standardization of detection methods is recommended. The review outlines the current research activities on developing assays including biosensors for the detection of HbA1c. The pros and cons of different techniques for measuring HbA1c are outlined. The performance of current point-of-care HbA1c analyzers available on the market are also compared and discussed. The future perspectives for HbA1c detection and diabetes management are proposed.