College: Ramnarain Ruia College, Mumbai, India
Degrees: B.Sc. in Chemistry, M.Sc. in Analytical Chemistry
Honors and Awards: Associate Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Molecular Biophysics Trainee (2011-2012)
The treatment of cancer becomes more and more challenging as patients develop resistance to the drugs used in chemotherapy. RNA interference is a useful tool for bringing about chemosensitization of cancer cells through post-transcriptional gene silencing. One way to do this is by using siRNA to knock down genes in a sequence-specific manner. However, the delivery of siRNA remains a huge challenge even today.
I am working towards developing an efficient siRNA delivery vehicle specifically targeted to ovarian cancer cells. Ovarian cancer is the most dangerous type of gynecologic cancer. I use an approach that employs nanogels made up of hydrophilic polymer chains that are lightly cross-linked. These nanogels are very porous, enabling siRNA encapsulation, and they are very hydrophilic, which suggests biocompatibility. The synthesis of these nanogels is done in such a way that their surface can be functionalized in a versatile manner, depending on the site to which they need to be targeted. In my current work, targeting is provided by using a peptide mimic of the ligand Ephrin-A1, which specifically targets the EphA2 receptor that is overexpressed in around 75% ovarian cancer cells. In previous studies, it was found that these nanogels were very effective in the delivery of siRNA followed by EGFR knockdown. However, opsonization was still perceived to be a problem with respect to systemic delivery. We are therefore exploring a range of surface functionalization strategies to increase the biocompatibility of these nanogels. An additional area of research is aimed at understanding trafficking pathways of these nanogels in cells in order to determine the pathway by which they deliver siRNA.