Nicholas J. Westra van Holthe specialises in the design and synthesis of theranostic nanomedicines

​Modern nanoscience has revolutionised many fields of research, especially in the development of nanomedicines for the advanced treatment of disease. The use of sophisticated chemistry to develop new materials, in particular with specific properties on the nanoscale (10-9 m), offers new prospects for expanding our approach to treating disease. Recent advances in synthetic materials chemistry facilitates specific control over macromolecular structure and offers exquisite control over the manipulation of their specific physicochemical properties. This control provides the foundation for the development of multifunctional macromolecular platforms with well-defined properties on the nanoscale. In the medical context, these multifunctional materials are developed in order to combine a variety of different functions, creating nanomedicines that can achieve a goal more efficiently than many analogous approaches that utilise small molecules. There remains a large number of unknowns surrounding how these nanomedicines interact with the heterogeneous tumour microenvironment and how certain particles permeate through the tumour mass.

My research aims to gain insight into the nanoparticle-tumour interaction by means of photoacoustic molecular imaging utilizing multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT). This involves the synthesis of custom-designed, near-IR quenching dyes, for the development of polymeric photoacoustic (PA) imaging agents. Through specific irradiation of a highly efficient light absorbing material, the proposed nanomaterials also provides the opportunity to act as an organic photothermal (PT) agent for tumour therapy. Thus, new theranostics are proposed that may allow quasi-simultaneous imaging and therapy whilst providing detailed information on the nanoparticle-tumour interaction and permeability within tissue.

Funding

​Australian Post-graduate Award (APA)