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Tetyana Ignatova (Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering) received new funding from UNC Charlotte for the project “Small Nucleic Acids Nanoassemblies Programmed to Operate in Living Systems.”

The researchers aim to establish strong research team that will rely on continuous collaboration among diverse institutions and disciplines to address fundamental design aspects of smart biological materials programmed to operate in living cells. These materials developed for conditional activation in the diseased cells only will revolutionize many applications in the health sciences and pharmacoengineering. All results will be listed in the on-line database made available for public viewing via the UNCC website. During the course of funded period, we also plan to introduce a pilot training program in collaboration with the Office of University Communications and Marketing Services at UNCC.

The overall goal of this proposal is to engineer dynamic stimuli-responsive nucleic acid-based nanoparticles (NANPs) with well-defined biological properties. Most already existing assortment of NANPs are static and not able to dynamically interact with biological systems or other NANPs. To address this need we plan to develop a NANP-based, programmable dynamic platform that can readily interact in cellular environments to activate targeted biological properties. There are two objectives to achieve the overall goal of this program:

Objective 1: To expand a set of rules suitable for the production of functionally interdependent NANPs that can interact with each other intracellularly and provide pre-programmed responses.

Objective 2: To expand a methodology aiming to organize inorganic nanoparticles (INPs) in human cells in response to stimuli via nucleic acid-based isothermal interactions.

The team of PIs with complementary expertise is ideally suited to conduct the proposed research: UNC Charlotte (Afonin) will the design synthesis and characterization of nucleic acid based nanoparticles and their in vivo delivery; NC Central University (Taylor) will participate in chemical modifications of nucleic acids to make them amenable to functionalization with inorganic materials; UNC Greensboro (Ignatova) will provide characterization of inorganic nanomaterials and their biological conjugates both in vitro and in living cells; and NC State University (Yingling) will predict morphological phase diagrams and interaction pathways for nucleic acid nanoparticles by simulations. The students involved on this cutting-edge collaborative research project will benefit from the cross-disciplinary studies between chemistry, biology, computational and nano- science and will be carefully co-advised by aforementioned PIs. Moreover, students from UNCC, UNCG, NCCU, and NCSU will actively participate in pilot training in science communication in collaboration with the Office of University Communications and its Marketing Services Department at UNCC.

The team members have a track record of previous productive collaborations with each other: Ignatova (UNCG), Afonin (UNCC), and Yingling (NCSU) are currently collaborating on the project that involves the use of single-walled carbon nanotubes for specific delivery of therapeutic nucleic acids into the cancer cells.

For the described in this proposal collaboration, we plan to hold monthly project meetings in-person, as both campuses are within a two-hour drive or by Skype or Webex. Furthermore, we will co-advise the graduate students working on this research project.

 
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