Superparamagnetic nanoparticles in tumour cell apoptosis (PhD Project)

Supervisor: Dr. Shane O’Hehir and Dr. Tim Mercer

Magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) based hyperthermia is the process of locally heating tissue with magnetic nanoparticles using an external alternating magnetic field. This technique can be utilised in the in vivo targeted destruction of cancer cells.

Current in vitro investigations regarding cell death and magnetic nanoparticle meditated hyperthermia do not always differentiate between necrotic and apoptotic cell death mechanisms. The primary mode of action leading to apoptosis or necrosis may be a purely physical one, or one that involves an induced biological response.

Characterisation of magnetic nanoparticles under AC field conditions has not been routinely measured and reported in the literature to date. This is a necessary parameter for the characterisation of the heating effect (SAR) of magnetic nanoparticles.

The first phase of this project will involve the development of an in situ AC magnetometer for the measurement of time dependant hysteresis of nanoscale superparamagnetic particles. This novel approach will allow for measurements of magnetic properties under identical field conditions to those of the hyperthermia apparatus. The resulting nanoparticle characterisations will be used in the second phase of this research to optimise nanoparticle heating effect. Nanoparticle heating will be applied to the investigation of apoptotic death rate of tumour cells. AC field exposure time, amplitude and MNP composition and concentration will be varied and corresponding cell assays will be performed.

Whilst this multidisciplinary work will be based primarily within the well-established Magnetic Materials Research Physics Laboratories, there will also be opportunities to collaborate with other research groups within the fields of Biomedicine and Chemistry.

Candidates would be expected to hold a good Physics degree that has included an experimental final year project. Candidates with an appropriate physics-related or relevant Medical Engineering degree that should ideally include measurement/instrumentation experience will also be considered.

For further information please contact Dr. Shane O’Hehir: (+44-(0)1772-893733)

Figure 1: TEM image of mesoporous silica-coated magnetic nanoparticles used in recent hyperthermia and drug loading/release studies at UCLan.

Figure 2: Scanning Column Magnetometry (SCM) investigation on suspensions of superparamagnetic nanoparticles. lipid-coating produces a stable system and thereby helps to overcome one of the main barriers to potential in-vivo applications.