The Sailor lab develops porous silicon- and iron oxide-based nanoparticles for biomedical applications, including biochemical sensors, drug delivery, and in vivo imaging. As they specialize in materials chemistry, they collaborate with numerous biologists, bioengineers, and clinicians to develop strategies that fit current challenges.
The work that best exemplifies the Sailor group’s expertise in modulating synthetic approaches to create materials with new properties is their work on optical biosensors for in vitro and in vivo applications. Most of this research involves porous silicon-based particles; they were the first to employ photonic crystal microparticles of porous Si in biological detection. They have applied these materials to measure protease activity, concentrations of specific proteins, rates of drug delivery, and cell viability. More recently, the lab has demonstrated that luminescent porous silicon nanoparticles allow in vivo imaging with minimal fluorescent background signal, which could allow tracking of drug delivery and more effective disease diagnosis.
These optical properties, as well as the biodegradability and diverse drug compatibility of porous silica particles, have led the Sailor lab to collaborate with Drs. William Freeman and Lingyun Chen to develop a system for sustained release of various drugs within the posterior segment of the eye. This work has identified surface modifications that increase stability and slow degradation, as well as a means of tuning drug release rates by modulating how the silica material is produced. The long-term goal of this project is to develop improved formulations of drugs for proliferative vitreoretinopathy and chronic uveitis that report the proportion of drug that has been released.
Sailor’s group also has a longstanding collaboration with Sangeeta Bhatia of MIT and Erkki Ruoslahti of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute towards noninvasive tumor imaging. A key contribution from the Sailor lab was the development of iron oxide nanoworms, which circulate longer and thus allow greater tumor accumulation than iron oxide nanoparticles; both materials enhance negative MRI contrast. Since this innovation, the team has pursued several creative strategies to enhance tumor targeting of both nanoworms and drug-carrying nanoparticles through coordinated effects of multiple types of nanomaterials. These strategies, such as incorporating components of the coagulation cascade to recruit imaging agents or drug delivery vehicles to exogenously induced clots within tumors, could be especially useful to image or target drugs to dispersed, deep-seated tumors and metastases.
Fry NL, Boss GR, Sailor MJ. Oxidation-induced trapping of drugs in porous silicon microparticles. Chem Mater 2014;26(8):2758-2764
Xiao L, Gu L, Howell SB, Sailor MJ. Porous silicon nanoparticle photosensitizers for singlet oxygen and their phototoxicity against cancer
cells. ACS Nano 2011; 5(5): 3651-59.
Park JH, von Maltzahn G, Xu MJ, Fogal V, Kotamraju VR, Ruoslahti E, Bhatia SN, Sailor MJ. Cooperative nanomaterial system to sensitize, target, and treat tumors. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 2010; 107(3): 981-86.