Frontiers in Biotechnology Seminar Series in Tissue Engineering & Regenerative Medicine: Structural Complexity of Lipid Nanoparticles: Implications for Efficient Delivery of Gene Editing Agents to Cells

Dr. Cecilia Leal

Co-organized with The Department of Materials Science & Engineering 

Dr. Cecilia Leal 

Structural Complexity of Lipid Nanoparticles: Implications for Efficient Delivery of Gene Editing Agents to Cells.
Wednesday, October 4th at 3:00pm 

Location: Bruggeman

Biography: Cecilia Leal is an Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Bioengineering, and Carle Illinois College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Cecilia graduated in Industrial Chemistry (a Chemistry and Chemical Engineering joint major) at the University of Coimbra, Portugal and received a PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University of Lund, Sweden under the supervision of Håkan Wennerström. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the group of Cyrus Safinya before starting her appointment at UIUC in 2012. Cecilia received the University Scholar award in 2023, the Dean's Award for Excellence in Research for Associate (2021) and Assistant (2018) professor, the 2019 Provost Distinguished Promotion Award, and the 2016 NSF CAREER and NIH Director’s New Innovator Awards. Cecilia is often in the list of excellent teachers ranked by her students and received the 2022 College Award for Sustained Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Abstract: Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) are the most successful RNA delivery carriers to date and are used in FDA-approved products like the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. Expanding LNP-based therapies hinges on efficient delivery to a variety of tissues and cells, a process often hindered by endosomal entrapment. It is well known that depending on lipid molecular properties, LNPs assemble into different nanostructures, but how these impart endosomal escape remains unknown. We demonstrate that combining lipid composition with nanostructure synergistically impacts the ability of LNPs to escape endosomes. LNP–RNA complexes prescribed with bicontinuous cubic and inverse hexagonal internal structures facilitate the topological transition of LNP–endosome fusion-pore formation. We show that nanostructure is a potent handle to engineer highly efficient LNPs for the delivery of gene editing agents to cells.

Sponsored by The Nation Institute of Health Predoctoral Program in Biotech 

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