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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 3 (2007 Deadline)

Synthesis and Characterization of Smart Polymer Microgels for
Biomedical Applications 

Shuiqin Zhou, The City University of New York, College of Staten Island
Mohammad Siddiq, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad
Pakistani Funding (HEC):  $ 100,000
US Funding (USAID):    $ 178,645
Project Dates on US Side:  April 1, 2008 - July 31, 2011

Project Overview

Smart polymers undergo reversible and strong changes in conformation and properties upon a small change in environmental conditions, for example, temperature, pH, ionic strength, light, or glucose concentration. Due to this stimuli-responsive behavior, smart polymers offer great advantages in biomedical applications, such as for bioseparation, drug delivery, biosensors, and surfaces with switchable hydrophobic-hydrophilic properties. This project aimed to synthesize and characterize a series of novel multiple responsive polymer microgel particles for biomedical applications. Laser light scattering and electron microscope techniques were employed to study the morphologies and volume phase transitions of the novel smart microgels under different external stimuli. With controllable permeability and rapid responses to pH, temperature, and glucose concentration change, the novel smart polymer microgels designed in this project can be developed as drug carriers for sustained release of protein and anticancer drug molecules.

Another major goal of this project was to establish a polymer materials research lab equipped with a laser light scattering instrument at Quaid-i-Azam University. Laser light scattering is a non-invasive and absolute technique for characterizing macromolecules and a wide range of polymer and nanostructured particles in solution. In developed countries, it has been widely utilized for characterization of all kinds of biopolymers (for example, DNA, protein, polysaccharides, etc.), synthetic polymers, and nanostructured colloidal particles for both industrial applications and academic research. However, until now no laser light scattering lab for polymer materials research had been established in Pakistan. This project facilitated the transfer to Pakistan of the synthetic and characterization approaches established in the US partner’s laboratory for studying polymer and colloidal materials.

Major Results

  • Provided training to one Pakistani PhD student and the Pakistani principal investigator Dr. Siddiq in the US PI’s lab, which helped Dr. Siddiq to establish Pakistan's first laser light scattering lab for polymer materials research at Quaid-I-Azam University
  • Produced four M.Phil graduates at QAU, with one PhD student and two other M.Phil students involved in the project expected to graduate next year
  • Developed several series of responsive hybrid polymeric microgels and nanogels for potential biomedical applications
  • Produced 12 research articles in peer-reviewed journals, with one more manuscript in preparation for submission
  • Delivered five presentations, including four invited talks, based on the research results from this project in national/international conferences

Quarterly Update

This project was completed at the end of July 2011 under a no-cost extension period. In the final months of the project, a new imprinting synthetic method was explored to synthesize novel glucose-responsive hybrid microgels that will improve the selectivity and sensitivity of glucose detection under physiological conditions. In the last quarter of the project, Dr. Zhou’s team helped Pakistani graduate student Mr. Zahoor Farooqi revise a manuscript, which has been accepted for publication. Dr. Zhou continued to provide guidance for Dr. Siddiq and his colleagues and students regarding the synthesis and characterization of smart polymeric microgels. She and her team on the US side also drafted a new manuscript for publication.

Progress Report Summaries

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