Chemistry Students Examine Effectiveness of Nanoparticles


Mercer student researchers are working with Professor of Chemistry Dr. Caryn Seney to examine the effectiveness of nanoparticles - pieces so small that, compared to Earth, they are the size of a soccer ball. These particles are used as signals in the early detection of antibody activity, which can lead to faster, potentially life-saving treatments.

The focus of this research is to probe the specific and high affinity interactions between complementary antibodies (antigens labeled with gold nanoparticles) and with gold (Au) nanoparticles clad in silver (Ag).  The probing of these interactions allow earlier detection of antigens – a foreign substance that causes our immune systems to elicit a response through antibodies.  

“When students set foot in my lab, they have their first opportunity to experience science outside the comfort of the academic lecture and laboratory. They learn to apply the concepts to a real problem with an unknown solution,” Dr. Seney said.  “Along the way, they develop and use investigative skills to overcome the obstacles that are common in the pursuit of answers to significant questions in the chemical sciences.”

If earlier detection of the immune response is achieved, then treatment may begin earlier. Earlier detection occurs through enhancing the signal through the interactions with silver and gold nanoparticles emitted when the antibodies are analyzed.

Because nanoparticles exhibit unique physical and chemical properties that are highly dependent on the size, shape, and environment of the particle, it is of primary importance to develop a true understanding of the role of size, shape, stability, and conjugation with proteins on nanoparticle activity.

“My time in the lab has impacted my life here at Mercer because it has allowed me to dedicate a large amount of time and effort into a project that I really enjoy,” said student researcher Jeffery Mimbs. “Working on this project has given me a very rewarding experience and given me more confidence as a lab student.”