Research Highlights

Applied Organic Synthesis

Our lab focuses on applied organic synthesis, studying and synthesizing new organic compounds and polymers for applications in molecular sensors, nitric oxide (NO) releasing materials, and cancer therapeutics. We design organic molecules to sense bacteria, which we have found produce a clear color change in the presence of bacteria. We also design NO donors for antibacterial applications, or incorporation into polymers for various applications. We design and synthesize cancer therapeutics aimed towards gene inhibition and NO delivery to prevent the growth of new tumors and induce controlled apoptosis in existing ones.

bacteria plates with cell growth

Metal Organic Frameworks

Nitric Oxide Catalysis and Storage:

Metal organic frameworks represent an emerging class of the biomaterials with reported applications as drug delivery vehicles. In our work we take advantage of the unique chemical and physical properties of MOFs to develop nitric oxide releasing therapeutic materials, known as NO-releasing metal organic frameworks (NOMOFs). The development of NOMOFs can be categorized as either NO functionalized materials or NO catalysts. In the first case, MOF materials are known to have exceptionally high NO loading capacities and are therefore chemically modified to incorporate NO releasing moieties through various organic transformations of the organic component of the MOF. The materials are subsequently evaluated for the total amount of incorporated NO as well as the kinetics of NO release. In the second part of our work, we capitalize on the catalytic activity of the incorporated metal centers in the framework in order to generate NO from bioavailable sources. In either case there is significant emphasis on the synthetic process for developing new NOMOFs as well as rigorous analytical characterization of the materials.

This project involves significant inorganic, organic, and materials synthesis efforts and a variety of analytical and physical characterization techniques to study the resulting properties of these novel NO-producing materials.

nitric oxide metal organic frameworks

Metal Organic Framework Polymer Composites:

Recent research in employing MOFs as additives in polymer films has gained much attention, increasing potential applications. Our group is interested in incorporating NOMOFs into polymeric matrices to create films and catalytic coatings to be applied as therapeutic biomaterials. This can be accomplished through various blending techniques of synthesized MOF or direct growth of MOF onto polymer surfaces. By blending the two components, we are able to generate enhanced properties of both the MOF and polymer. MOF growth is of particular interest providing covalently linked NO catalysts or donors unable to leach. This project involves synthesis and characterization of bulk and surface polymer environments.

Direct MOF Growth:
direct MOF growth scheme
Polymer-MOF Blending:
blended MOF scheme

Cellular-material Interactions

Cellular adhesion and aggregation on implanted foreign surfaces can cause material failure. Little is known about the interaction and effect of NO on various blood proteins. By examining the relationships between NO release, protein adsorption, and cellular adhesion, we may obtain a better fundamental understanding of the mechanisms by which NO prevents biofouling on artificial surfaces. Therefore, our lab is evaluating the effect of NO on adsorption of proteins onto artificial surfaces using a variety of analytical methods including ELISA assays and surface analysis techniques. We use the combination of these to examine the dose-response relationship between protein adhesion and long-term cellular adhesion.

fibrinogen assay scheme

Probing Bulk and Surface Material Properties

To understand the chemical behavior of therapeutic agents in solid state matrices, our group is using model systems to develop methods for monitoring the decomposition of specific functional groups as a function of time. Real-time phase NO release measurements are made using custom chemiluminescence instruments. Taken together, the information is used to develop physical models of how these agents function in the confined polymeric environments compared to aqueous solutions.

Kinetics data