Tuning and Targeting Semiconducting Polymer Nanoparticles to Enhance In Vivo Photoacoustic Imaging

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Structural Molecular Biology


Photoacoustic (PA) imaging is a novel imaging technique that combines the high spatial resolution of ultrasound imaging and the specificity of optical imaging techniques. To achieve good contrast in vivo, PA imaging relies on the optical properties of endogenous molecules. However, many clinically relevant biological species are optically silent, and would require an imaging agent to target them with good specificity while remaining photostable and retaining good bioavailability. Recently, the Tabor group has succeeded in specifically targeting a pDNA delivery nanoparticle to EGFR receptors, overexpressed on the surface of cancer cells, by introducing pendant targeting peptides into the nanoparticle scaffold. Coformulated with lipids and amphiphilic moieties such as PEG and DPPC, these coated nanoparticles have good retention times and their functionalised core remains protected from degradation. Based on the recent synthesis by the Bronstein group of indigo-derived semiconducting polymers (INDT-X) with excellent PA potential, the aim of this project is to formulate EGFR-targeting INDT species within a semiconducting polymer nanoparticle (SPN) scaffold, to produce a safe and performant PA contrast agent for the clinical and pre-clinical imaging of a variety of cancers.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M009513/1 01/10/2015 31/03/2024
1754844 Studentship BB/M009513/1 01/10/2016 28/06/2021 Simon Guillaume
Description The work is still ongoing, but specific techniques related to the formulation of contrast agents for the early detection have been explored. The decoration of pre-formed nanoparticles with targeting peptides would allow for a better and earlier cancer detection in patients, which correlates with good survival outcomes. None of these nanoparticles have been tested yet and this is still at a speculative stage.
Exploitation Route The development of targeted nanoparticles for photoacoustic imaging might pave the way for a cheaper and more widely available imaging mode. Specifically, the development of PEG-coated contrast agents incorporating photoacoustic contrast agent and decorated with targeting moieties is a novel procedure, which could be scaled-up in the future. THe production cost of these targeted nanoparticles would be cheaper to produce than antibody-based targeted contrast agents.
Sectors Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology