Biomedical Engineering ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-3-2016


Mesoporous silica nanoparticle (MSNP) supported-lipid bilayers, termed ‘protocells,’ represent a potentially transformative class of therapeutic and theranostic delivery vehicles. The field of targeted drug delivery poses considerable challenges that cannot be addressed with a single ‘magic bullet’. Consequently, the protocell has been designed as a modular platform composed of interchangeable biocompatible components. The mesoporous silica core can have variable size and shape to direct biodistribution and controlled pore size and surface chemistry to accommodate diverse cargos. The encapsulating supported lipid bilayer can be modified with targeting and trafficking ligands as well as polyethylene glycol (PEG) to effect selective binding, endosomal escape of cargo, drug efflux prevention, and potent therapeutic delivery, while maintaining in vivo colloidal stability. Many nanocarrier cancer therapeutics currently under development, as well as those used in the clinical setting, rely upon the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect to passively accumulate in the tumor microenvironment and kill cancer cells. In leukemia, where leukemogenic stem cells and their progeny circulate within the peripheral blood or bone marrow, the EPR effect may not be operative. Thus, for leukemia therapeutics, it is essential to target and bind individual circulating cells. Here, we investigate protocells, an emerging class of nanocarriers, and establish the synthesis conditions and lipid bilayer composition needed to achieve highly monodisperse protocells that remain stable in complex media as assessed in vitro by dynamic light scattering and cryo-electron microscopy and ex ovo by direct imaging within a chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) model. We show that for vesicle fusion conditions where the lipid surface area exceeds the external surface area of the MSNP and the ionic strength exceeds 20 mM, we form monosized protocells (polydispersity index < 0.1) on MSNP cores with varying size, shape, and pore size, whose conformal zwitterionic supported lipid bilayer confers excellent stability as judged by circulation in the CAM and minimal opsonization in vivo in a mouse model. Having established protocell formulations that are stable colloids, we further modified them with anti-EGFR antibodies as targeting agents and re-verified their monodispersity and stability. Then using intravital imaging in the CAM we directly observed in real time the progression of selective targeting of individual leukemia cells (using the established REH leukemia cell line transduced with EGFR) and delivery of a model cargo. Overall we have established the effectiveness of the protocell platform for individual cell targeting and delivery needed for leukemia and other disseminated disease.


Mesoporous Silica Nanoparticle, supported lipid bilayer, leukemia, targeted drug delivery, chorioallentoic membrane, monosized

Document Type


Degree Name

Biomedical Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Biomedical Engineering

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. C. Jeffrey Brinker

Second Committee Member

Dr. Bryce Chackerian

Third Committee Member

Dr. Robert Rubin

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Pavan Muttil