Targeted drug delivery using genetically engineered diatom biosilica

Bahman Delalat, Vonda C. Sheppard, Soraya Rasi Ghaemi, Shasha Rao, Clive A. Prestidge, Gordon McPhee, Mary Louise Rogers, Jacqueline F. Donoghue, Vinochani Pillay, Terrance G. Johns, Nils Kröger, Nicolas H. Voelcker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

207 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to selectively kill cancerous cell populations while leaving healthy cells unaffected is a key goal in anticancer therapeutics. The use of nanoporous silica-based materials as drug-delivery vehicles has recently proven successful, yet production of these materials requires costly and toxic chemicals. Here we use diatom microalgae-derived nanoporous biosilica to deliver chemotherapeutic drugs to cancer cells. The diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana is genetically engineered to display an IgG-binding domain of protein G on the biosilica surface, enabling attachment of cell-targeting antibodies. Neuroblastoma and B-lymphoma cells are selectively targeted and killed by biosilica displaying specific antibodies sorbed with drug-loaded nanoparticles. Treatment with the same biosilica leads to tumour growth regression in a subcutaneous mouse xenograft model of neuroblastoma. These data indicate that genetically engineered biosilica frustules may be used as versatile 'backpacks' for the targeted delivery of poorly water-soluble anticancer drugs to tumour sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8791
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


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