Smart nano polymers, biomaterials to detect, treat and prevent disease, a breakthrough in NanoEngineering in the field of medical science.
The Almutairi lab in nano science develops responsive polymers and polymer-based materials with sophisticated architectures to address a wide range of challenges in biological research and medicine. These materials fall apart upon exposure to the biochemistry of disease or externally controlled stimuli such as light, a highly creative strategy towards drug targeting that has also led to the development of disease-activated imaging agents.
Polymer, nanoparticles, and hydrogels have a wide range of therapeutic, diagnostic, or cosmetic applications. A smart substance that has a molecular structure consisting chiefly or entirely of a large number of similar units bonded together.
Because of their broad range of properties, both synthetic and natural polymers play an essential and ubiquitous role in everyday life. Polymers range from familiar synthetic plastics such as polystyrene to natural biopolymers such as DNA and proteins that are fundamental to biological structure and function.
Types of polymer materials structure and sythesis
Polymers, both natural and synthetic, are created via polymerization of many small molecules, known as monomers. Their consequently large molecular mass relative to small molecule compounds produces unique physical properties, including toughness, viscoelasticity, and a tendency to form glasses and semicrystalline structures rather than crystals.
Adah Abdurrahman Almutairi, a Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, in her most recent discovery is a novel mechanism which uses light to activate drug-delivering nanoparticles. Targeted therapeutic substances inside the body. Together with her group, they develop responsive polymers and polymer-based materials with sophisticated architectures to address a wide range of challenges in biological research and medicine.
Smart nano polymers and their applications
In her polymer project and research work, she applies cutting-edge macromolecular engineering techniques and nanotechnology to innovate the visualisation of molecular processes in living organisms and to improve drug delivery and biopharmaceutics.
Prof. Almutairi’s group takes a unique approach to creating nanoparticles that release their contents in response to a stimulus, designing polymers that fall apart into small molecules. This should make their nanomaterials especially useful in vivo, as small molecules are more rapidly cleared than large polymer chains. Further, it’s enabled them to make several breakthrough polymers. Including the first near infrared-degradable polymer and the first nanoparticle to release in response to disease-relevant concentrations of peroxide.
They also contributed another innovative concept to the field by introducing two logic gate polymers (one is pH-responsive and one responds to the combination of peroxide and low pH). In which degrade in a two step response to allow rapid release while maintaining stability in the absence of stimuli.
Nano polymers as particle and hydrogels
Smart polymers that degrade into small molecules in response to mild acid, oxidative conditions, or light (even near infrared light, which can safely penetrate living tissue). Formulating these nano polymers into nanoparticles and hydrogels allows delivery of a variety of cargo, from drugs to imaging agents to biological molecules.
These materials enable unprecedented control over delivery and should allow complete clearance of the carrier. They could be used to create biomedical research tools, diagnostic agents, and drug formulations that rapidly advance understanding and treatment of disease.
At a conference in Berlin recently, Almutairi announced her most recent research based on merging light-activated nanoparticles and lanthanides to increase sufficiency of solar energy.
But solar energy and desalination won’t be the end of Ghada’s creativity. The vast array of practical uses of her research — touching on everything from diabetes to MRI imaging — draws great interest from pharmaceutical, cosmetic, chemical and energy companies all over the world.
Almutairi’s work has won her numerous awards and given her access to funds including: UC Dissertation Award, UC Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship, PhRMA Foundation Starter Grant, and NIH New Innovator Award.
Nano scientist Ghada Almutairi is a Saudi polymer chemist. However, she chooses to introduce herself as a “nano- constructor” or “plastic surgeon”. Since an early age, she prepared herself to qualify for major global challenges. Her problem solving skills always hold her in good stead while facing challenges in her personal and professional lives. IMAGE/ Dr. Adah Almutairi in lab at UCSD