The Analytical and Surface Chemistry Program of the Division of Chemistry at NSF will support the research program of Prof. Robin McCarley of Louisiana State University. Prof. McCarley and his students plan to investigate how to prepare stimuli responsive liposomes with the capability to deliver molecules that are internalized in the liposomes as a result of liposome destabilization. They will investigate the mechanism and kinetics associated with liposome opening by chemical reducing agents and enzymes. The project could have significant impact on various industries that focus on environmental remediation, chemical analysis and drug delivery. The project will provide excellent training opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students in a highly multidisciplinary research area. It will also support the participation of Prof. McCarley and his students in the Louisiana Board of Regents "Speaking of Science" program for K-12 students and in the LSU's ChemDemo K-12 outreach program, which has already impacted 60,000 Louisiana students.
We have invented, and subsequently investigated the properties of, molecular containers and dyes whose behavior is affected by the presence of distinct chemical or biological species. As a result of the action of the distinct chemical or biological species (stimuli) on the molecular containers and dyes, the molecular containers release their contents to the environment, and the dyes become fluorescent. In both cases, the distinct stimulus causes removal of a molecular component of either the dye or the container. We have shown that select chemical species, such as those associated with cancer, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohnâ€™s disease, are capable stimuli in these two systems. These new chemical systems (containers or liposomes, and pro-dyes) have allowed us to image cancerous cells and learn how to develop liposome-based drug delivery systems. These capabilities will enable the creation of new treatment methods that may prevent side effects associated with traditional liposome-based chemotherapeutics. Furthermore, the pro-dyes show great promise in the building of systems used to image cancer during surgery so as to diminish cancer recurrence and minimize tissue removal. Intellectual property developed during this project is now being pursued on multiple fronts. We have created a learning environment that allows accomplishment of these scientific outcomes and the training of graduate and undergraduate students who come from many walks of life. Almost half of the students working on these projects at LSU have been women and underrepresented groups, and they have gone on to careers in academics and the biomedical science field. Finally, we have taken the lessons learned from the research laboratory and translated them into the class room so as to enrich the training of students who have yet to encounter research. In addition, through efforts centered at LSU and agencies of the State of Louisiana, we have taken knowledge gained from this work and placed it in schools around the State, starting as early as pre-Kindergarten.