Researchers Engineer an MRI-Traceable Chemotherapeutic-Delivering Protein Micelle


Scientists at New York University successfully made a protein micelle using the magnetic resource imaging or MRI / Photo by: jarmoluk via Pixabay


New York University researchers have developed nanoscale protein micelles that are not only capable of delivering chemotherapeutic drugs but can also be tracked with the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The innovation comes under theranostics, which means it integrates diagnostic capability and drug delivery that allows researchers to administer therapy as they monitor the therapeutic development. It is also capable of significantly reducing the need for surgical procedures, according to

"Think of the analogy of a missile aimed at a target, with the chemotherapeutic drug as the missile and the cancer cells as the target," said study leader Jin Kim Montclare, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

The paper, published in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano, discussed that engineered protein can give an interesting template for making fluorine-19 (19F) MRI contrast agents, even though unprecedented relaxation properties of the element blocked its progress. explained that MRI depends on detecting differences in the relaxed pace of water molecule protons in tissue, but there are instances when the pace doesn't sufficiently vary between tissue types to generate useful contrast.

It added that as a solution, the team presented the biosynthesis of a protein block copolymer that contains building blocks of amino acids with 19F called the "fluorinated thermoresponsive assembled protein" (F-TRAP). The F-TRAP assembles into a nanoscale micelle, showing notable imaging properties with the capacity to envelope and release tiny therapeutic molecules.

Montclare previously engineered a protein-lipid system that can carry both small-molecule therapeutic drugs and nucleic acids for gene therapy at the same time as a dual payload to treat cancer, diabetes, and other conditions that call for different therapeutic approaches.

NYU Tandon Dean Jelena Kovačević said Montclare's advancements in protein engineering highlight the school and the university's commitment to "collaborative, translational research with the potential to positively impact healthcare for countless patients."