Biologically Inspired Design of Protein-Silica Hybrid Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery Applications
The design and application of effective drug carriers is a fundamental concern in the delivery of therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and other vexing health problems. Traditionally utilized chemotherapeutics are limited in efficacy due to poor bioavailability as a result of their size and solubility as well as significant deleterious effects to healthy tissue through their inability to preferentially target pathological cells and tissues, especially in treatment of cancer. Thus, a major effort in the development of nanoscopic drug delivery vehicles for cancer treatment has focused on exploiting the inherent differences in tumor physiology and limiting the exposure of drugs to non-tumorous tissue, which is commonly achieved by encapsulation of chemotherapeutics within macromolecular or supramolecular carriers that incorporate targeting ligands and that enable controlled release. The overall aim of this work is to engineer a hybrid nanomaterial system comprised of protein and silica and to characterize its potential as an encapsulating drug carrier. The synthesis of silica, an attractive nanomaterial component because it is both biocompatible as well as structurally and chemically stable, within this system is catalyzed by self-assembled elastin-like polypeptide (ELP) micelles that incorporate of a class of biologically-inspired, silica-promoting peptides, silaffins. Furthermore, this methodology produces near-monodisperse, hybrid inorganic/micellar materials under mild reaction conditions such as temperature, pH and solvent. This work studies this material system along three avenues: 1) proof-of-concept silicification (i.e. the formation and deposition of silica upon organic materials) of ELP micellar templates, 2) encapsulation and pH-triggered release of small, hydrophobic chemotherapeutics, and 3) selective silicification of templates to potentiate retention of peptide targeting ability.
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