BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In the images of fruit flies, clusters of neurons are all lit up, forming a brightly glowing network of highways within the brain.
It's exactly what University at Buffalo researcher Shermali Gunawardena was hoping to see: It meant that ORMOSIL, a novel class of nanoparticles, had successfully penetrated the insects' brains. And even after long-term exposure, the cells and the flies themselves remained unharmed.
The particles, which are tagged with fluorescent proteins, hold promise as a potential vehicle for drug delivery.
Each particle is a vessel, containing cavities that scientists could potentially fill with helpful chemical compounds or gene therapies to send to different parts of the human body. Gunawardena is particularly interested in using ORMOSIL -- organically modified silica -- to target problems within neurons that may be related to neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease.
The recent study on fruit flies is a step toward making this happen, demonstrating that long-term exposure to ORMOSIL, through breathing and feeding, did not injure the animals.
The research appeared in the journal PLoS ONE on Jan. 3.
"We saw that after feeding these nanoparticles in the fruit fly larvae, the ORMOSIL was going mainly into the guts and skin. But over time, in adult flies, you could see it in the brain. These results are really fascinating because these particles do not show any toxic effects on the whole organism or the neuronal cells," said Gunawardena, an assistant professor of biological sciences and a researcher in UB's Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics.
The ORMOSIL particles she is investigating are a unique variety crafted by a research group led by Paras N. Prasad, the UB institute's executive director. Each particle contains cavities that can hold drugs, which can be released when the particles are exposed to light.
|Contact: Charlotte Hsu|
University at Buffalo