CU-CIA Funded project “Towards the Creation of Biomimetic Complement Protein: Understanding Self-Assembly in Whole Blood” led Dr. Jessica Larsen and Honors College Undergraduate (’20) Lauren Maghak to an accidental discovery.
Maghak and Larsen were working to drive self-assembly of polymers around blood borne pathogens. Their electron microscopy experiments were leading to very unexpected images. Upon further examination and with the addition of lysed controls, Maghak and Larsen began to realize that these clinically-approved polymers were causing dramatic morphological changes to blood cells. These polymers are commonly used in pre-clinical nanomedicine that then fails upon entering clinical trials.
Their project morphed into an exploration of the effect of varying hydrophobicities of polyesters on each major blood component, summarized in their paper entitled “Intact or in Pieces? A Look at How Clinically Approved, Biodegradable Block Co-Polymers Affect Blood Components” published in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering in July of 2020, which is also present on the cover. This letter can be thought of as a as a call for more thorough testing of polymeric materials in blood prior to clinical trials. This research culminated in an Honors Thesis in Chemical Engineering for recent Biochemistry graduate, Lauren Maghak. Maghak is now pursuing her PhD at Indiana University.