Dr. Furong Tian has a Bachelor’s degree in medicine, a master’s in Biochemistry and a PhD in Chemifurongstry currently working as the assistant lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology while continuing research in the field of Nanotechnology for different disease treatments and diagnostics where Dr. Tian has received funding under a Marie Curie Intra European fellowship and the European Network Program ERANET Nanoscience to continue her research in nanotechnology.

Dr Christine O’Connor is currently a lecturer in Chemical and Pharmaceuticchrisal sciences in Dublin Institute of Technology who completed her PhD in Dublin City University in 1999 under Professor Han Vos. Dr. O’Connor’s research is focused on metal based drugs for multi-model applications, which she has published and co-published many papers within the area of modern pharmaceuticals and drug delivery.


Dr. Furong Tian – “The study and application of Nanotechnology based drugs and diagnostic techniques”

Dr. Tian began her guest lecture explaining and introducing the basics of nanotechnology. Tian compared the size of a strand of hair, to a bacteria cell, to a virus, with an aim of creating an image in her listener’s head of how small the scale for sizing different objects and cells is. Tian explained that 1mm is equal to 1000µm, whereas 1µm is equal to 1000nm. Most drugs are produced with a dosage in µg, which shows how much less dosage nanotechnology based drugs deliver in comparison, where Tian also stated that only 0.5% of a drug reaches its desired target. The scale at which nanotechnology is performed is so small, that drugs produced using nanoparticles are mainly focused and implemented to pass through hard to access areas of the body to reach areas such as the brain and central nervous system which are protected by the blood brain barrier.


Figure 1 – Different applications for Nanomedicine and functionalized nanoparticles [1]

Tian discussed topics such as the use of nanoparticles in IVIS imaging and Vevo imaging systems as non-invasive strategies for mapping the spread of disease in the body, and locating tumours within animal models using bioluminescence and ultrasound techniques. Tian discussed her own research in these areas, discussing factors such as the length of time research must be conducted for before reaching in-vivo model research and displayed promising results from her own experimental data showing that these strategies were effective at identifying tumours in rats during in-vivo studies. Tian discussed areas of her own in-vivo research where she has performed analysis of radio labelled NP’s through inhalation, intra-tracheal and intra-venous application.

Dr. Christine O’Connor – The use of metal-based drugs for multi-model applications in drug delivery

Dr. O’Connor structured her talk about the use of metal-based drugs for multi-model applications, and simplified the topic down for her audience by describing the mechanism of these drugs as “using a metal to pretend it is iron in a biological system”. The metal based drugs are compound specific, and have molecules manipulated for specific reasons based on logical assumptions using inorganic chemistry. O’Connor discussed her own research and the use of rare earth metals, maximising expensive Ruthenium Complexes which have promising electronic and structural properties for compounds within metal based drugs.


Figure 2 – The Elemental Properties and electron valency of Ruthenium [2]

O’Connor discussed the different PIP signalling pathways that a drug can travel through, BPIP < NPIP < FPIP < CPIP with regards to electron affinity. Metal based drugs research has come to a standstill in recent years, with the last published research coming in 2001 and 2005 in this area, which O’Connor believes that there is potential for the synthesis of new metal based compounds for analysis and for new research to be performed on adding to the existing knowledge in this area.

Another topic that was discussed was bioassay testing, in which O’Connor stated that when new compounds are synthesised, testing these compounds on healthy cell lines determining cytotoxicity is also essential because it is also important to see what effects these compounds have on the healthy cell lines as well as the cancerous cell lines. When a compound has a low cytotoxicity in healthy cell lines, there are less side effects caused during chemotherapy treatments.

The final topic discussed was the susceptibility rate of the Irish population to cancer, with 1/10 people developing breast cancer and 1/2 people developing some form of cancer in general. O’Connor discussed the ability of targeting cancerous cells folate receptors using cyclodextrin to enhance the delivery of drugs to the target cancerous cells through increasing the binding affinity of drugs.

Conclusion and Relevance

This discussion about the importance of nanotechnology for the development of new drug delivery strategies and systems is essential to progression within the drug delivery field, because the use of these nanomaterials to deliver compounds to areas of the body that could not be reached previously, opens the door for new drugs to be developed, which is why this topic is so relevant to the learning module. Tian’s research relates to the learning content in this module since some drugs that have already been developed, that are known to work and create a therapeutic response for the treatment of specific diseases, but are not able to reach their targeted destination due to barriers of delivery that degrade the drug within the body. Through the use of nanotechnology, these drugs can be altered to change the way the drug is administered and delivered which can improve efficacy.

Current research ongoing for nanomedicines are focused on the delivery of specific therapeutic compounds using nanomaterials called “Nano Vehicles” such as Liposomes, Polymeric micelles, Dendrimers, etc. These Nano-Vehicles are currently hot topics in nanotechnology research due to the non-toxic, biocompatible, non-immunogenic and biodegradable properties that they hold for drug delivery systems. Nanomedicines are also focusing on imaging techniques similar to Tian’s research, such as passive and active targeting through nanoparticles, where the mechanism of action can be seen in Figure 3 where Qdot-antibody probes were used to map out the area of tumors within the body.

Passive active tumour targetting

Figure 3 – An example of Passive and Active tumor targetting mechanisms using Qdot-antibody probes to identify tumour antigens during in-vivo studies [1]

Nanotechnology studies for drug delivery are being further developed in the area by using DNA as a “Smart Material” for the construction of nanovehicles. The applications of DNA based nanostructures are still in their infancy, and possess many obstacles for implementation and delivery, but possess great potential for facilitating and passing biological barriers in targeted drug delivery [3].

For an example of research into the use of nanotechnology for the delivery of compounds that have a proven therapeutic response, but cannot reach their target destination with a strong efficacy due to the barriers of distribution, is a study performed using biodegradable core multishell nanocarriers to carry the anti-inflammatory drug “Dexamethasone” resulting a better transport capacity for the drug when administered using the nanocarrier. Two variations of the multishell nanocarriers were analysed and exhibited good stability, low cytotoxicity, and opportunity for production upscale [4].

In regard to metal based drugs with current ongoing research, Graphene based nanocarriers are being developed in research being conducted for novel based drug carriers to aid drug delivery of anti-cancer drugs, drugs with poor solubility, antibiotics, antibodies, peptides and genes; specifically the application of Graphene and Graphene Oxide (GO) based drugs [5].


[1] – Y. liu, H. Miyoshi (June 2007). Nanomedicine for drug delivery and imaging: A promising avenue for cancer therapy and diagnosis using targeted functional nanoparticles. International Journal of Cancer. n/a (120), 2527-2537.

[2] – LiveScience Staff. (29/05/2013). Facts about Ruthenium. Available: http://www.livescience.com/34836-ruthenium.html. Last accessed 20/04/2017.

[3] – Anders H. Okholm. (2016). DNA nanovehicles and the biological barriers. Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews. 106 (Abstract), 183-191.

[4] – Fang Du. (2016). Development of biodegradable hyperbranched core-multishell nanocarriers for efficient topical drug delivery. Journal of Controlled Release. 242 (Abstract), 42-49.

[5] – Qi Zhang. (2017). Advanced review of graphene-based nanomaterials in drug delivery systems: Synthesis, modification, toxicity and application. Materials Science and Engineering C. n/a (6. Drug Delivery Applications of Graphene), n/a.




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