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Xu to explore novel nanoparticle for Alzheimer’s disease with $1.5M grant

Associate professor Peisheng Xu was recently awarded a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health to support the development of targeted therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.

The project, titled “Brain Targeted Nanoparticle for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy,” builds on Xu’s previous Alzheimer’s research. He spent about four years developing a nanoparticle with a unique polymer structure that he tested in vitro — outside the body — with a substance that mimicked the blood-brain barrier.

Based on those experiments, Xu will now test his nanoparticle in animal models, adjusting its structure for the most effective blood-brain barrier penetrating capacity. Thus far, Xu’s nanoparticle has produced anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may help to treat or prevent the disease.

“Alzheimer’s is affecting more and more people,” he said. “We want to use our nanoparticle strategy to see how we can affect the disease’s progress. Right now, there is nothing to slow it down.”

Xu came to USC in 2009 and in 2013 joined the Center for Targeted Therapeutics led by professor Igor Roninson.

Xu’s lab focuses on designing biomaterials for targeted drug delivery that are attracted to specific cell receptors or tissue environments in the body, which delivers drugs more efficiently than systemic drugs. In addition, these targeted therapies can also minimize side effects because they are delivered to a specific area of the body rather than systemically.

Associate Dean for Research Kim Creek said Xu, who was named one of the university’s Breakthrough Rising Stars in 2013, was the third “target” investigator supported by Roninson’s $11.3 million grant from the NIH’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence to “graduate” from the COBRE by securing extramural funding for his independent research.

“Xu’s cutting-edge research brings renewed hope that we may soon be able to use nanoparticles to target the delivery of drugs to the brain that will be effective in treating Alzheimer’s patients and slowing the course of this terrible disease,” Creek said. “We wish him the best of luck with his studies.”