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Posted: July 17, 2008
Nanoparticle research in Review of Ophthalmology
(Nanowerk News) While nanotechnology is being used in everything from paints to car exteriors, clothing and cosmetics, research is also underway using the technology to discover medical breakthroughs. Nanoparticle research by Professor Sanku Mallik and his group at North Dakota State University, Fargo, appears in the July issue of the Review of Ophthalmology in the article "Nanoparticles: Into the New Frontier".
The article by senior editor Christopher Kent notes that cutting-edge work is being done in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Florida. The promise of such research includes finding treatments for eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. Sanku Mallik, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at NDSU, conducts research that uses a nanoparticle called nanoceria as a drug delivery device. It is made of cerium oxide molecules. The brain-blood barrier can prevent medicines from reaching their therapeutic targets, but nanoparticles are so small they are capable of crossing the brain-blood barrier. Quoted in the article, Mallik notes, “So far, nanoceria appears to be nontoxic, but the drugs we attach to the particle might be toxic, so targeting molecules are necessary. These particles can also be used for imaging; we can attach molecules that can be made to glow after they reach targets such as cancer cells.”
So far, the research of Mallik and his associates has been conducted in a controlled environment outside of a living organism and is in its initial stages. Researchers must ensure that the particles are water-soluble for effective delivery and less irritation to the cornea. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness if left untreated, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. An estimated four million Americans have glaucoma but only half of them know it, according to Prevent Blindness America. Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett (1960-2006) was forced to retire due to loss of vision in one eye from glaucoma. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in Americans older than 50, affecting more than two million people, according to the American Academy of Opththalmology.
The pharmaceutical research of Mallik’s team includes attaching anti-cancer drugs to the nanoparticles and targeting molecules so particles only enter cells that are in need of treatment. Nanotechnology is often defined as the science of the extremely small. A nanometer, for example, is a hundred-thousandth of the thickness of a human hair, or one-billionth of a meter.
Mallik recently received a five-year, $1.46 million grant from the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute. D. K. Srivastava, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at NDSU, is the co-investigator on this award. It relies on the complementary scientific expertise of Mallik and Srivastava. The grant will allow the investigators to prepare selective, “multi-prong” inhibitors for matrix metalloproteinases using lipid-based nanoparticles. They also will use the nanoparticles for isozyme-selective detection of these enzymes.
Mallik received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India, and his doctorate degree in organic chemistry at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. He completed post-doctoral work at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. He is a past recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award, which recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of scholars who are likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.