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Faculty Profiles

Steven Lommel

Nano Research Area

  • Health & Bio-Nanotechnology

Research Summary

My laboratory’s research focuses on a small RNA plant virus, red clover necrotic mosaic virus (RCNMV), as a model system for nano-cargo delivery.  This virus, because of their size, uniform rigid structure and load capacity is being converted into a nanoparticle therapeutic delivery vessel. RCNMV is a soil-borne pathogen, is structurally robust and able to maintain integrity in a range of environmental condition including those found in a mammalian circulatory system. In the presence of calcium, the capsid is in the native or “closed form” and after depleting calcium it converts into an “open form” with channels that extend through the capsid. The capsid can be loaded by infusion with small molecules when in the “open form,” followed by closing. The capsid can be loaded with up to 2000 molecules. A barrier to RCNMV use in drug deliver is its lack of a mechanism for the selective internalization to diseased mammalian cells. To overcome this, targeting signals, receptor binding peptides and small molecules, are covalently bound to the surface of the capsid.  When RCNMV with targeting signals are incubated with human cancer cells, internalization of the virus occurs. RCNMV can be infused with significant amounts of small molecules including dyes and chemotherapy agents. When RCNMV labeled with targeting signal and infused with dyes and/or cytotoxic compounds were incubated with cells, both internalization of the particle and the release of the infused dye occurred.

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