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Name: Cara Moloney, PhD Student
Home Institute: University College Dublin, Ireland
Host Institute: University at Buffalo, State University of New York, USA
Dates of visit: 23 July – 28 October 2018
Other funding organisations who supported the trip: Royal Society of Chemistry

Research: My research focuses on the development of magnetic liposomes (MNLPs), consisting of a magnetic core and a lipidic coating, rendering them MRI trackable and increasing their bioavailability. There are currently several lipidic chemotherapeutic carriers on the market such as Doxil®. However, not all tumours are ‘leaky’ enough to benefit from nanoparticle therapy and severe side effects are often observed as the chemotherapeutic agent does not reach the tumour. The application of these MRI trackable carriers could enable clinicians to confirm uptake of nanoparticle formulation in the tumour before treating with chemotherapeutic agents and hence could improve treatment.

Why did you choose the host lab?

My group has previously collaborated with Prof Straubinger’s group at the University at Buffalo for the preliminary biological evaluation of the MLNPs which we have prepared in Dublin. This involved sending samples to the US via courier for in vivo testing. We received promising results from this analysis and hence we decided it would be highly beneficial to carry out this short-term scientific visit to Buffalo in order to accelerate the progress of this project.

Cara Moloney
Cara with her colleagues

How would you summarise the research you did on your visit?

During my visit to the University at Buffalo I carried out the biological evaluation of the magnetic liposomes, which we developed at UCD, in vivo. This involved preparing my samples in their laboratory and analysing the efficacy and bio-distribution in vivo via MRI imaging techniques. These results were further supported by fluorescence microscopy and ICP-MS analysis as a method to confirm the observed bio-distribution.

I returned home . . . as a more well-rounded scientist

Did you have a personal mentor or anyone who particularly helped you?

During my visit to the University at Buffalo, my supervisor, Professor Robert Straubinger was extremely helpful. He ensured that I settled into his lab with ease and he kept track of the progress of my work while there. I also worked in close proximity with a postdoctoral fellow in his group, Dr Tista Roy Chaudhuri, who was a great help and friend during my time there. She taught me a lot, not only about the techniques that I was using, but she also made my learning experience very well-rounded and gave me an excellent background to other areas of their work.

How has the trip inspired you in your research?

Following this short-term scientific visit to the University at Buffalo, I returned home with a wealth of new knowledge and as a more well-rounded scientist. I was able to immerse myself in a biological laboratory which was a completely new experience, giving me a deeper insight into how my materials behave outside of the laboratory. The trip has provided new possibilities for me to lead my research career along a different, more multi-disciplinary path following the completion of my PhD.

Does your lab plan to do any future collaboration/publication with the host lab?

Following a very successful visit to the University at Buffalo we plan to publish this work in a high impact journal. We also hope to continue this collaboration over the coming months and years to help and progress these theranostic agents towards the clinic. I have secured funding to return to Buffalo for another four months next summer which will greatly aid in progressing this project even further.

Cara Moloney
Cara working in the laboratory

How has this visit been beneficial to your research and/or career?

As a materials chemist, I am always focused on improving the physical and chemical properties of my materials to the best of my ability. The experience of working in a biological lab and a completely new environment not only taught me numerous new skills and techniques, such as cell culture and animal handling, it also altered my thought process with regards to my research. I now have a new, multi-disciplinary view-point to analyse my research from which I believe will aid me greatly in my future career.

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