Monthly Archives: July 2018

School tour of Braggs building

27 July 2018:

Year 12 chemistry/biology students from Temple Christian College were given a tour around the Braggs building and CNBP laboratories at the University of Adelaide by Centre PhD student Kathryn Palasis.

As a part of the tour students were shown the chemistry and laser laboratories and were also shown the glass and fibre fabrication facilities to aid understanding of the type of research that is undertaken by CNBP and others in the research space.

Into the inner unknown

26 July 2018:

Touching on issues as diverse as space science, natural disasters, pollution and extreme biology, Yr 7- 12 high school students had the opportunity to gain insight into humanity’s big issues at a three day Macquarie University outreach event held in association with the organisation ‘One Giant Leap (Australia)’.

As a part of this event activity, CNBP’s Dr Annemarie Nadort undertook two separate outreach presentations to approximately 50 students, explaining the human body, the biology of blood, the physics of light and the potential of non invasive optical clinical technologies that could potentially be applied to humans in space.

“It was great to talk with such enthused students,” said Annemarie. “There were some great questions about how we can image deep inside the body and the many challenges that we face in being able to do so successfully.”

Below – Students are given a demonstration of a clinical micro-circulation imager by Dr Nadort. Using the device, blood cells and vessels under the tongue are able to be seen on the screen.

Engineering protein-based nanoparticles

23 July 2018:

A new review paper has been published in the journal ‘Genes’ featuring two CNBP Associate Investigators as co-authors, Dr Andrew Care (Cancer Institute NSW) and Dr Anwar Sunna (Macquarie University).

Titled, ‘Bioengineering Strategies for Protein-based Nanoparticles’, the paper focuses on the tools available to custom-engineer protein-based nanoparticles for different applications, including those in nanomedicine and biotechnology.

First author of the paper, and co-supervised by Dr Care and Dr Sunna is Ms Dennis Diaz (pictured left in photo).

Journal: Genes.

Publication title: Bioengineering Strategies for Protein-Based Nanoparticles.

Authors: Dennis Diaz, Andrew Care and Anwar Sunna.

Abstract: In recent years, the practical application of protein-based nanoparticles (PNPs) has expanded rapidly into areas like drug delivery, vaccine development, and biocatalysis. PNPs possess unique features that make them attractive as potential platforms for a variety of nanobiotechnological applications. They self-assemble from multiple protein subunits into hollow monodisperse structures; they are highly stable, biocompatible, and biodegradable; and their external components and encapsulation properties can be readily manipulated by chemical or genetic strategies. Moreover, their complex and perfect symmetry have motivated researchers to mimic their properties in order to create de novo protein assemblies. This review focuses on recent advances in the bioengineering and bioconjugation of PNPs and the implementation of synthetic biology concepts to exploit and enhance PNP’s intrinsic properties and to impart them with novel functionalities.

A photoresponsive LPD system developed

19 July 2018:

CNBP researchers have published a paper reporting on  the development of a novel photoresponsive liposome-polycation-DNA (LPD) platform. Lead author on the paper was Wenjie Chen (pictured).

Journal: Journal of Materials Chemistry B.

Publication title: Photoresponsive endosomal escape enhances gene delivery using liposome-polycation-DNA (LPD) nanovector.

Authors: Wenjie Chen, Wei Deng, Xin Xu, Xiang Zhao, Jenny Nhu Vo, Ayad G. Anwer, Thomas C. Williams, Haixin Cui, Ewa M. Goldys.

Abstract: Lipid-based nanocarriers with stimuli responsiveness have been utilized as controlled release systems for gene/drug delivery applications. In our work, by taking advantage of high complexation capbility of polycations and the light triggered property, we designed a novel photoresponsive liposome-polycation-DNA (LPD) platform. This LPD carrier incorporates verteporfin (VP) in lipid bilayers and the complex of polyethylenimine (PEI)/plasmid DNA (pDNA) encoding EGFP (polyplex) in the central cavities of liposomes. The liposomes were formulated with cationic lipids, PEGylated neutral lipids and cholesterol molecules, which improve their stability and cellular uptake in the serum-containing media. We evaluated the nanocomplex stability by monitoring size changes over six days, and the celluar uptake of nanocomplex by imaging the intracellular route. We also demonstrated light triggered the cytoplasmic release of pDNA upon irradiation with a 690 nm LED light source. Furthermore this light triggered mechanism has been studied at subcellular level. The activated release is driven by the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) from VP after light illumination. These ROS oxidize and destabilize the liposomal and endolysosomal membranes, leading to the release of pDNA into the cytosol and subsequent gene transfer activities. Light-triggered endolysosomal escape of pDNA at different time points was confirmed by quantitative analysis of colocalization between pDNA and endolysosomes. The increased expression of the reporter EGFP in human colorectal cancer cells was also quantified after light illumination at various time points. The efficiency of this photo-induced gene transfection was demonstrated to be more than double compared to non-irradiated controls. Additionally, we observed reduced cytotoxicity of the LPDs compared with the polyplexes alone. This study have thus shown that light-triggered and biocompatible LPDs enable improved control of efficient gene delivery which will be beneficial for future gene therapies.

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.