Publication

A Fiber Optic Interface Coupled to Nanosensors: Applications to Protein Aggregation and Organic Molecule Quantification

Fluorescent nanosensors hold promise to address analytical challenges in the biopharmaceutical industry. The monitoring of therapeutic protein critical quality attributes such as aggregation is a longstanding challenge requiring low detection limits and multiplexing of different product parameters. However, general approaches for interfacing nanosensors to the biopharmaceutical process remain minimally explored to date. Herein, we design and fabricate a integrated fiber optic nanosensor element, measuring sensitivity, response time, and stability for applications to the rapid process monitoring. The fiber optic-nanosensor interface, or optode, consists of label-free nIR fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotube transducers embedded within a protective yet porous hydrogel attached to the end of the fiber waveguide. The optode platform is shown to be capable of differentiating the aggregation status of human immunoglobulin G, reporting the relative fraction of monomers and dimer aggregates with sizes 5.6 and 9.6 nm, respectively, in under 5 min of analysis time. We introduce a lab-on-fiber design with potential for at-line monitoring with integration of 3D-printed miniaturized sensor tips having high mechanical flexibility. A parallel measurement of fluctuations in laser excitation allows for intensity normalization and significantly lower noise level (3.7-times improved) when using lower quality lasers, improving the cost effectiveness of the platform. As an application, we demonstrate the capability of the fully-integrated lab-on-fiber system to rapid monitoring of various bioanalytes including serotonin, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and hydrogen peroxide, in addition to proteins and their aggregation states. These results in total constitute an effective form factor for nanosensor based transducers for applications in industrial process monitoring.

DNA-SWCNT Biosensors Allow Real-Time Monitoring of Therapeutic Responses in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma
Publication

DNA-SWCNT Biosensors Allow Real-Time Monitoring of Therapeutic Responses in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly desmoplastic cancer with limited treatment options. There is an urgent need for tools that monitor therapeutic responses in real time. Drugs such as gemcitabine and irinotecan elicit their therapeutic effect in cancer cells by producing hydrogen peroxide (HO). In this study, specific DNA-wrapped single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), which precisely monitor HO, were used to determine the therapeutic response of PDAC cells and tumors . Drug therapeutic efficacy was evaluated by monitoring HO differences using reversible alteration of Raman G-bands from the nanotubes. Implantation of the DNA-SWCNT probe inside the PDAC tumor resulted in approximately 50% reduction of Raman G-band intensity when treated with gemcitabine versus the pretreated tumor; the Raman G-band intensity reversed to its pretreatment level upon treatment withdrawal. In summary, using highly specific and sensitive DNA-SWCNT nanosensors, which can determine dynamic alteration of hydrogen peroxide in tumor, can evaluate the effectiveness of chemotherapeutics. SIGNIFICANCE: A novel biosensor is used to detect intratumoral hydrogen peroxide, allowing real-time monitoring of responses to chemotherapeutic drugs.

Publication

Implanted Nanosensors in Marine Organisms for Physiological Biologging: Design, Feasibility, and Species Variability

In recent decades, biologists have sought to tag animals with various sensors to study aspects of their behavior otherwise inaccessible from controlled laboratory experiments. Despite this, chemical information, both environmental and physiological, remains challenging to collect despite its tremendous potential to elucidate a wide range of animal behaviors. In this work, we explore the design, feasibility, and data collection constraints of implantable, near-infrared fluorescent nanosensors based on DNA-wrapped single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT) embedded within a biocompatible poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogel. These sensors are enabled by Corona Phase Molecular Recognition (CoPhMoRe) to provide selective chemical detection for marine organism biologging. Riboflavin, a key nutrient in oxidative phosphorylation, is utilized as a model analyte in in vitro and ex vivo tissue measurements. Nine species of bony fish, sharks, eels, and turtles were utilized on site at Oceanogràfic in Valencia, Spain to investigate sensor design parameters, including implantation depth, sensor imaging and detection limits, fluence, and stability, as well as acute and long-term biocompatibility. Hydrogels were implanted subcutaneously and imaged using a customized, field-portable Raspberry Pi camera system. Hydrogels could be detected up to depths of 7 mm in the skin and muscle tissue of deceased teleost fish ( Sparus aurata and Stenotomus chrysops) and a deceased catshark ( Galeus melastomus). The effects of tissue heterogeneity on hydrogel delivery and fluorescence visibility were explored, with darker tissues masking hydrogel fluorescence. Hydrogels were implanted into a living eastern river cooter ( Pseudemys concinna), a European eel ( Anguilla anguilla), and a second species of catshark ( Scyliorhinus stellaris). The animals displayed no observable changes in movement and feeding patterns. Imaging by high-resolution ultrasound indicated no changes in tissue structure in the eel and catshark. In the turtle, some tissue reaction was detected upon dissection and histopathology. Analysis of movement patterns in sarasa comet goldfish ( Carassius auratus) indicated that the hydrogel implants did not affect swimming patterns. Taken together, these results indicate that this implantable form factor is a promising technique for biologging using aquatic vertebrates with further development. Future work will tune the sensor detection range to the physiological range of riboflavin, develop strategies to normalize sensor signal to account for the optical heterogeneity of animal tissues, and design a flexible, wearable device incorporating optoelectronic components that will enable sensor measurements in moving animals. This work advances the application of nanosensors to organisms beyond the commonly used rodent and zebrafish models and is an important step toward the physiological biologging of aquatic organisms.

In vivo detection of drug-induced apoptosis in tumors using Raman spectroscopy
Publication

In vivo detection of drug-induced apoptosis in tumors using Raman spectroscopy

We describe a label-free approach based on Raman spectroscopy, to study drug-induced apoptosis in vivo. Spectral-shifts at wavenumbers associated with DNA, proteins, lipids, and collagen have been identified on breast and melanoma tumor tissues. These findings may enable a new analytical method for rapid readout of drug-therapy with miniaturized probes.

Publication

Characterization of magnetic nanoparticle-seeded microspheres for magnetomotive and multimodal imaging

Magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles have been developed as contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and as therapeutic agents in magnetic hyperthermia. They have also recently been demonstrated as contrast and elastography agents in magnetomotive optical coherence tomography and elastography (MM-OCT and MM-OCE, respectively). Protein-shell microspheres containing suspensions of these magnetic nanoparticles in lipid cores, and with functionalized outer shells for specific targeting, have also been demonstrated as efficient contrast agents for imaging modalities such as MM-OCT and MRI, and can be easily modified for other modalities such as ultrasound, fluorescence, and luminescence imaging. In addition to multimodal contrast-enhanced imaging, these microspheres could serve as drug carriers for targeted delivery under image guidance. Although the preparation and surface modifications of protein microspheres containing iron oxide nanoparticles has been previously described and feasibility studies conducted, many questions regarding their production and properties remain. Since the use of multifunctional microspheres could have high clinical relevance, here we report a detailed characterization of their properties and behavior in different environments to highlight their versatility. The work presented here is an effort for the development and optimization of nanoparticle-based microspheres as multi-modal contrast agents that can bridge imaging modalities on different size scales.

Investigating Effects of Proteasome Inhibitor on Multiple Myeloma Cells Using Confocal Raman Microscopy
Publication

Investigating Effects of Proteasome Inhibitor on Multiple Myeloma Cells Using Confocal Raman Microscopy

Due to its label-free and non-destructive nature, applications of Raman spectroscopic imaging in monitoring therapeutic responses at the cellular level are growing. We have recently developed a high-speed confocal Raman microscopy system to image living biological specimens with high spatial resolution and sensitivity. In the present study, we have applied this system to monitor the effects of Bortezomib, a proteasome inhibitor drug, on multiple myeloma cells. Cluster imaging followed by spectral profiling suggest major differences in the nuclear and cytoplasmic contents of cells due to drug treatment that can be monitored with Raman spectroscopy. Spectra were also acquired from group of cells and feasibility of discrimination among treated and untreated cells using principal component analysis (PCA) was accessed. Findings support the feasibility of Raman technologies as an alternate, novel method for monitoring live cell dynamics with minimal external perturbation.

Optical coherence tomography and targeted multi-modal protein microspheres for cancer imaging

The field of biomedical optics has grown quickly over the last two decades as various technological advances have helped increase the acquisition speeds and the sensitivity limits of the technology. During this time, optical coherence tomography (OCT) has been explored for a wide number of clinical applications ranging from cardiology to oncology to primary care. In this thesis, I describe the design and construction of an intraoperative clinical OCT system that can be used to image and classify breast cancer tumor margins as normal, close, or positive. I also demonstrate that normal lymph nodes can be distinguished from reactive or metastatic lymph nodes by looking at the difference in scattering intensity between the cortex and the capsule of the node. Despite the advances of OCT in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer, this technology is still limited by its field of view and can only provide structural information about the tissue. Structural OCT would benefit from added contrast via sub-cellular or biochemical components via the use of contrast agents and functional OCT modalities. As with most other optical imaging techniques, there is a trade off between the imaging field of view and the high-resolution microscopic imaging. In this thesis, I demonstrate for the first time that MM-OCT can be used as a complimentary technique to wide field imaging modalities, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or fluorescence imaging, using targeted multi-modal protein microspheres. By using a single contrast agent to bridge the wide field and microscopic imaging modalities, a wide field imaging technique can be used to initially localize the contrast agent at the site of interest to guide the location of the MM-OCT imaging to provide a microscopic view. In addition to multi-modal contrast, the microspheres were functionalized with RGD peptides that can target various cancer cell lines. The cancer cells readily endocytosed bound protein microspheres, revealing the possibility that these protein microspheres could also be used as therapeutic agents. These investigations furthered the utility of the OCT technology for cancer imaging and diagnosis.

Publication

Challenges and opportunities for reinvigorating the physician-scientist pipeline

Physician-scientists, with in-depth training in both medicine and research, are uniquely poised to address pressing challenges at the forefront of biomedicine. In recent years, a number of organizations have outlined obstacles to maintaining the pipeline of physician-scientists, classifying them as an endangered species. As in-training and early-career physician-scientists across the spectrum of the pipeline, we share here our perspective on the current challenges and available opportunities that might aid our generation in becoming independent physician-scientists. These challenges revolve around the difficulties in recruitment and retention of trainees, the length of training and lack of support at key training transition points, and the rapidly and independently changing worlds of medical and scientific training. In an era of health care reform and an environment of increasingly sparse NIH funding, these challenges are likely to become more pronounced and complex. As stakeholders, we need to coalesce behind core strategic points and regularly assess the impact and progress of our efforts with appropriate metrics. Here, we expand on the challenges that we foresee and offer potential opportunities to ensure a more sustainable physician-scientist workforce.

High resolution live cell Raman imaging using subcellular organelle-targeting SERS-sensitive gold nanoparticles with highly narrow intra-nanogap

We report a method to achieve high speed and high resolution live cell Raman images using small spherical gold nanoparticles with highly narrow intra-nanogap structures responding to NIR excitation (785 nm) and high-speed confocal Raman microscopy. The three different Raman-active molecules placed in the narrow intra-nanogap showed a strong and uniform Raman intensity in solution even under transient exposure time (10 ms) and low input power of incident laser (200 μW), which lead to obtain high-resolution single cell image within 30 s without inducing significant cell damage. The high resolution Raman image showed the distributions of gold nanoparticles for their targeted sites such as cytoplasm, mitochondria, or nucleus. The high speed Raman-based live cell imaging allowed us to monitor rapidly changing cell morphologies during cell death induced by the addition of highly toxic KCN solution to cells. These results strongly suggest that the use of SERS-active nanoparticle can greatly improve the current temporal resolution and image quality of Raman-based cell images enough to obtain the detailed cell dynamics and/or the responses of cells to potential drug molecules.