Fellow 2012-13

Hyun Joon Kong

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Inflammation Cell-mimicking Nanoparticles for Targeted IMaging of Leaky Blood Vessels

Blood vessels that leak plasma and white blood cells into extravascular space cause inflammation and abnormal biotransport, leading to various diseases such as acute and chronic lung injury, kidney dysfunction, limb necrosis, strokes, and heart attacks. Clinical studies suggest that early detection of leaky blood vessels is crucial for prevention and control of these vascular diseases, which represent the leading cause of human death and disability worldwide.

Recently, the noninvasive technique of magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) has emerged as a promising way to visualize blood flow through blood vessels. MRA generates a stack of sliced images by rotating and scanning water nuclei in tissue inside a strong magnetic field, often using contrast agents such as gadolinium and iron oxide nanoparticles to enhance the images’ quality. But with approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels in an adult human body, it is still a challenging task to pinpoint a specific blood vessel with abnormal permeability.

During his Center appointment, Professor Kong will address this area by engineering a polymeric particle (80 nm diameter) that mimics the inflammatory cell surface and binds with the bioactive molecules of leaky blood vessels (e.g., vascular cell adhesion molecules). He will encapsulate iron oxide particles (5 nm diameter) into the polymeric particles as a contrasting agent and then circulate the particles through a synthetic artery, attempting to pinpoint and visualize leaky vasculature using MRA. Achieving this level of visualization would allow clinicians to implant remedial devices precisely into the problematic areas.

Aligned with this research goal, Professor Kong will prepare a review article that summarizes various nano-sized molecular and particulate transporters of bioimaging contrast agents and discusses their clinical usages. The results of his research project are expected to have significant effects on both research in bioengineering and strategies for the clinical diagnosis and repair of defective blood vessels.