Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Committee Chair

Alphenaar, Bruce William

Author's Keywords

Nanomaterials; Nanotubes; Quantum dots; Biomedical applications; Intracellular delivery; Permeabilization


Nanostructured materials; Nanotubes; Nanoparticles; Drug delivery systems; Diagnostic Imaging


Nanomaterials have many intriguing applications in biology and medicine. Unique properties such as enhanced electrical properties, increased chemical reactivity and resistance to degradation, novel optical properties and comparable size to that of biological systems have led to their use in various biomedical applications. The most important applications of nanomaterials for medicine are in drug delivery and imaging. This research focuses on utilizing the biocompatibility of single walled Carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and optical properties colloidal quantum dots (QDs) for cellular drug delivery and imaging of biomolecules. The first part of this research deals with single walled carbon nanotubes which are excellent candidates for targeted drug delivery applications due their unique structural and functional properties. However, prior to their use in therapeutics, their biocompatibility needs to be thoroughly investigated. The objectives of this research were to establish the biocompatibility of SWCNTs and demonstrate their use as drug delivery carriers into cells. Blood, a living tissue, is chosen as the biological system as it contains various cells which can potentially interact with SWCNTs during the delivery mechanism. The interactions of these cells in the blood (specifically white blood cells or leukocytes) with the SWCNTs provide vital information regarding the immune response of the host to the nanotubes. This research investigates the immune response of white blood cells due to SWCNTs via (a) direct interaction - presence of nanotubes in the blood and, (b) indirect interaction - presentation of nanotubes by antigen-presenting-cells to white blood cells. These two interactions recreate the innate and adaptive immune responses occurring in the body to any foreign substance. SWCNTs are functionalized with single stranded DNA (ss-DNA), which serves as a dispersant of nanotubes as well as a backbone for further attachment of other biomolecules of interest. Confocal microscopy and flow cytometric studies are performed to characterize the interactions. Results from this acute immune response study demonstrate the biocompatibility of SWCNTs in whole blood and also confirm the cellular delivery of single stranded DNA. The second part of the research is on colloidal quantum dots (QDs): nanometer sized semiconductor crystals typically between 1 run to 20 nm in diameter. In addition to being size comparable with many biological systems, and having large surface area for multiple biomolecules attachment, they possess high resistance to chemical and photo degradation, tunable emission based on size and composition which makes them excellent candidates for cellular delivery and imaging. The main objectives of this research was to demonstrate the use of QDs for cellular imaging as well as targeted biomolecule delivery by conjugating the QDs with an antibody to a functional protein and delivery into live cells. Conventional techniques deliver QDs as aggregates, however, a major challenge in the use of QDs for cellular imaging and biomolecule delivery is achieving freely dispersed QDs inside the cells. In this research, a new technique to deliver monodispersed QDs inside live cells was developed. The approach combines osmosis driven fluid transport into cells achieved by creating hypotonic environment and reversible permeabilization using low concentrations of cell permeabilization agents like Saponin. The results confirm that highly efficient endocytosis-free intracellular delivery of QDs can be accomplished using this method. Confocal microscopy is used to image the QDs inside the cells and flow cytometry is used for quantifying the fluorescence. To demonstrate targeted delivery, QDs are conjugated to the antibody of a protein: the nuclear transcriptional factor, NFkB (Nuclear Factor kappa-light chain-enhancer of activated B cells) using EDC/sulfo NHS chemistry methods. NFkB is a family of proteins with 5 different subunits and is involved in a variety of biological processes such as immune and inflammatory responses and cellular developmental processes. In unstimulated cells, NFkB is inactive in cytoplasm and translocates to the nucleus upon stimulation using bacterial products, viruses, radiation, and the like. QDs fluorescence could be used to monitor NFKB activity over extended periods of time in live cells.