Research in the Wilson group focuses on the development of nanomaterials for medical applications. Our group uses fullerenes, carbon nanotubes, graphene, and gold nanoparticles as platforms for delivering imaging and therapeutic agents to the body.
Fullerenes, commonly known as "buckyballs" are spherical cages of carbon atoms. Previous work in our group has shown that fullerenes wtih a gadolinium ion within the cage (a gadofullerene) can be used as a MRI contrast agent. More recently, we have shown that fullerenes functionalized with serinol for increased solubility are drawn into the nuclei of cells, making them a potential drug delivery vehicle. We are also investigating the heating properties of fullerenes when exposed to radiofrequency fields
One of the recent materials developed in our group is the "gadonanotube" (GNT). GNTs are produced by cutting full length single walled carbon nanotubes into ultra-short sections 20-80 nm in length (US-tubes) and filling them with gadolinium ions. GNTs have shown a remarkable efficiency in providing MRI contrast - over 40 times greater than clinically used contrast agents! Because of their magnetic properties, GNTs can be used to label cells to allow magnetic manipulation. One application is to label stem cells with GNTs, inject them to damaged organs, and hold them in place with external magnetic fields to allow regeneration. Building on the success of the GNTs, we have also filled US-tubes with other compounds, such as cisplatin for remotely triggered drug delivery, and imaging agents for PET and CT scans.