Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher/PhD student
Project title: Organic Nanoparticles for drug delivery: BBB targeting and in vivo studies on zebrafish
Summary: My project is part of a wider network called NANOSTEM (www.nanostem.qmul.ac.uk), carrying out research within the frame of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network and funded by the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovative programme.
In fact, in an era when brain conditions such as stroke or neurodegenerative diseases represent an enormous disease burden in terms of both human suffering and economic cost, the NANOSTEM consortium intends to develop and characterise a selected set of advanced nanomaterials and to study their suitability as novel drug delivery systems to target the brain and, particularly, Neural Stem Cells (NSCs). However, to reach the regions in the adult brain where NSCs are restricted, pharmacologically active molecules have to be able to pass the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB), a highly selective semipermeable border that separates the circulating blood from the brain and extracellular fluid.
In this context, my first objectives will be the synthesis and characterization of novel nano-structured materials acting as carriers for transporting interesting drug to the brain. In particular, I will focus on the introduction of tags for targeting the BBB and studying how their morphology influences this aspect. Furthermore, I will carry out in vivo studies on zebrafish, an alternative model for evaluating neurotoxicity and nowadays increasingly used as intermediate step between cell-based evaluation and conventional animal testing. This part of my project will be broadened further during a two-month secondment at the Karolinska Institute, in Sweden, where I will compare different zebrafish protocols. Moreover, I will spend some time also at the Artois University (France) and at University of Innsbruck (Austria), where I will approach in vitro BBB permeation assays and computational studies of drug-peptide interaction respectively.