BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A unique nanoparticle system developed by
University at Buffalo scientists takes advantage of the versatility
of bioconjugated quantum rods to ferry novel diagnostic and
therapeutic agents across the blood-brain barrier, according to
recent in vitro findings.
Described in a paper published in Bioconjugate Chemistry,
the system uses the rod-shaped semiconductor nanoparticles that are
bioconjugated, or coupled, with biomolecules capable of crossing
the blood-brain barrier.
The blood-brain barrier acts as a physiological "checkpoint"
that selectively allows certain molecules in blood circulation to
enter the brain. While it naturally evolved in order to protect the
brain from invasion of various circulating toxins and other harmful
molecules, the blood-brain barrier also serves as a major
impediment to the brain-specific delivery of various
diagnostic/therapeutic molecules needed for combating various
The quantum rod system the UB researchers developed has the
potential to simultaneously and non-invasively deliver diagnostic
and therapeutic agents targeted to a wide variety of neurological
diseases as well as obesity and drug addiction, according to Paras
N. Prasad, Ph.D., executive director of the UB Institute for
Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and SUNY Distinguished Professor
in the Department of Chemistry, who led the UB team.
"These brain-specific nanoparticle systems represent a
significant improvement over commonly used, highly-invasive methods
of delivering active molecules into the brain, most of which rely
on direct injection," he said.
The UB team, together with colleagues from Buffalo General
Hospital, has developed a simple method for linking quantum rods to
the iron-transporting protein, transferrin and other biomolecules,
which routinely pass through the blood-brain barrier.
"Our findings unfold a new dimension in blood-brain barrier
transport using inorganic nanoparticles, which are structurally
robust and demonstrate the potential to transport multiple agents
across this physiological barrier," said Indrajit Roy, Ph.D.,
deputy director for biophotonics at the UB institute. "This system
allows the nanoparticles and the multiple therapeutic and imaging
agents they carry to 'sneak' safely across the barrier and into the
brain. It's a Trojan horse approach."
The functionalized quantum rods proved to have very low
toxicity, according to Ken-Tye Yong, Ph.D., postdoctoral research
associate in the UB institute, providing additional evidence that
when linked to drug molecules, they could make very suitable
treatment probes for diseases of the brain.
The new nanoparticle platform could provide scientists with a
kind of window on the blood-brain barrier, enhancing what they know
about it and allowing them to view non-invasively in real-time how
imaging and therapeutic agents affect the brain.
The quantum rod system also serves as the basis of a blood-brain
barrier-crossing test kit the UB researchers are developing.
The test kit would enable scientists to competitively evaluate
which molecules would most efficiently transport diagnostic and
therapeutic agents across the blood-brain barrier by exploiting the
ability of quantum rods to emit light in different colors,
depending on their size.
The research is closely aligned with the strategic strength in
integrated nanostructured systems identified in the UB 2020
strategic planning process.
In addition to Prasad, Roy and Yong, co-authors included Gaixia
Xu, Ph.D., former postdoctoral associate, and Hong Ding, Ph.D.,
postdoctoral associate, both of the UB Institute for Lasers,
Photonics and Biophotonics; Supriya D. Mahajan, Ph.D., research
assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the UB School
of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and at Buffalo General
Hospital, and Stanley A. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D., UB professor of
Medicine, Pediatrics and Microbiology and director of the Division
of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology in the Department of
Medicine at Buffalo General Hospital.
This research was supported by the John R. Oishei Foundation and
by UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.