University of Texas at Austin
Department of Chemical Engineering
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MicroRNA (miRNA) therapy, based on the RNA interference mechanism present in all mammalian cells, is being explored for oncological applications. For neurological cancers, miRNA therapy shows great potential, due to the variety of miRNA mimics that can be harnessed to regulate gene expression and tumor growth. However, the delivery of these miRNA mimics is limited due to rapid degradation by nucleases in the blood, rapid renal clearance, and diffusional limitations due to mechanical and biological barriers when delivered alone. We have designed polymeric nanoparticles that are cationic for effective nucleic acid complexation, PEGylated for increased blood circulation, and modifiable for disease-specific applications. Synthesized nanoparticles have favorable characteristics. Particularly, nanoparticles remain collapsed in basic and neutral conditions and begin to swell in more acidic conditions. Initial biocompatibility studies of blank nanoparticles are promising, showing minimal toxicity to cells at high nanoparticle concentrations. Initial miRNA loading and release experiments are promising, showing immediate and sustained complexation of miRNA mimics when incubated in 1X PBS and cellular uptake in neuroblastoma cell line, SKN-BE(2), and glioma stem cell line, GSC3565.
Deidra Ward is a PhD candidate in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Her doctoral research is focused on the development of polymeric nanoparticles for the delivery of RNA-interference molecules to treat neurological malignancies. Prior to UT Austin, Deidra received her BS in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Clemson University.