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Current projects are focused on the influence of peptide-based nanomaterials on the proliferation and differentiation of neuronal cells, drug delivery using peptide-based carriers and development of sensors inspired by ctenophores.

Project 1

The discovery of self-assembling peptides, which can form well-ordered structures, has opened a realm of opportunity for the design of tailored short peptide-based nanostructures. A combined experimental and computational approach was utilized to understand the intramolecular and intermolecular interactions contributing to the self-assembly of linear and cyclic tryptophan-tyrosine (WY) dipeptides. The density functional tight binding (DFTB) calculations with empirical dispersive corrections assisted the identification of the lowest energy conformers. Preliminary studies of the influence of the nanotubes on the fate of neuronal-like PC-12 cells indicate that the nanotubes promote cellular proliferation, and differentiation in the absence of growth factors. The aspect ratio of the nanotubes played an essential role in cellular interactions where a higher cellular uptake was observed in nanotubes of lower aspect ratios.

Project 2

​Two-dimensional (2D) photonic crystals structures in ctenophore species such as Bereo Cucumis and Mnemiopsis Leidyi, occur relatively less frequently in nature. Pphotonic crystals contribute to the bright coloration in butterflies, beetles and marine life such as ctenophores, which is typically used for survival, and as mimicry techniques to distract predators. These periodic structures can lead to altered color due to external stimulus which can be adapted for label-free biological sensing. Recent advancements in nanoscience and in particular biomimetic nanomaterials has generated significant interest in creating novel designer materials by “mimicking” naturally occurring nanostructures that can be used as building blocks in order to synthesize highly ordered polymeric materials with desirable properties.

Project 3

Aromatic oligopeptide demonstrate self-assembly leading to the  form  nanofibers, or nanospheres based on their composition. Non-covalent interactions such as π-stacking, hydrogen bonding, and hydrophobic interactions promote peptide self-assembly and the resultant architectures can vary as nanofibers, nanospheres or nanotubes. In this study, the influence of electrostatic forces on the assembly of biodegradable nanofibers and nanospheres was studied.

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