Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Targeting Drug Delivery

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Targeting Drug Delivery

Article excerpt

In images of fruit flies, clusters of neurons are all lit up, forming a brightly glowing network of highways within the brain.

This is exactly what University at Buffalo (UB) researcher Shermali Gunawardena was hoping to see: It means that ORMOSIL, a novel class of nanoparticles, successfully penetrated the insects' brains. And even after long-term exposure, the cells and the flies themselves remain unharmed.

The particles, which are tagged with fluorescent proteins, hold promise as a potential vehicle for drug delivery. Each particle is a vessel, containing cavities that scientists could potentially fill with helpful chemical compounds or gene therapies to send to different parts of the human body. Gunawardena is particularly interested in using ORMOSIL--organically modified silica--to target problems within neurons that may be related to neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.

The recent study on fruit flies is a step toward making this happen, demonstrating that long-term exposure to ORMOSIL, through breathing and feeding, didn't injure the animals. The research appeared in the journal PLoS ONE.

"We saw that after feeding these nanoparticles in the fruit fly larvae, the ORMOSIL was going mainly into the guts and skin," says Gunawardena, an assistant professor of biological sciences and a researcher in UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics, and Biophotonics. "But over time, in adult flies, you could see it in the brain. These results are really fascinating because these particles do not show any toxic effects on the whole organism or the neuronal cells."

The ORMOSIL particles Gunawardena is investigating are a unique variety crafted by a research group led by Paras N. …

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