High-impact discoveries for UTA physicist

Physicist says collaboration plays major role in UTA’s cancer research

Wednesday, Sep 09, 2020 • Dana Jennings :

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A University of Texas at Arlington physicist who specializes in developing nanomaterials for highly selective cancer treatments and bioimaging techniques is collaborating with several international, multi-institutional research teams on high-impact discoveries and publications.

Wei Chen, UTA physics professor, recently led three research teams in co-authoring four studies in prominent publications related to innovations and applications stemming from his work with nanomaterials.

“These publications are a demonstration of the impact we can have on science when we collaborate across disciplines, institutions and countries,” Chen said. “In battling a disease like cancer, bringing together diverse perspectives is critical.”

A study in Nature Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy looks at treating melanoma using photodynamic therapy (PDT), a major focus of Chen’s career. The study utilized Chen’s 2014 invention of a nanoparticle PDT sensitizer called copper-cysteamine (Cu-Cy) that can be activated by UV, X-rays, microwaves and ultrasound to selectively destroy cancer cells.

The study found that upon X-ray activation, Cu-Cy nanoparticles can lead to direct destruction of melanoma and induce an antitumor immune response.

“Utilizing the Cu-Cy nanoparticles, we continue to unlock ways to overcome the limitations of traditional cancer treatments that can have negative effects on the overall wellbeing of a patient,” Chen said.

Chen holds U.S. and international patents for the Cu-Cy nanomaterial.

Chen is also a collaborator and corresponding co-author for two separate articles in Applied Material Interfaces, a publication of the American Chemical Society.

The first is a study on the use of two-dimensional luminescent nanosheets as bioimaging materials on human breast cancer cells. The team proved that the material is highly efficient without the need for surface coating or functionalization for imaging purposes.

The second study examined the use of nanoparticles to develop a novel hybrid drug nanocarrier encapsulated in a polyionic liquid that acts as a dual-stimuli-triggered drug release system and a photoacoustic imaging contrast agent.

Chen also co-authored a review article in Coordination Chemistry Reviews analyzing the six strategies for using multifunctional nanoplatforms (MFNPs), as well as the challenges in enhancing their accuracy. Chen and his collaborators provided recommendations for further improving MFNP performance to achieve precision cancer theranostics with fewer side effects.

Each of the journals has a high impact factor, a measurement that reflects the yearly average number of citations that articles published in the last two years in a given journal received.

“Dr. Chen’s research success is a prominent example of what can be achieved when scientists are open to, and actively pursue, prominent collaborations,” Department of Physics Chair Alex Weiss said. “His passion for his work is obvious through his enthusiastic efforts both inside and outside of the lab. The UTA community is indeed fortunate to have Dr. Chen sharing that passion with our students and fortifying our cancer research portfolio.”