Development of cancer diagnostics using nanoparticles and amphiphilic polymers

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Rhyner, Matthew N.
Nie, Shuming
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This dissertation presents a new class of cancer diagnostic agents composed of quantum dots, magnetic nanoparticles, and amphiphilic polymers. The central hypothesis is that biocompatible, amphiphilic block copolymers can be used to create multinanoparticle micellar probes with imaging capabilities and surface properties optimized for applications in cancer diagnostics. To test this hypothesis, we investigated a number of different block copolymer structures and synthetic procedures. We found that use of a poly(methyl methacrylate)-poly(ethylene oxide) polymer in conjunction with a dialysis-based procedure produced uniform probes with excellent imaging properties. We also found that the probes formed using these materials and methods were surprisingly stable, even after incubation in whole human blood for 24 hrs at 37oC. As a corollary, we hypothesized that modified polymer structures could be used to introduce functional groups for use in linking the micellar probes to biological molecules. To test this hypothesis, we used a modified version of our synthetic procedure and utilized a novel method for studying nanoparticle binding to biological molecules in real time. We found that active amine groups could be added to the polymer shell using these methods, and that surface plasmon resonance could be used for studying nanoparticle binding. In sum, this dissertation makes several contributions to the field of cancer nanotechnology. First, we provide a new encapsulation procedure and nanostructure that has promising physical and biological properties. Secondly, we provide general strategies that can be used for future nanoprobe development. Finally, we demonstrate the capability of a new method for quantitative study of probe binding characteristics. Together, these contributions drive the field of cancer nanotechnology forward by providing a deeper understanding of the relationship between surface design and behavior in biological systems.
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