Research in the Betancourt Group
Research in the Biomaterials and Nanomedicine Laboratory focuses on capturing the promise of nanomaterials for the development of new strategies for the detection and treatment of diseases. Specifically, our group develops functional nanostructures that can act as highly specific contrast agents for bioimaging, in vitro and in vivo biosensors, targeted and intracellular drug delivery systems, and stimuli controlled delivery systems. These responsive nanomaterials incorporate functional nucleic acid linkers, enzymatically cleavable linkers, polyelectrolytes, and amphiphilic copolymers to mediate physico-chemical changes in the polymeric networks upon interaction with target molecules, leading to the desired material response. Work in the laboratory encompasses the synthesis and characterization of copolymers and nanoparticles, in vitro confirmation of stimuli-responsive behavior, and the evaluation of the particle functionality on cultured human cells. Dr. Betancourt’s group collaborates with academic and industrial researchers for preclinical evaluation of the compatibility and efficacy of the developed biomaterials and technology transfer.
Current projects in Dr. Betancourt’s laboratory include the development of: (1) aptamer-based responsive nanostructures that can be activated by disease-specific molecules, and on the study of the applications of these functional materials in targeted drug delivery, bioimaging, and biomolecular sensing; (2) highly specific nanoparticle-based near infrared contrast agents and drug delivery systems for optical detection and treatment of cancer; (3) photoablation agents and biosensors based on conductive polymers.
As researchers in our laboratory, students will be involved in the:
- Design of novel biomaterials that have specific properties at the molecular level to mediate their interaction with tissues, cells, and biomolecules.
- Synthesis of linear and branched biocompatible copolymers by polymerization and conjugation techniques and characterization by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy
- Preparation of nanostructures and characterization via dynamic light scattering, scanning and electron microscopy, and absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy.
- Functionalization of nanostructures with fluorescent molecules, targeting agents, or shielding molecules to improve their bioactivity.
- In vitro confirmation of the function of the nanstructures by investigating their behavior as a function of pH, enzymatic activity, ligand concentration, temperature, or external triggers.
- Evaluation of the nanostructure potential for biomedical purposes by studying the compatibility (nontoxicity) and interaction of these structures with cultured cell models of disease through biochemical assays, and optical/fluorescence microscopy.
Betancourt T, Pardo J, and Peppas NA. “Characterization of pH-responsive hydrogels of poly(itaconic acid-g-ethylene glycol) prepared by UV-initiated free radical polymerization as biomaterials for oral delivery of bioactive agents.” J. Biomed. Mater. Res. A. 2010, 93(1),175-188. PMID: 19536838. Link to article
Betancourt T, Byrne J, Sunaryo N., Crowder S, Kadapakkam M, Patel S, Casciato S., and Brannon-Peppas L. “PEGylation strategies for active targeting of PLA/PLGA nanoparticles.” J. Biomed. Mater. Res. A 2009, 91(1), 263-276. Link to article
Betancourt T, Shah K, and Brannon-Peppas L. “Rhodamine-loaded poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) nanoparticles for investigation of in vitro interactions with breast cancer cells.” J. Mater. Sci. Mater. Med. 2009, 20(1), 387-395. Link to article
Byrne J, Betancourt T, Brannon-Peppas L. “Active targeting schemes for nanoparticle systems in cancer therapeutics.” Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2008, 60(15), 1569-1676. Link to article
Betancourt T, Brown B, Brannon-Peppas L. “Doxorubicin-loaded PLGA nanoparticles by nanoprecipitation: preparation, characterization and in vitro evaluation.” Nanomedicine. 2007, 2(2), 219-232. Link to article
Betancourt T, Brannon-Peppas L. “Micro- and nanofabrication methods in nanotechnological medical and pharmaceutical devices.” Int. J. Nanomed.2006, 1(4), 484-495. Link to article