Our work in biomaterials revolves around the peptide amphiphiles (PAs), self-assembling molecules that form nanostructures in water. The current projects are described below.

1) Antibacterial nanostructures. We have recently found the morphology of PA-based nanostructures is a key parameter in the antimicrobial action of these systems (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b17808).  The mechanism of action of the nanostructures is related to their ability to disrupt the bacterial membrane. We are currently fine-tuning parameters such as size, hydrophobic ratio, and zeta potential to find a potent nanostructure with low toxicity.  In addition, we try to incorporate know antibiotics within the structure of the PAs to develop hybrid systems with synergistic potential.

2) New self-assembling systems.  We are exploring the effect that various solubilizing groups such as polyamines, sugars, and DNA-base pairs have in the self-assembling properties. We recently published a paper detailing the effect that various amines have in the morphology, cell toxicity, and chemical and metabolic stability of peptide-based systems. Our collaborators, Dr. Mario Tagliazucchi and his group, are developing theoretical tools to understand the behavior of these new systems.!divAbstract

3) Cancer-targeting nanostructures.  We are developing nanostructures of various morphologies to detect and treat colon and prostate cancer (therasnostic systems).


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Flow cytometry analysis. Cell membrane disruption of S. aureus JE2 MRSA treated with PA 4 (C18K5) and PA 7 (C18K-K5) at MIC was determined by an increase in fluorescent intensity of PI.  Negative control - No PA; PA 4 at 8 μg/mL; PA 7 at 8 μg/mL and PA 12 (C18R5) at 16 μg/mL. Treatment with EtOH 70% was used as positive control.