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Sullivan wins NSF Career Award for research on therapeutic drug carriers
Date:5/28/2008

the nucleus or other organelle within a target cell where the package will open up to deliver its contents.

"It's a challenge to achieve because in protecting the DNA or drug, you generally make it less accessible to its target," Sullivan said. "We need to design packaging materials that protect their cargo, but that also promote the release and functionality of the payload once it reaches its target site," she noted. "What elements within the cell would allow this unpackaging? That is what we want to find out."

Currently, Sullivan is working to design synthetic DNA delivery materials that mimic elements of the architecture and function of histones in chromosomal DNA packaging. Histones are positively charged protein complexes that function as "spools" around which chromosomal DNA is wrapped. They display a series of peptide "tails" with specific sequences that act like switches, and can activate or suppress the transcription process by which DNA is unraveled and read.

Sullivan is creating gold nanoparticles functionalized with histone tail sequences strongly associated with transcriptional activity. When used for packaging therapeutic DNA, these materials will protect and direct their payloads during extra- and intracellular transport. Once they are exposed to the specific chemical cues within the cell's nucleus, the materials are pre-programmed to "trigger," resulting in the partial release and activation of the cargo DNA.

Confocal fluorescence microscopy and cryo-transmission electron microscopy will be used to investigate what happens to the materials once they are introduced to cells, and to determine if they do, indeed, "loosen up" and affect DNA transcription, Sullivan said.

The educational component to the research project is designed to expose students to engineering before they reach college.

As part of the UD College of Engineering's Research Experiences for Teachers program, Sullivan is ready to pilot
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Contact: Tracey Bryant
tbryant@udel.edu
302-831-8185
University of Delaware
Source:Eurekalert  

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Sullivan wins NSF Career Award for research on therapeutic drug carriers
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