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Research Areas

Our research is primarily focused on engineering of nanomaterials for bioimaging and sensing, drug delivery and anti-microbial applications. Surface modification of nanomaterials is done for bioconjugation and targeting purposes. A variety of nanostructured materials such as nanoparticles, nanorods, nanowires etc. have been developed in our group using water-in-oil microemulsion, solvothermal and hot-phase synthesis methods. Also, we design one-dimensional nanomaterials for potential applications in photovoltaics.

Text Box: Quantum dots 1-D nanostructures Dye-loaded nanoparticles
Text Box: Taggants for cancer imaging, stem cell tracking, therapeutic imaging, and drug delivery; toxicology studies
Text Box: Multimodal nanomaterials Biocompatable surface targetable nanomaterials
Text Box: Toxic heavy metal detection Nanotoxicology


Santra Group Funded Research Projects

A.   Nanobioimaging and Sensing

Our group has developed several nanoparticle based technologies for bioimaging and sensing applications.

(i) Multimodal Qdot based nanoprobe for real time noninvasive bioimaging:

The goal of this project is to develop multimodal Qdot based nanoprobes (MQdots) and to demonstrate their application for tracking hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) migration and for visualizing HSC fusion. The project involves synthesis of multimodal Q-dots, their loading into HSCs and real time tracking of HSC migration in animal model to detect the gene expression, signaling the fusion of HSCs with target animal tissues.

Funding: National Science Foundation (NSF-NIRT Grant # 0506560; PI: Brij M. Moudgil; Co-PIs: Swadeshmukul Santra, Glenn A. Walter and Edward Scott)

(ii)  Develop Multimodal Imaging Tags to Track AAV (Adeno Associated Virus) Delivery In Vivo: The goal of this core project is to noninvasively monitor AAV delivery in vivo. Engineered AAV capsids will be magnetically labeled with multimodal nanoparticles consisting of superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) and an optically active quantum dot (Qdot) core. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and spectroscopy (MRS) will be used to follow changes in mitochondrial function and lipid content in murine models of fatty acid metabolism disorders following AAV delivery.

Funding: National Institutes of Health (NIH Grant # 2P01HL059412-11A; Program PI: Nicholas Muzyczka; Imaging Core PI: Glenn A. Walter; Co-investigator: UCF PI: Swadeshmukul Santra).

(iii)  Selective detection of toxic heavy metal ions using highly sensitive quantum dot probes: Heavy metal contamination and subsequent environmental problems are a major concern in many Nations. Due to the nature of high toxicity, a field portable and easy to use sensor for trace level detection of these heavy metals at various locations and matrices is highly desirable. Based on quantum dot (Qdot) nanotechnology, we have developed a novel optical transducer probe capable of selectively detecting cadmium ions. The detection is based on an electron transfer process between the QD and the ligand, and subsequent blocking of the electron transfer pathways upon exposure to Cd2+. This strategy could be extended to optically detect other potentially harmful metal ions by Qdot probes. (Chem. Commun., 2008, 3037-3039)

 Funding: National Science Foundation (Grant # 0651976; PI: Swadeshmukul Santra) and NSF-NIRT Grant # 0506560.

B.   Nanobiotechnology - Engineered Nanobiocides

(i)  Copper/silica based nanobiocides for prevention of citrus canker disease:  Citrus canker is a serious disease affecting most commercial citrus varieties caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. Citri. This pathogen causes severe infections, resulting in defoliation, pre-mature fruit drop, blister like appearance on the fruit surface and ultimately tree decline. Copper (Cu) based bactericides has been effectively used for controlling canker infection. However, multiple applications are required in a given season as the protection is often compromised by windblown rain. In this project, nanotechnology is applied to develop engineered Cu/silica based nanoformulations to improve efficiency and longevity for providing long-term disease protection.

Funding: Florida Department of Citrus Grant # 186; PI: Swadeshmukul Santra

(ii)  Copper/silica based nanobiocides for long-term treatment of molds: Molds are microscopic fungi that grow in moist environment and use spores for reproduction. Molds can easily attack house/building materials such as dry walls, wood, grouts, carpet backing etc. Moreover, airborne mold spores can seriously compromise in-door air quality and can cause severe allergy, asthma and other immunological problems. Application of bleach has been very effective for the treatment of mold world-wide. However, action of bleach does not last longer, requiring multiple applications. In this project, Cu/silica based nanotechnology is applied to develop nanoformulations for long-term treatment of mold.

Funding: University of Central Florida Office of Research and Commercialization; PI: Swadeshmukul Santra

C.   Nanomedicine - Nanoparticle Based Drug Delivery System

Biodegradable multimodal/multifunctional nanoparticle based drug delivery system. Biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles have great potential in delivering therapeutic drugs. In this regard, develpment of ultra-small size (<50 nm) durg loaded nanoparticles that are targetable and imageable are highly desirable.  In this project, chitosan based ultra-small (<50 nm) multimodal nanoparticles are developed for targeted delivery of therapeutic drugs. These bimodal nanoparticles  (fluorescent and paramagnetic) allow in vitro and in vivo tracking of these nanoparticles using fluorescence and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging modalities.

Funding: InnoSense LLC (Torrance, CA; PI: Swadeshmukul Santra) and NSF-NIRT Grant # 0506560.

Our Current Research Focus

Our recent research is focused on the (i) development of engineered nanomaterials including fluorescent quantum dots, silica based nanoparticles, multimodal nanoparticles and various one-dimensional nanoforms, (ii) bio-imaging and sensing applications of multimodal nanoforms and (iii) alternative energy research.

Our objective is to develop novel nanosystems for biomedical, electronic, optoelectronic and spintronics applications.

Engineered fluorescent Multimodal Quantum dots




Engineered 1-dimensional nanomaterials



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