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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Professor Karlheinz Peter and Professor Geoff Pietersz

Project summary

Our laboratory is developing activated platelet-targeted gold nanoparticles as a CT contrast agent for molecular imaging of cardiovascular disease, such as atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction.

Computed Tomography (CT) allows for the cutting edge use of non-invasive anatomical imaging of the human body and is commonly used to diagnose cardiovascular disease. However, there are two main limitations of CT: limited soft tissue contrast and the lack of molecular readout. In recent years, the development of gold nanoparticles (GNRs) as CT contrast agents have gained major attention, with a specific focus on overcoming these CT limitations. The unique properties of GNRs, such as high X-ray attenuation, easy synthesis, and most importantly the ability to incorporate targeted photothermal therapy to imaging, make it an attractive agent for molecular imaging.

Activated platelets are known to play a major role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and ischemia reperfusion injury post myocardial infarction. In the Atherothrombosis and Vascular Biology laboratory, we have developed a single-chain antibody which only targets and binds to activated platelets present in areas of these diseases, but does not bind resting circulating platelets. We aim to design activated platelet-targeted GNRs for molecular imaging of atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction. Further on, we aim to develop a theranostic agent, by incorporating photothermal therapy or a therapeutic drug to the activated platelet-targeted GNRs for localised therapy, whilst ensuring limited systemic side effects.

Related methods, skills or technologies

This project is suitable for an Honours or PhD student and would involve the use of cell culture techniques, immunocytochemistry, animal models, molecular imaging, chemistry, flowcytometry, molecular biology, data analysis and Western blots.

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