Page 27

■ “The contrast agent administered during an MRI scan is a chemical substance that enhances the quality of the image. The classic contrast media use gadolinium, which is an exotic element and problematic for the human body to get rid of. Some patients, especially those with kidney disease, may experience serious health-threatening complications. Like many diagnostic methods, MRI may have unwanted side-effects, though in many cases it is life-saving. In collaboration with the Jagiellonian Centre for Experimental Therapeutics (JCET), we’re working on a contrast agent based on nanomolecules of the oxides of iron. Suitably processed iron oxides, coated with a polymer layer, acquire special magnetic properties and turn out to be extremely efficient MRI contrasting agents. Moreover, the human body has no problems with metabolising iron and converting it into useful forms or removing it.” □ “Will the dose of iron oxides administered during a scan be absolutely safe?” ■ “Yes, our research to date shows that this contrast is not expected to involve a health risk if taken in the doses necessary for an MRI scan. Incidentally, a slightly modified form of iron oxide is administered in the treatment of anaemia and iron deficiency. So it should be neutral, or in some cases even beneficial for the patient. In addition the oxides of iron are much cheaper than gadolinium, which is a rare element.” □ “What stage has your research reached?” ■ “We’re already testing the fundamental contrast agents on animals. At present we’re working on making the contrast more ‘sensitive’, getting it to work more selectively in the organs which are to be scanned. We want to develop a targeted contrast. Materials based on the oxides of iron can also be applied in hyperthermia, which is a procedure for the destruction of, say, cancer cells when magnetic nanomolecules are inserted into the body in the place where the pathological tissue is situated. In this area we’re working with scientists from the AGH University of Technology and the Institute of Nuclear Physics from the Polish Academy of Sciences.” □ “Are you conducting other biomedical research as well?” ■ “Yes, indeed. We’re also working on the construction of nano- and micrometre drug carriers, which can deliver a drug to a designated part of the body more efficiently and in a better controlled way, thus increasing the drug’s effectiveness. Our partners for this project are Professor Maria Nowakowska and Professor Krzysztof Szczubiałka, with the involvement of many other scientists and students. We’re also co-operating with medical scientists on the production of biodegradable polymer scaffolds for cell seeding. Cells are taken from the patient and seeded out on the surface of a polymer scaffold. They are cultivated to form tissue in vitro which can then be transplanted to the patient

to replace cells damaged in an injury or during surgery. We’ve already done successful tests on animals and the prospects for further development are good.” □ “You’ve also got a successful research project to your credit on the reduction of nanoparticle silver emission into the atmosphere. What makes this so important?” ■ “Nanomolecules of silver have been in use for years, mainly in antibacterial applications. They’re in many products available on the market, such as antiseptic cosmetics, cleaning agents, paints and varnishes, fungicides and antibacterial substances. They’re also used in the production of synthetic packaging and household appliances. The problem is that their excessive exposure to the environment has detrimental effects as well – for instance they destroy useful bacteria, e.g. needed to process effluent. Owing to their size, nanomolecules of silver can accumulate in the human body, potentially leading to harmful consequences for a person’s health. The aim of our research is to reduce the amount of these nanomolecules exposed to the environment while at the same time conserve their useful antibacterial properties. It has turned out that often only a fraction of these nanomolecules is required in a product to ensure the same level of antibacterial activity. Our invention reduces the amount and rate at which they will pass into the environment. We have done this by packing the nanomolecules of silver in a coat of micromolecules, which are larger and can therefore be more easily put in the material and kept in it for as long as possible, preventing effusion into the environment. The additional coat keeps the nanomolecules in the product for longer, so that a smaller amount of them is needed, which is the crucial point. The coat is made up of calcium carbonate, the chief component of chalk and limestone, which is cheap and harmless. For many commercial applications all that you have to do is replace the antibacterial substances used hitherto with our nanomolecular powder.” □ “How far have you got in this project?” ■ “We’ve already started working with one of the major players on the Polish market for the chemical industry. They’re doing the preliminary tests. We have applied for a patent for our invention and hope to be granted it soon. We want to commercialise our invention.” □ “Thank you for the interview.”

Micromolecules

alma mater No. 166

25

Profile for alma mater

Alma mater 166  

Alma Mater 166

Alma mater 166  

Alma Mater 166

Advertisement