Christopher Pierce, a junior undergraduate student in Chemical Engineering, was recently awarded funding through SC INBRE along with his mentor Dr. Jessica Larsen. Through the Student-Initiated Research Program (SIRP), Christopher will receive $3,000 to pursue his project which has a basis in drug delivery, biomedicine, and neuroscience.
His project, entitled “Modulation of Polymersome Shape to Enhance Blood-Brain Barrier Uptake”, will explore the effect of hydrophobicity on changing the shape of vesicular nanoparticles called polymersomes. Polymersomes have the benefits of simultaneously encapsulating hydrophilic and hydrophobic drugs, evading the immune system, and circulating for extended periods of time. Thermodynamically, polymersomes form into spherical shapes. However, materials natively internalized in cells are not generally spherical. By altering the polymersome shape into various structures, including more elongated rods and more blood-cell like stomatocytes, he aims to increase endothelial uptake to aid in transport of payloads through the blood-brain barrier.
He will develop design rules to create each shape by exploring biodegradable polymers with varying hydrophobicities and altering osmotic pressure gradients. Of the awards given, only two were given to undergraduate students and only one award was given to a student majoring in an engineering field. Congratulations to Christopher Pierce and Dr. Jessica Larsen!