Eun Ji Chung, Ph.D.

Designer Micelles for Molecular Diagnostics

Peptide-based micellar nanomaterials are particularly useful and have yielded promising results in the targeted delivery of therapeutic and diagnostic agents. Through surface-modifications with ligands, micelles can bind to markers that are selectively expressed on diseased tissue, and provide a read-out regarding disease progression. To this end, we have engineered sel-assembling, peptide amphiphile micelles (PAMs) that bind to various stages of atherosclerosis and incorporated contrast agents that complement clinically relevant imaging modalities such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Micelles formed from PAs are advantageous because a locally concentrated display of a peptide on the exterior can be used to potentiate specific binding to a disease target of interest, minimizing systemic side effects. Moreover, the nanometer size provides favorable pharmacokinetic properties in vivo. And notably, due to the modularity of PAMs and their ability to incorporate multiple components, theranostic micelles can be easily constructed through simple mixing of the various amphiphilic molecules. Such micelles have the potential to be the next generation of nanoparticles with capabilities to bind to specific disease markers of interest, deliver a therapeutic, and monitor the progression and/or regression of the disease in real-time. We present micelles developed for early to late-stage atherosclerosis and cancer, and their potential as contrast-enhancing, diagnostic agents in vivo.