The Medina group employs a multidisciplinary approach that interfaces chemical biology, nanomedicine, immunotherapy and microbiome engineering, to develop new biomedical devices for precision medicine. In particular, we utilize molecular assembly to develop peptide- and protein-based materials at both the nano- and micro-scale, that have the potential to spatially and temporally control cellular functions and augment immune responses – two important objectives towards realizing the full potential of precision medicine. Ultimately, we seek to invent novel technologies that can be rapidly translated into the clinic to improve human health. Current and on-going projects in the group include:
Ultrasound-Triggered Theranostics for Intracellular Delivery of Biomacromolecules
Biologic macromolecules, including proteins, peptides and nucleic acids, that bind to intracellular targets are emerging as powerful biochemical tools to study targets and pathways important in cell biology. Further, molecules that can disrupt cell-cycle processes and intracellular signaling pathways represent a new class of potential therapeutics that could have potent activity if delivered properly. These macromolecules, however, are generally not capable of crossing the cellular membrane to bind to their intracellular target, and as a result their clinical translation has been limited. The goal of this work is to design peptide-based theranostic nanoparticles which will preferentially localize to diseased tissue, and under an applied ultrasound (US) trigger, will rupture to deliver biomacromolecules directly to the cytoplasm of cells. Notably, microbubbles generated during acoustic activation of the carrier function as a contrast agent to allow for simultaneous US imaging. Thus, delivery can be monitored and guided in real-time, leading to maximum efficacy and reduced off-target effects.
Combinatorial Biomaterials that Modulate the Human Microbiome
Bacteria play a central role in both maintaining homeostasis central to human health, and infectious diseases. Biomaterials that can influence local cell behavior, and intervene in pathogenesis, represent a new therapeutic strategy to address bacterial dysbiosis (the imbalance of ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ bacteria) and resultant illnesses. Towards this goal, we are developing micro- and macro-scale materials capable of selectively interacting with, and potentially disrupting, microbial communities colonizing the human oral, pulmonary and gastrointesinal tracts. In particular, we are formulating antimicrobial micro-gels that elicit potent and long-term combinatorial therapy of bacterial infections. In other work, we are designing targeted biomaterials that can selectively localize and accumulate in inflammatory environments, thereby delivering probiotic microorganisms to improve human health and combat disease.