Pairing quantum dots with a protein transporter, a group of students from
Missouri University of Science and Technology hopes to develop a more effective
and efficient drug delivery method.
It sounds like something that might have happened aboard the Starship
Enterprise. Instead, it’s happening in Taiwan. The students are spending the
summer in Taiwan as part of an academic exchange program between Missouri
S&T and National Dong Hwa
University (NDHU). Working with NDHU’s Dr. Han-Jung Lee, they will learn
how to combine quantum dots and protein transduction domains to allow them to
work together to improve drug delivery, among other uses.
“The applications of this system are tremendous in both basic biomedical
research and clinical significance,” says Dr. Yue-wern Huang, associate
professor of biological sciences and an
expert in toxicology. Huang is accompanying the students to Taiwan.
Quantum dots are so small that 500,000 of them could fit on the head of a
pin. The dots are often used in bioimaging because of their ability to emit
fluorescence. By attaching quantum dots to an antibody, it can be tracked
inside the body. For example, a drug administered to target a specific organ
can be traced to see if it reaches the intended target.
Protein transduction domains (PTD) are very small proteins with nine
identical amino acids. Their simple makeup allows them to easily enter cells,
which are typically very selective. By acting as a transporter, these proteins
can be used to carry several biomolecules into cells.
Using the fluorescent properties of quantum dots and the transporter
abilities of the PTDs, researchers could send biomaterials, such as drugs, into
the body and see which organs they reach. In Taiwan, the Missouri S&T
students will learn to combine the two systems.
Huang says this interdisciplinary approach is relatively new. “In the past
nanoscientists specialized in quantum dots, but now they’re teaming with
biological scientists, who only know proteins,” Huang says. “The
multidisciplinary approach combines the two sciences to form unique
Missouri S&T students participating in the Taiwan research exchange
program are Jamie Statler, a senior in biological sciences from St. Charles,
Mo., Angela Rudolph, a recent graduate in chemistry from Kansas City, Mo.,
and Isaac Deatherage, a senior in biological sciences from Ava, Mo.
Dr. Katie Shannon, assistant professor of biological sciences at Missouri
S&T, and Dr. Jeff Winiarz, assistant professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T are also involved
with the project. The group is assembling a team and plans to seek funding from
the National Institutes of Health.
During their time in Taiwan, the students will be chronicling their
research, and daily life in Taiwan, on Missouri S&T’s research blog at visions.mst.edu.