“My lab focuses on developing materials that can be used for 3D printing and regenerative engineering,” says Yang. “Polylactones – such as polylactic acid (PLA) – are one of the few types of biodegradable polymers that have been widely used in FDA approved medical devices such as orthopedic fixation devices, tissue engineering scaffolds, and drug-delivering micro- or nano-particles. We are innovating this material by making it intrinsically photoluminescent without adding traditional photobleaching organic dyes or cytotoxic quantum dots. That was a challenge previously, but we've managed to do it now.”
By modifying the PLA polymer to be intrinsically fluorescent, the Yang Lab has made a biodegradable material that can also be useful in bioimaging, diagnosis, sensing, and other related applications.
“We hope that these innovations will help to overcome some of the major hurdles in biomaterials development. As a result, we should begin to see medical products and procedures that work and integrate better to produce superior outcomes for doctors and patients, alike.”
In one of their research projects, the Yang Lab makes the PLA polymer into nanoparticles that can carry chemotherapeutic drugs to target cancerous tumors.
“Because the cell membranes of cancer cells overexpress folate receptors,” Yang explains, “we can target those cells and tumors with our nanoparticle by conjugating folic acid on its surface; and now that our nanoparticle is fluorescent, we can also use it to image the tumors via fluorescence imaging.”
Yang adds that during surgery, however, a doctor can only see down to roughly millimeter-sized tumors with the naked eye, and so another problem arises: there are other cancerous cells surrounding the tumors that the doctor cannot see, and if those cells aren’t also removed, then the cancer will return.
Read the full news story here HUCK news.