The research of Priyabrata Mukherjee, Ph.D., focuses on nanomedicine, which has the potential to revolutionize the way that patients are currently treated. This multidisciplinary field spans the disciplines of biology, chemistry, materials science, engineering and medicine.
Major areas in which nanotechnology could significantly improve the quality of life for patients include targeted drug delivery, early detection and diagnosis, and imaging.
Further, nanotechnology provides unique opportunities to probe cellular processes, making it possible to identify new therapeutic targets and biomarkers for various diseases.
- Targeted drug delivery. Nanoparticle-mediated targeted delivery of chemotherapeutics is expected to reduce side effects and increase efficacy of the drugs. Dr. Mukherjee and his colleagues are involved in optimizing a gold nanoparticle-based targeted drug delivery system for the treatment of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer.
- Anti-angiogenic property of inorganic nanomaterials. Dr. Mukherjee and his team, for the first time, demonstrated the anti-angiogenic property of gold nanoparticles. Gold nanoparticles bind heparin-binding growth factors and thereby inhibit their function. Dr. Mukherjee is now working on determining the mechanism of interaction to design a better strategy to combat ovarian cancer.
- Identification of new molecular targets. Dr. Mukherjee and his colleagues use surface-engineered gold nanoparticles to detect otherwise undetected proteins (in other words, visualizing invisible proteins) as a way to determine new molecular signatures and therapeutic targets in cancer. They use a combination of nanotechnology, proteomics and bioinformatics analysis to identify new therapeutic targets.
- Overcoming drug resistance. Using nanotechnology, Dr. Mukherjee and his team are developing a unique method to bypass the traditional transporter-mediated delivery of chemotherapeutics, such as gemcitabine. This form of delivery will potentially overcome drug resistance due to the unavailability of nucleoside transporters in the tumor cells.
- Nanoendocytosis. Dr. Mukherjee's group is involved in understanding the basic mechanism of cellular entry of nanomaterials, as well as switching the targeting pathway as a means to target specific cellular process and identify adapter molecules involved in the process of endocytosis of nanomaterials.
- Metabolic enzymes in cancer. Dr. Mukherjee and his team are involved in determining the roles of metabolic enzymes in cancer.
Significance to patient care
Targeted delivery of a drug should result in enhanced therapeutic efficacy with minimal side effects. This is a widely accepted concept, but it is limited in application due to a lack of available technologies and the process of validation.
Biomedical nanotechnology can play an important role in this aspect, as it's a burgeoning field that brings with it a myriad of opportunities and possibilities for advancing medical science and disease treatment.
At the nanoscale, the physicochemical and biological properties of materials — such as metals and semiconductors — differ fundamentally from their corresponding bulk counterpart because of the quantum size effect. For example, gold nanoparticles have wine-red color, while metallic gold is golden yellow. This wine-red color can be turned to either pink, violet or blue by simply controlling the size and shape of gold nanoparticles. Further, nanoparticles have large surface areas to load multiple diagnostics (such as optical, radioisotope and magnetic) and therapeutics (such as drugs).
As recurrence with a drug-resistant phenotype is a common event in cancer, overcoming it using nanotechnology will help millions of people suffering from recurrence of such a deadly disease.
Additionally, identifying new molecular targets — and hence new signaling networks — using nanotechnology will improve understanding of the biology of tumor growth and metastasis and equip clinicians and scientists with better strategies to combat the disease.
- Editorial Board Member — Scientific Reports (2011); Biosensors & Bioelectronics (2010); Journal of Cancer Science & Therapy (2010); Journal of Nanoscience Letters (2010); World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology (2009); Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews (theme editor, 2008); International Journal of Green Nanotechnology (2008); International Journal of Oncology (2008); Elements (2006)
- Ad Hoc Member, National Institutes of Health Peer Review Panels — Developmental Therapeutics; Vascular and Cellular Molecular Biology; Atherosclerosis in Cardiovascular Disease; SBIR: Nanotechnology Imaging and Sensing Platforms for Improved Diagnosis of Cancer, ARRA; SBIR: Multifunctional Therapeutics Based on Nanotechnology; Nanotechnology Study Section; Gene and Drug Delivery Study Section; National Cancer Institute Provocative Questions Program; ZRG1 OTC-X(90) Cancer Therapeutics AREA Grant Applications Study Section