Nanomaterials for Health

Nanomaterials for Health

Image credit: Vadym Mochalin

Researchers at DNI are actively involved in the development of novel materials for biomedical applications, solving major health problems faced by modern society. In recent years research topics have included adsorption of cytokines by nanoporous carbide derived carbons (CDC) for blood cleansing and prevention of sepsis; developing less invasive nanopipettes for single cell probing; metal nanoparticles for diagnostic surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy; and single carbon nanotubes for nanoseparation of attoliter volumes of liquids. Currently, Drexel researchers lead by Prof. Yury Gogotsi and Dr. Vadym Mochalin work on the development of nanodiamond therapeutic and diagnostic (theranostic) platforms, nanodiamond reinforced biodegradable composites for bone surgery and tissue engineering, and the use of carbon sorbents for purification and detoxication.

Nanodiamond powder is one of the most promising carbon nanomaterials for biomedical and composite applications (see this paper in Nature Nanotechnology for more information). Nanodiamond is made of 4-6 nm diamond particles with large accessible surface and tailorable surface chemistry. It has unique optical, mechanical, and thermal properties, and is non-toxic. DNI researchers have made substantial contributions in characterization, purification, and surface chemistry of nanodiamond – key factors in all biomedical applications of this material. Covalent attachment of octadecylamine improves dispersion of nanodiamond in hydrophobic biodegradable polymers. Reactions of nanodiamond functional groups with polymers bring the nanocomposite design to a conceptually new level, allowing for creation of covalent nanofiller-matrix interface with designed properties. For tissue engineering scaffolds, the non-toxic fluorescent nanodiamond introduced into biodegradable polymers provides an increased strength, visual monitoring, enhanced biomineralization, and potential to deliver growth factors, antibiotics, and other drugs attached to its surface.

The Drexel team, in collaboration with Shanghai Advanced Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, develops nanodiamond for anticancer chemotherapeutic delivery across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB, which naturally protects our central neural system from infections and toxins circulating in the blood, becomes the main obstacle to systemic drug delivery in brain pathological conditions. However, the complex BBB structure and its protecting mechanisms fail to capture nanoparticles. This allows delivery of drugs loaded onto the nanoparticles across the BBB. In this application, nanodiamond is used as a nanovehicle capable of penetrating the BBB to deliver its payload precisely to tumors located in the brain. Additionally, the team exploits other modalities, including luminescence of nanodiamond, in creating an advanced nanodiamond enabled theranostic platforms to diagnose and kill tumors.