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Manhasset High School Senior to Present Research at ATS 2017 International Conference

April 18, 2017─A Manhasset, New York, high school senior will present her research on engineered nanoparticles as a potential drug delivery system for lung disease at the American Thoracic Society’s International Conference that will be held in Washington, DC, May19-24.

Delaney Buskard conducted her research during summer 2016 as part of the prestigious Young Scholars Program at the University of California, Davis, which puts nearly 40 high school students from around the country to work in university labs each year.

Ms. Buskard’s research adds to the growing interest in engineered nanoparticles—particles smaller than one billionth of a meter—that can be designed to target specific cells for therapy. While there are only a few approved clinical applications of the technology, experts believe that nanoparticle use in the diagnosis and treatment of disease will eventually become commonplace.

Ms. Buskard worked in the laboratory of Kent Pinkerton, PhD, director of the university’s Center for Health and the Environment and a former chair of both the American Thoracic Society’s Environmental, Occupational & Population Health Assembly and its Environmental Health Policy Committee. The Society and its members advance respiratory medicine through research, education and advocacy.

Working with a UC Davis graduate student, Ms. Buskard exposed mice to air filled with mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs). The goal was determine if the MSNs caused inflammation or any other negative side effect, how readily the MSNs were picked up and retained by lung cells for up to 21 days after inhalation and whether a positive or negative charge on the MSN surface affected uptake and retention. Previous studies had demonstrated that charged nanoparticles may be more effective because the charges repel other nanoparticles and prevent clumping.

Ms. Buskard found that MSNs did not trigger an inflammatory response in the mice or otherwise appear to be harmful. She also found that MSN uptake did not vary between positively and negatively charged MSNs but that the positively charged particles appeared to have a better retention rate, though the difference was not statistically significant.

One of the biggest challenges of the study, Ms. Buskard said, was quantifying uptake and retention based on images taken with a fluorescent microscope. “I tried four or five different methods, but none of them worked well,” she explained. “So, I suggested that we use steps from several different protocols to get the most accurate data we could in an efficient manner.”

Dr. Pinkerton said that Ms. Buskard’s solution was “incredibly ingenious” and due to the significance of her findings deserved to be presented at the American Thoracic Society’s International Conference, widely regarded as the preeminent scientific meeting in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine.

Ms. Buskard will study environmental sciences at the University of Virginia in the fall.