Materials at the nanoscale have emergent physical properties (e.g., quantum confinement, photonics, super-paramagnetism), and also interact with biological systems in unique ways (e.g., enhanced permeation and retention effect, multi-valent ligand binding, phagocytosis). Combining these two phenomena, engineers can create nanosystems that interact with living host organisms to achieve diagnostic and therapeutic goals. Peptides display a diverse range of functions (receptor-binding, cell signaling, membrane-interaction, etc.) and a nanoparticle decorated with multiple peptides can coordinate multiple peptide functions to achieve greater specificity and efficacy than single-component systems.
There are currently a limited number of treatment strategies for the treatment of diseases of the central nervous system, including brain injury, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases. The goal of our work is to learn how to interact with the brain in pathological states and transfer these properties to engineered nanomaterials that are responsive to disease-specific biology.