Skip to content. Skip to main navigation.

News Archive 2001 - 2010

Breakthrough Fluorescent Biomaterials To Aid Disease Treatment

June 9, 2009

A team of researchers led by Bioengineering Assistant Professor Jian Yang at The University of Texas at Arlington has developed novel biodegradable fluorescent biomaterials useful for cancer therapy, cellular imaging, biosensing, immunology, drug delivery and tissue engineering. Their discovery was reported June 8 in an Early Edition of the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The interdisciplinary, interinstitutional team led by Dr. Yang consists of Drs. Liping Tang (Bioengineering), Kevin A. Schug (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and Wei Chen (Physics) at The University of Texas at Arlington, Drs. Li Liu and Ralph P. Mason (Radiology) at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and bioengineering graduate students Yi Zhang, Santosh Gautam and Jagannath Dey and chemistry and biochemistry undergraduate student Carlos Serrano at UT Arlington.

The unique photoluminescent properties of some materials are important tools in bioscience, since they can reveal processes that were previously invisible. However, most fluorescent biomaterials have been found to have toxic or carcinogenic properties and other negative aspects. The UT Arlington/UT Southwestern team has developed biocompatible, biodegradable synthetic polymers that exhibit intriguing photoluminescence.

Biodegradable photoluminescent polymers (BPLPs) have potential for use as implant or device materials and as in vivo bioimaging probes. They can be further processed to form elastomeric crosslinked BPLPs that not only possess desirable mechanical properties, but also retain strong, tunable fluorescence emission ranging from blue to red. These CBPLPs have formed fluorescent implants that should enable scientists to monitor the growth of tissue in culture.

Several reviewers commented on Dr. Yang’s paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. One stated “This is an exciting paper that demonstrates a new approach to the development of fluorescent materials for basic research and clinical application.” Another reviewer pointed out that the team’s discoveries “… will expand our knowledge of biodegradable polymers that can not only emit tunable, strong, stable fluorescence but also are a cost-effective approach in the synthesis of such polymers.”

“Our discoveries are breakthroughs in biomaterial science,” said Dr. Yang. “The BPLP materials may address the urgent needs in cancer management for biodegradable diagnostic therapies that combine the delivery of imaging probes and therapeutic drugs in vivo in a single setting without a long-term toxicity concern. BPLP can also be used an implant material for tissue regeneration. Because of its unique fluorescence properties, it may allow doctors to track clinical outcomes without an open surgery. Our discoveries will broadly impact the basic science and we foresee a multi-billion-dollar industry built on fluorescence imaging and labeling.”