Graduate Student Highlight: Nahid Mehraban

Name:  Nahid Mehraban

Degree Program:  PhD in FPS

Advisor(s):  Dr. Harold S Freeman, Dr. Ahmed El-Shafei, Dr. Alan E. Tonelli

Degrees you have:  Molecular & Cell Biology, Chemistry, Fiber & Polymer Science

Where are you from?  Tehran, Iran

What is your town / country like?  It’s a lively and beautiful city with diverse culture.

Why did you decide to pursue your degree at NC State University? During my master’s studies in Chemistry at East Tennessee State University, I was introduced to the field of photodynamic therapy as a medical application for dyes. I found the college of textiles at NC State as one of the most distinguished universities for dye chemistry.

Give a short description of your research: My research pertains to photodynamic therapy (PDT), a medical application of dye chemistry that requires the presence of light, a photosensitizer, and molecular oxygen, which in tandem form the highly reactive singlet oxygen (1O2) species that can destroy cancer cells. My research focus was to develop and synthesize new NIR dyes with higher cytotoxicity and to evaluate the cytotoxicity of the dye that I have synthesized. I also evaluated the passive targeting using polymeric micelle and developed a method to predict singlet oxygen production of dyes.

How does your research impact the world? Hopefully by contributing a small piece to the big challenge of non-invasive cancer treatment.

Have you published your work yet and/or received any awards?  If you have published, please provide the citation and an abstract appropriate at the high school science level:

Mehraban, Nahid. Freeman, S Harold. “Developments in PDT Sensitizers for Increased selectivity and Singlet Oxygen Production, Materials 2015, 8, 4421-4456; doi:10.3390/ma8074421.

Abstract: Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a minimally-invasive procedure that has been clinically approved for treating certain types of cancers. This procedure takes advantage of the cytotoxic activity of singlet oxygen (1O2) and other reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced by visible and NIR light irradiation of dye sensitizers following their accumulation in malignant cells. The main two concerns associated with certain clinically-used PDT sensitizers that have been influencing research in this arena are low selectivity toward malignant cells and low levels of 1O2 production in aqueous media. Solving the selectivity issue would compensate for photosensitizer concerns such as dark toxicity and aggregation in aqueous media. One main approach to enhancing dye selectivity involves taking advantage of key methods used in pharmaceutical drug delivery. This approach lies at the heart of the recent developments in PDT research and is a point of emphasis in the present review. Of particular interest has been the development of polymeric micelles as nanoparticles for delivering hydrophobic (lipophilic) and amphiphilic photosensitizers to the target cells. This review also covers methods employed to increase 1O2 production efficiency, including the design of two-photon absorbing sensitizers and triplet forming cyclometalated Ir(III) complexes.

What is your favorite thing about TECS / NC State?  Working in a friendly and positive environment with distinguished faculty and students from different backgrounds and cultures.

Who has influenced you most during your research here and how?  I was mostly influenced by Dr. Freeman. His encouragement and support helped me strive for success!  Dr. Tonelli was always ready to help and give new ideas for potential future work. Dr. El-Shafei was always ready to help me, either himself or introducing someone who could help.

What do you find most exciting about your field of study?  I am so impressed with the number of applications of dyes! Dye chemistry is a fascinating field of study and is connected to different areas of research!