Australia’s Most Innovative Engineers 2020 - Young Engineers Award
Nitric oxide (NO) is a molecule with a breadth of chemical and biological functions, such as promoting wound healing, dilating blood vessels, and lowering eye pressure in glaucomatous eyes.
"The technology allows the enzymes to be deposited on virtually any surface, no matter how complex the topography, allowing them to release nitric oxide at a diseased site."
Dr Rona Chandrawati
But it also has a short half-life and diffuses only over short distances. This makes its delivery highly challenging, representing an unmet need in the field of nitric oxide therapeutics.
To overcome these limitations, University of New South Wales Senior Lecturer Dr Rona Chandrawati developed enzyme-containing implant technology to locally produce nitric oxide at the right place, in the right dose, and at the right time.
The work successfully encapsulated enzymes that release nitric oxide into implantable polymer hydrogels and fibres and coated on the surface of cardiovascular stents.
“By manipulating the enzymes and the surface engineering, we can double or half the dose of NO, stop NO elution, or achieve NO elution on demand,” she says.
“The enzyme encapsulation technology is a solution-based, self-assembly method: scalable and environmentally friendly.”
The technology allows the enzymes to be deposited on virtually any surface, no matter how complex the topography, allowing them to release nitric oxide at a diseased site.
For instance, in a study in collaboration with ophthalmologists at Duke University and Imperial College London that used a mouse model, nitric oxide generated using this process induced vasodilation and reduced eye pressure, a process that could help prevent vision loss in people with glaucoma.
“Recently, my lab reported serendipitous findings that metal oxides mimic NO-releasing enzymes and produce NO from a broad range of pro-drugs,” Chandrawati says.
“These findings open new routes for engineering the next generation of implants. By tuning the concentration of metal oxide nanoparticles and prodrugs, we achieved physiologically relevant NO levels.” Judges’ comments:
“Dr Rona Chandrawati is progressing a successful research career in an area with significant potential benefit to the community.
“The application provides clear examples of the potential beneficial applications of the technology that has been developed, showing multiple applications for the use of nitric oxide, and the ways in which her research will allow for therapeutic applications. An innovative approach to solving the problem of nitric oxide diffusivity by generating it in situ.”