Associate Professor, BIO5 Institute
Associate Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Associate Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
Marek Romanowski, PhD, and his work on translating physics into medical products have huge implications for the evolution of personalized medicine. On cue, a tiny pillbox of gold floating in your bloodstream can deliver its medicine exactly to the right cell, one that is sick with cancer, avoiding all of your healthy cells. A gold capsule – about 50 to 200 nanometers in diameter, large enough to do the work of transporting a few molecules of medicine and respond to light signals – is too large to pass out through the kidneys. But on command by an enzyme, it can fall apart into pieces smaller than 10 nanometers, just a few molecules. The new size can easily leave our bodies at no risk. The gold pillbox has many other possible applications. In addition to delivering a drug, it can become a part of a diagnostic test, or deliver genetic material to a cell to permanently modify the cells’ DNA—a key step in gene therapy.