Karyn Ho

Visualizing the nanoscale: updating the representation of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery


Michael C. Corrin and Molly S. Shoichet


Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects


3D animation


Potential collaborators and general interest audience


Nanoscale drug delivery systems have the potential to enable safer and more effective anti-cancer therapy through targeting. Polymeric nanoparticles have many advantages in this field because they are stable, their properties and composition can be controlled, and they can serve as a platform for the simultaneous delivery of multiple therapeutic and diagnostic compounds. The overarching goal of using nanotechnology in cancer therapy is to change drug distribution in the body, thereby increasing exposure of target cells in solid tumours to cytotoxic drugs, while reducing side effects associated with systemic delivery.

If successful, these targeted technologies have the potential to enhance patient care by improving remission rates while reducing side effects. However, targeting is a multi-step process, and there is little consensus around the ideal properties for such systems; formulation changes made to optimize any given step can have unintended effects on others, and this makes control an attractive design feature. The dynamic nature of these systems is poorly represented in existing visuals, many of which contain inaccuracies or simplifications that undermine our current knowledge and the outstanding challenges faced by the field.

To promote ongoing research, this 3D animation translates the targeting process into a continuous narrative, demonstrating the utility and flexibility of the polymeric nanoparticle system developed at the Shoichet lab at the University of Toronto. Visualization is particularly compelling for events at the nanoscale because they are smaller than the maximum resolution of light, and therefore any depiction is necessarily a representation of data. Moreover, animating relevant biological interactions will enable them to be shown dynamically. The final animation is being hosted on the Shoichet website for a mixed science literate and general audience.

You can view my animation online here. Or for a really deep dive, you can read my PhD thesis here.

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