PhD Research Examines Biomedical Application of Gold Nanoparticles
The design and synthesis of gold nanoparticles and their interaction with mammalian cells in culture was the subject of Ms Geraldine Lazarus’s thesis for her PhD in Biochemistry.
Lazarus, supervised by Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, Dr Mogi Singh, was capped at the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science’s Graduation ceremony held on the Westville campus.
As a young girl, Lazarus was intrigued by the careers of her grandfather and mother who both worked in the pharmaceutical environment. Throughout school she excelled in the field of sciences and later become passionate about finding alternate methods of treatment for cancer research.
Lazarus chose to pursue her PhD at UKZN because she had an interest in the research being carried out at the non-viral gene delivery and tissue culture unit. She has enjoyed developing new techniques and methods of exploring the design of gold nanoparticles as well as fostering new friendships.
Nanotherapeutics is an important and challenging area of research for the treatment of a variety of diseases. ‘Gold nanoparticles as delivery vehicles have shown great promise in diagnostics, theranostics and cancer treatment,’ said Singh. ‘Geraldine was able to show successful delivery and expression of a transgene in mammalian cancer cells, suggesting future use of these gold nanoparticles in gene and drug delivery.’
The study conducted by Lazarus has been published in an international journal. ‘It was the first study using gold nanoparticles in the non-viral gene delivery laboratory,’ said Singh. ‘Geraldine addressed crucial questions with regard to the characterisation and kinetic behavior of these nanoparticles, their nucleic acid binding, cellular cytotoxicity, and eventually their efficiency in gene delivery and expression.
‘Geraldine came into my laboratory as a novice in the area of nanoparticle gene/drug delivery but through her motivation, drive and hard work has emerged as a proficient researcher with a great future ahead in the field of nanotherapeutics.’ Singh said the study paved the way for future students, with four postgraduate students currently working on novel aspects of gene and drug delivery using gold nanoparticles.
Lazarus said that she owed her success to her parents for their continued support and prayers throughout the years and for encouraging her to pursue her dreams.
She will continue at UKZN as a post-doctoral researcher, having received an NRF post-doctoral scholarship.
She recently spent six months in the Applied Physics Department of the University of Granada in Spain, as part of an Erasmus Mundus Fellowship. She presented her research in September 2013 at the 7th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering in Beijing, China; and will present at the 18th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy in New Orleans in the United States next month.
In her spare time she enjoys painting, playing chess, playing guitar and outdoor activities.
Her words of advice are from Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.’