Meet the team: Dr Miguel Santos

Meet the team
For Dr Miguel Santos, science has always been a path he knew he wanted to follow.

Originally from Faro, a small town in the south of Portugal, Miguel completed a Master of Science degree in plasma physics at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.

In 2014, Miguel joined the Applied Materials Group at HRI, led by Dr Steven Wise, where as a PhD candidate he developed bio-functional coatings for cardiovascular stents. He received his PhD from Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney in 2018.

Now a postdoctoral researcher with the Group, Miguel works at the interface between plasma physics, nanotechnology and bioengineering. “Being able to apply your knowledge and clinically translate it in a way that could make a difference to people’s lives is incredibly satisfying,” Miguel says.

And for people interested in a career in scientific research?

“Be curious. Be determined. Don’t be afraid to do things differently and push the boundaries to make great discoveries.”

The latest research

The Applied Materials Group has made a groundbreaking discovery: a new class of nanoparticle. Made from plasma – the same medium found in lightning, our galaxy and the sun – they are so tiny that up to a billion can fit on the head of a pin.

Nanoparticles can be used as carriers for drugs, genetic material and other biological agents, which can then be targeted at specific cells for treatment of patients. But progress in this highly promising field has stalled due to limitations of the current commercially available products.

Image showing the multi-functionalised nanoparticles (spheres), representing their dispersion in solution upon immobilisation of different molecules (blue and pink) on their surface.

The breakthrough, recently published in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials, significantly improves on current nanotechnologies, which are too costly, complicated and time-consuming to be easily translated into use in the clinic.

As lead scientist in this project, Miguel says, “These nanoparticles could potentially one day change the landscape for drug or gene material delivery. Using our versatile nanoparticle platform, we can easily engineer off-the-shelf nanocarriers tailor-made for the needs of each patient and clinical condition. The potential applications are huge and exciting, ranging from improved ways to treat heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, through to more efficient gene therapies.”

The paper, Plasma Synthesis of Carbon-Based Nanocarriers for Linker-Free Immobilization of Bioactive Cargo, can be viewed here: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsanm.7b00086  
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