Our high-quality graduates participate in exciting projects that investigate the interaction between biological systems and nanoparticles.
Interdisciplinary research in advanced facilities
Our PhD candidates interact across a range of scientific fields, including cell biology, toxicology, immunology, chemistry and materials science and use state-of-the-art equipment, such as the facilities of the Australian Synchrotron.
We have currently filled all of our high-value APAI-level PhD scholarships that were recently available, but are still accept high quality students who have obtained individual APA scholarships.
There is an urgent and growing need for a thorough and detailed examination of the effects of nanoparticles on cellular systems. With industry rapidly advancing in the nanomaterials sector, and the increasing potential for workers and consumers to encounter nanoparticle-containing products, there is a limited and lagging understanding of how these materials interact with cellular systems and what the health and environmental consequences may be. Therefore, we need to establish the inherent safety of important nanomaterials or re-engineer them wherever necessary to reduce their potential hazard. Conversely, such emerging nanomaterials offer exciting opportunities to develop new nano-enabled therapies.
Nanoparticles and cellular systems
To address these challenging issues, we are examining the functional and material interactions that occur when nanoparticles encounter cellular systems. We are assessing a wide array of cellular parameters for toxic effects, as well as measures of inflammation, to determine how both the structural and immune cells of the body react when exposed to nanoparticles.
Importantly, we are also re-engineering the crystalline lattice and surfaces of nanoparticles to modify their biological activity and gain a deeper understanding of the cellular mechanisms involved.
Nanoparticles and sunscreens
We have initially chosen to focus on some of the most topical and widely-utilised nanoparticles – zinc oxide (ZnO) and titanium dioxide in sunscreens. With nearly half a million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year in Australia, there is enormous incentive for the development of new, more effective sunscreen products.
Of particular interest are broad-spectrum UV filters, as traditional sunscreens have been formulated for maximum protection from UVB which causes sunburn, skin ageing and cancer. UVA also causes skin ageing and cancer, but also strongly suppresses immunity and produces reactive oxygen species. From here we have also moved on to a range of nanoparticle complexes with reduction-oxidation capabilities, broadening our research into surface modification and doping of these nanoparticulate systems.
Expanding our testing
From the establishment of our initial protocols, we are continuing to expand the number and complexity of both the cell types and nanoparticle formulations tested, with emphasis on how lattice and surface structure can alter toxicity and inflammation. We have already shown an influence of nanoparticle size on toxicity and have begun to investigate what mechanisms are behind this.
Using the Australian Synchrotron
With the cutting-edge nanoscale medical-imaging facilities at the Australian Synchrotron, we have also probed the internal structure of cells to determine the fate of nanoparticles and the mechanisms of absorption. Ultimately, we seek to correlate modifications to the structure and formulation of these nanoparticles with their altered effects on cells and living organisms.
Contact and additional information
For any additional information please contact Dr Bryce Feltis. We are keen to contact students interested in undertaking a project in this area.
Our projects have been well supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (AMCRC), the Victorian Centre for Advanced Materials Manufacturing (VCAMM), and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC, Project #616621 to Wright P., et al.).
We are positioned at both RMIT University in Bundoora (for cell biology and toxicology) and Monash University in Clayton (for chemistry and synchrotron work).
We have two commercial partners in our AMCRC-related research projects; Baxter Laboratories Pty. Ltd., who formulate skin care products and Micronisers Pty. Ltd., a producer of nanoparticles.
We also have a close working relationship with the CSIRO and the National Measurement Institute (NMI), and are actively participating in projects at the Australian Synchrotron.
- Associate Professor Paul Wright (RMIT)
Specialty: Toxicology and immunotoxicology
- Professor Terry Turney (Monash University)
Specialty: Materials formulation and structural chemistry
- Associate Professor Terry Piva (RMIT)
Specialty: Skin photobiology
- Associate Professor Andreas Lopata (RMIT and James Cook University)
Specialty: Protein folding and epitope interaction
- Dr Bryce Feltis (Senior Research Fellow, RMIT and Monash University)
Specialty: Immunity and cell biology
- Dr Visalini Muthusamy (formerly a NMHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, RMIT, now at Republic Polytechnic, Singapore)
Specialty: Skin cell biology
- Dr Vidura Jayaratne (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Monash University)
Specialty: Inorganic chemistry
Australian Synchrotron collaborator
- Dr Simon James (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Australian Synchrotron)
Specialty: Biology and X-ray fluorescence
- Andrew Hastings (RMIT, PhD thesis, completion Feb. 2013)
Project: Investigating the immunotoxicology of nanosilver in vitro.
- Abdulkareem Elbaz (RMIT, PhD thesis, completion Nov. 2012)
Project: Investigating the immune and cytotoxic responses of mast and lung epithelial cells to engineered nanoparticles.
- Cenchao Shen (RMIT, PhD thesis, completion June 2014)
Project: The effect of nanoparticles on the function of immune cells of the skin.
- Nikolas Patsikatheodorou (RMIT, MSc thesis, completion July 2014)
Project: Investigating the interactions between nanoparticles and UV-irradiated HaCaT keratinocytes.
- Sean O’Keefe (RMIT, PhD student)
Project: Immunotoxic effects of metal oxide nanoparticles.
- Griffin D’Costa (RMIT, PhD student)
Project: Nanoparticles and UV-irradiated human skin cells.
- Christian Aloe (RMIT, PhD student, jointly with RMIT Natural Products Research Group)
Project: Enhancing wound repair with marine natural products and nanoparticles.
- Mingdeng Luo (Monash University, PhD student)
Projects: Modification of zinc oxide nanoparticles for biomedical applications.
- Mala Jayamanne (Monash University, PhD student)
Projects: Biomarkers of nanoparticle exposure from metabolomic profiling.
- Shruti Saptarshi (James Cook University & RMIT, PhD student)
Projects: Nanoparticles protein corona and induction of protein refolding.
- Honours students (RMIT/Monash universities)
Projects: One RMIT project is available for 2015 (PDF 485KB 46p)