The interdisciplinary nature of viral nanotechnology, a field lying at the interface of virology, biomedicine, chemistry, and materials science, facilitates the bridging of ideas and techniques between these disciplines. Current developments in medicine include the engineering of VNPs as diagnostics, vaccines, imaging modalities and targeted therapeutic devices. The goal of this line of research is to develop viral nanoparticles (VNPs) as biologic scaffolds for the display of metal nanoparticle arrays for use in cancer imaging and therapy.
From a materials science point of view, VNPs are interesting:
- They are of nanoscale dimensions, polyvalent and monodisperse
- They are robust and are stable in many solvents and buffers, which is essential for chemical modification
- They can be produced in milligram quantities in the laboratory or purchased commercially for a reasonable cost
- Adenovirus (Ad), a DNA virus commonly used for gene therapy applications, could be considered the ideal vehicle for a number of emerging biomedical applications which rely on highly localized targeting including non-invasive cancer therapy and imaging.
This is important because:
- They represent near ideal nanoparticles due to their regular geometries, well characterized surface properties, nanoscale dimensions, and their structure being known to near atomic resolution
- Extensive research has been conducted regarding their biocompatibility and tumor targeting capacity
- They can serve as biocompatible scaffolds to which a wide variety of inorganic and biological structures may be attached.
- There are no other nanoparticle platforms that achieve the same degree of control over size, homogeneity, and versatility as molecular shuttles. A detailed understanding of its capsid structure and surface chemistry makes Ad an excellent starting point.
The ability to link multiple functionalities to the Ad capsid theoretically allows for incorporation of several therapeutic and diagnostic modalities within a single vector, though such a vector based on Ad has not yet been developed.
This research will lead to:
Development of a platform technology for the interchangeable display of multiple diagnostic and therapeutic nanoparticle functionalities
Optimization of the placement of nanomaterials in precise positions within a VNP-carrier scaffold to enhance the optical properties of such tethered nanoparticle arrays
In-vitro testing of both toxicity and function of these nanoparticle arrays in normal human and cancer cell lines.
As additional chemistries and VNP platforms become available, the possibilities for the design of new nanomaterial arrays will continue to expand exponentially, impacting areas ranging from electronics to tissue engineering in addition to new developments in "smart" targeted devices for tissue-specific imaging and therapy.