Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name



Materials Engineering

First Advisor

Guangzhao Mao


Due to their ease of synthesis, versatile surface chemistry, ease of imaging, and biocompatibility, gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) are employed as drug delivery devices in the treatment of respiratory problems associated with spinal cord injury (SCI). We have developed a method for the synthesis of a tripartite nanoconjugate comprised of an AuNP drug carrier chemically conjugated to a transporter protein (wheat germ agglutinin coupled to horseradish peroxidase or WGA-HRP) and to potent SCI drugs. The therapeutic efficacy and biodistribution were studied in a validated animal model. Our results show that a single administration of the nanoconjugate improved diaphragmatic activity at a much lower dosage than the effective systemic drug dosage and restored the respiratory drive. The effects lasted for 4 weeks. A biodistribution study using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry on the same animal model shows that the nanoconjugate was successful in targeting the respiratory neurons in the medulla by detecting the presence of gold in the medulla and spinal cord. The AuNPs are also applied in triple negative breast cancer treatment. By conjugating the surface modified AuNPs with a non-soluble drug, the solubility has been increased and introduced cancer cell death after administration. The nanoconjugate structure was determined by UV-vis spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, thermogravimetric analysis, and mass spectrometry.