BMS Guest: Dr. Fabrizio Chiodo

fabrizio chiodo, Leiden Medical Center The NetherlandsDr. Fabrizio Chiodo  Photo credit: Dr. Dana Kikic

Dr. Fabrizio Chiodo is a prototype of Hollywood movie scientists: he is tall and curly, talks quickly and passionately, has a cute "where do you come from" accent and believes in science. Recently, as a guest of the Glycoimmunology Group, he introduced us with his achievements in carbohydrate nanochemistry. After that, we had a little chat about nano- and glyco-, so, here you go: ...

1. You are a nanochemist and a glycoimmunologist. Could you explain the relationship of nano- to the macro world, molecular world and the world of a cell.

I exploit golden glyconanoparticles. Dimensions are 2-3 nm. They present a multivalent system (meaning: bind many carbohydrates or glycans) similar to the glycocalyx of the cell. Thus, carbohydrates covered nanoparticles are used to study the binding properties on a cellular (micro) level. Basically, you mimic an infection by using a pathogen´s (bacteria, viruses) or pathological (cancer) carbohydrate antigens bound on a golden nanoparticle (GNP).

2. What is confusing is that you are able to bind a big molecule to a small nanoparticle.

Oh, that is a property of thiol bonds! These particular carbohydrates form a thiol bond with the linker on GNPs.

3. I see (actually, I do not see, since neither you nor me can see the nano world, but let´s imagine for a second that we do). So, how do you handle those nanoparticles? In a solution?

Yes. They are water soluble and, if frozen as a solution, stable for 1-2 years. Even better: you can lyophilize them. Then, you have a powder that you can dry-freeze and keep for about 5 years. This is not the case with, for example, glycoliposomes, that is why I prefer to work with glycocoated nanoparticles.

4. Could you use a solution of carbohydrates, without coupling them to a particle?

That is not the same! Coupled carbohydrates present a multivalent model that can achieve things carbohydrates in solution cannot. This is called the clustered carbohydrate effect*. You also have a full chemical control of the coupled carbohydrates: space between them, orientation etc.

4. If you want to really see a nanoparticle, how do you do that?

With electron microscopy. In addition, I can also link them to a fluorophore (a fluorescent colored molecule) and visualize fate of this particle in a cell, on a membrane etc.

5. You showed us the possible uses of carbohydrate coated GNPs in immunological studies: detection of antigens, carbohydrate vaccines development, diagnosis, triggering of innate immune response. What is your opinion, which application has the biggest chance to become commercially exploited in the future.

ELISA assay for detection of new carbohydrate antigens! Glycan arrays are amazing tools, but you need a platform to perform them (machines, software, complicated data analysis). These are great tools for big screenings. But once you detect your antigen of interest you can couple it on GNPs, coat ELISA plate, dry it, save it and use it in any area you would like to check the applicability of your antigen. It is an easy, fast and cheap test, practically in a pocket. You just need an UV detector.

6. For me this is completely new. I always think of nanoparticles as a tool to target certain type of cells, like cancer, or specific tissue cells.

Yes. The GNPs I work with are more of a basic laboratory tool. But, yes, there are many researchers who are trying to, let´s say, kill certain types of cells, or just target them, by attaching drugs to nanoparticles and driving them, with the help of a specific antigen, to the particular cell or tissue type.

7. What drove you to the nano research?

I worked in a pure university surrounding in Sicily, Palermo before I started my PhD in San Sebastian, Spain. I did not even know what an impact factor of a journal was, but was lucky enough to have a supervisor who appreciated a young, passionate but naive student! Then I entered the world of carbohydrates, carbohydrate synthesis and nanoparticles. I came to like publicly funded science and appreciate its impact. My favorite scientist is Vincente Verez-Bencomo. I really follow his research and would like to be like him! He produced a Science paper in Cuba. How great is that! Maybe there is still a bit of that naive student in me, but I like science and would like to achieve something with it.

8. What would you like to see achieved or confirmed during your career?

We always see carbohydrates as antigens. But they can be used as adjuvants. I would like to see both functions in one! That would be nice.

*Unfortunately, the article cannot be accessed outside the Institute. MPI-KG BMS supports #openaccess