The project will focus on two areas of research in iron-based systems of biotechnological interest:
1) Nanomagnetism of tissue and recombinant wild-type and mutant ferritins; and
2) Nanomagnetism of silica coated magnetic particle/quantum dot (MP/QD) (-Fe 2O3 /CdSe) hybrids; and, -Fe2O3 solid-silica core-mesoporous silica shell nano-architectures.
These systems are of interest due to their broad areas of application in materials, biology and medicine; and as experimental model systems for fundamental studies in magnetism. Magnetic measurements (SQUID) and high and low field Mössbauer spectroscopy, over a wide range of temperature and applied magnetic fields, will probe dynamic magnetic processes in these systems. The process of biomineralization of inorganic compounds on organic substrates in biology is at the centre of nanoscience and nanotechnology that seek to emulate nature in the production of new materials. The rigid molecular template of ferritin is the prototypical system for iron biomineralization research, catalysing space-confined iron nucleation at the nanoscale.
The magnetic properties of ferritin have inspired the fast growing field of clinical and medical applications of magnetic carriers (MRI enhancement, targeted drug delivery, cancer hyperthermia therapy, and magnetic relaxation switches for DNA and virus detection, etc.) leading to an intense international effort for the production of bio-compatible and bio-functionalised magnetic core/shell nanostructures.
As proposed here, silica encapsulation of nanoparticles provides for water-solubility, biocompatibility and easy surface modification for bio-conjugation. In addition, ferritin and its closely related protein, haemosiderin, are implicated in hemoglobin disorder associated diseases, such as - and ß- thalassemia, a genetic disorder prevalent in the Mediterranean.
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