Nanotechnology, Molecular Imaging & Systems Biology

IBBME researchers are advancing disease detection, customizing drug delivery and improving health-care outcomes with faster and more precise technologies and systems.

Shape-shifting nanoparticles for delivering cancer drugs to tumours

Professor Warren Chan

Chemotherapy isn’t supposed to make your hair fall out — it’s supposed to kill cancer cells.

Professor Warren Chan’s Integrated Nanotechnology & Biomedical Sciences Laboratory builds targeted drug delivery systems designed to enter specific areas of your body. He and his team have created a set of nanoparticles attached to strands of DNA that function like a protein, but can be programmed to change shape and chemistry, allowing them to navigate through the traps in the body and gain access into diseased tissue.

Their discovery will lead to further advances in personalized nanomedicine — enabling tailored particles to deliver drugs into targeted types of tumours, and nowhere else.

Your body is basically a series of compartments. Think of it as a giant house with rooms inside. We’re trying to figure out how to get something that’s outside, into one specific room. One has to develop a map and a system that can move through the house where each path to the final room may have different restrictions such as height and width.” —Professor Warren Chan

Smarter scans for earlier cancer detection

Professor Hai-Ling Margaret Cheng

Professor Hai-Ling Margaret Cheng was working as an electrical engineer in the aerospace and defense industry when she realized the signal-processing techniques she was using could also enhance magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Today, her team is dedicated to improving MRI technology. Specifically, the Cheng Lab looks at ways to modify and enhance chemicals that give off a strong magnetic resonance signal, known as contrast agents, to accentuate visual accuracy of specific tissues and organs. Her lab is also developing novel, rapid imaging approaches to give us information about tissue physiology and functional dynamics.

Her developments in this area have proven promising in earlier cancer detection and stem cell observations for human tissue repair.

Shrinking the lab—mini diagnostic tools for rapid, on-site results

Professor Aaron Wheeler

Professor Aaron Wheeler is taking the lab to you.

His team builds miniature labs using digital microfluidics — a liquid-handling technology that can analyze tiny drops of chemical and biological fluids on site. Using electrostatic forces, their lab-on-a-chip device can manipulate these samples and probe them with built-in sensors for rapid analysis, all on something the size of a credit card.

The technology aims to allow advanced diagnostic tests to be performed at a patient’s bedside or in remote places around the world to give accurate results in less time.