The American Chemical Society has awarded Lianfang Zhang, professor in the Department of NanoEngineering, the ACS Colloid and Surface Division Unilever Award for 2012. This award was established in 2004 to recognize work in the field of colloid or surfactant science by North American researchers in the early stages of their careers. The award recognizes Zhang’s research on biomimetic nanomaterials that integrate synthetic colloids with natural cellular membrane materials, and biologically responsive nanostructures for drug delivery.
For example, Zhang’s lab has shown that nanoparticles stuffed with a cocktail of cancer-fighting drugs can be hidden from the body’s immune system by simply wrapping them in the membrane of a red blood cell. His red blood cell membrane cloaked nanoparticles were featured in a front-page story by UT San Diego last November and in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Nanoparticles are less than 100 nanometers in size, about the same size as a virus. “This is the first work that combines the natural cell membrane with a synthetic nanoparticle for drug delivery applications.” said Zhang, who is also affiliated with Moores UCSD Cancer Center.
Zhang is also working on biologically responsive nanostructures that offer a new way to deliver antimicrobial agents directly to the site of bacterial infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Zhang’s team use phospholipid liposomes to deliver the antibiotics. But liposomes by themselves wouldn’t last long enough to deliver an effective treatment so Zhang has stabilized them with chitosan-coated gold nanoparticles.
You can learn more about the Zhang Research Group’s gold nanoparticle-stabilized liposomes for bacterial skin infections at the April 12 Research Expo 2012 when Soracha Thamphiwatana, a nanoengineering graduate student in Zhang’s lab, will present a poster on this research, which was published last year in Chemical & Engineering News.The Unilever Award is one of the most competitive and prestigious national awards offered by the ACS Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry. Zhang will receive the award this summer during the 86th ACS Colloids and Surface Science Symposium in Baltimore June 12.