To take his fledgling lab to new heights, Liangfang Zhang hatched a plan that he considered brilliant in its simplicity. It involved procedures that many of his peers found a little out there. But if he could make his idea work, it would clear a major hurdle to safely ferry therapies through the body on nanoparticles one-thousandth the width of a human hair.
Yet back in 2010, the young nanoengineer could not convince the National Institutes of Health, the main funder of U.S. biomedical research, to support the project. Zhang applied for funding four or five times over several years, to no avail.
“It felt quite lonely,” he says. “But I just felt this is very unique stuff. And it may become a big thing.”
Pulling funds from other projects and from the start-up package he received to set up his lab at the University of California, San Diego, Zhang did the experiments for his breakthrough paper, published in 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He and coworkers created a new class of nanoparticles, made from carbon-containing polymers, that could slip through blood vessels in a mouse without triggering an immune reaction. While immune responses are important for killing disease-causing pathogens, the same reactions are a nuisance when they clear out molecules made to deliver lifesaving drugs.
Then, instead of just viewing their particles as a drug-delivery system, which most other researchers were focused on, Zhang and his team made a surprising pivot. They repurposed the particles to act as “nanosponges” that trap and remove toxins from the blood. In lab experiments, the nanosponges worked against toxins unleashed by E. coli and some of the harder-to-fight bacteria. Nanosponges also slowed harmful inflammation in mice with a form of rheumatoid arthritis and diverted HIV and Zika from the cells those viruses normally infect, the researchers reported last year.
Image Credit: UCSD
News This Week
Omicron subvariant BA.2 – which was dominant worldwide early this year, including in Hong Kong – replicates more swiftly than other strains and causes faster programmed cell death in human brains, a new study has found. [...]
The urgent need to remove excess carbon dioxide from Earth’s environment could include enlisting some of our planet’s smallest inhabitants, according to an international research team led by Michael Hochella of the Department of [...]
Blood pressure is a key vital sign that provides insight into our cardiovascular health. But blood pressure is typically measured only a few times per year by a clinician—and these measurements might not always [...]
A South African laboratory study using Covid-19 samples from an immunosupressed individual over six months showed that the virus evolved to become more pathogenic, indicating that a new variant could cause worse illness than [...]
For the past several months, Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 have dominated COVID-19 cases in the U.S. But now, there’s a class of new COVID subvariants on the rise and one in particular is getting plenty of [...]
Nucleic acid therapies involving DNA or RNA have significant potential to treat genetic disorders, infectious diseases, and cancer; however, research suggests that less than 1% of injected nucleic acid doses reach target cells in [...]
The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved Hemgenix, a new drug to treat hemophilia. Manufacturer CSL Behring set the price at $3.5 million per treatment, making it the most expensive drug [...]
Some wounds just won’t heal. Infections, diseases like diabetes, and suppressed immune systems often stack up to slow healing. Chronic wounds can last months and lead to anxiety and depression. In the worst cases, [...]
Over the years, researchers have tried hard to comprehend topographic signals that promote cell mechanical sensitive responses. The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides a complex cellular microenvironment that controls cellular behavior. Nevertheless, only a few [...]
There is now an imminent threat of measles spreading in various regions globally, as COVID-19 led to a steady decline in vaccination coverage and weakened surveillance of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) [...]
In a recent study, it was shown that people with long Covid have had physical changes to their brains several months after experiencing the initial infection. The study included MRIs of patients who continued [...]
Western University in London, Ont., is building a unique research lab to study humanity's greatest viral threats — a secret weapon, if you will, one that it's expected would put Canada and the world in a better position if [...]
Cancer patients are testing a medicine made of antibodies that were designed from scratch on a computer in Israel and whose inventor has “programmed” them to “decide” whether cells surrounding tumors are bad or good. [...]
In an article published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers presented the potentiostatic deposition used to electrodeposit nickel (Ni) and nickel-graphene (Ni-G) films on copper substrates. Myristic acid (MA) was employed to alter the plane of the [...]
Oregon State University scientists have invented a way to make magnetic nanoparticles that get hotter than any previous nanoparticle, improving their cancer fighting ability. Faculty from the OSU College of Pharmacy spearheaded a collaboration [...]