Zalich Receives Fulbright Scholarship To Study Nano-Sized Polymer-Magnetite Complexes

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 23, 2003 – New Particles For Possible Use In Localized Treatment Of Diseases

For his Ph.D. dissertation, Michael Zalich is working on polymer-magnetite complexes for potential biological applications.

Zalich, a student in synthetic-polymer chemistry who is working with Judy Riffle, a professor in the chemistry department, has received a Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research in Australia. This research will involve the synthesis and characterization of 30-100 nm magnetite particles coated with a biocompatible polymeric stabilizer. Understanding the structure-property relationships of these materials is crucial in developing new technologies based on polymer- coated magnetic nanoparticles. Current technology using magnetic particles is limited by the lack of control over the shape and size and a lack of understanding of magnetic nanoparticle properties. Perhaps even more important, the fundamental chemistry required for achieving precise non-toxic polymer sheaths around such particles will be critical for biomedical applications.

Advancements in preparing and understanding polymer-magnetic particle complexes may lead to our ability to localize high concentrations of drugs at a tumor site. The proposed technology could provide the core materials for localizing polymer-magnetic particle complexes in tumors. These technologies could reduce the extreme side effects that occur with systemic cancer therapies.

In Australia, Zalich will study with Tim St. Pierre, a professor of physics at the University of Western Australia. St. Pierre, an expert in the area of magnetic nanoparticle characterization, has been studying the structure and magnetism of nanoscale iron oxides since the mid-eighties.

Zalich and his group have been sending the particles they create, including those coated with biocompatible/biodegradable polymeric stabilizers, to St. Pierre for characterization to further understand their properties. A graduate student of St. Pierre's spent some time in the Riffle group at Virginia Tech, and a recent Ph. D. graduate from Dr. Riffle's group is currently working with St. Pierre as a post-doctoral fellow.

Before he leaves for Australia, Zalich will synthesize and send more particles to St. Pierre's lab so that Zalich can characterize them during his fellowship. The Fulbright will allow Zalich to spend one year in St. Pierre's laboratory focusing on the structure-property relationships of polymer-magnetite complexes. By then, Virginia Tech may have more advanced instrumentation, which Zalich will be trained to use.

Zalich, a native of Latrobe, Pa., received his undergraduate education at St. Vincent College in Latrobe.