Andrew Lyon is working to take the pain out of chemotherapy. He's developed a class of particles called core/shell nanogels that are designed to infiltrate tumor cells and kill them from the inside.
Tumor cells are thirsty for folic acid and have an overexpression of receptors for the vitamin on their surface. Using a Trojan horse approach, Lyon coats the nanogels with folic acid, which the tumor cells eagerly invite inside. When the nanogels are in place, an oncologist can apply heat to the tumor mass in the form of ultrasound, starting a chain of events that results in the death of the tumor.
"If there's a way to specifically target medicine to the site of disease, that makes this potential treatment all the more effective because then presumably you could use smaller doses and avoid the collateral damage that occurs during traditional chemotherapy," said Lyon.
Using the same materials that make up the nanogels, Lyon is also developing tunable microlenses that change their focal length in the presence of certain proteins. The microlenses could one day be used to provide easier and faster chemical and biological agent detection in the field.
Currently, detecting these substances in the field with accuracy is a very slow process. Tunable microlenses may enable authorities responding to a biological or chemical attack or spill to quickly determine what steps need to be taken to keep the public safe.
Lyon is a 1999 National Science Foundation CAREER award winner. He received his doctoral and master's degrees from Northwestern University in 1996 and 1993, respectively. He came to Tech in 1999.