Laboratory for Materials in Medicine Pan Research Group at Illinois
Bioengineering at Illinois Engineering for Life University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Aaron Schwartz-Duval

Department Bioengineering

Aaron joined the Pan Research group in fall 2014, focusing on the development of nanoparticle-based theranostics (combined therapeutics and diagnostics) for his graduate research. Aaron earned his BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University: His undergraduate thesis, with the Sharkey Lab, focused on the development of a high-throughput isoprene synthase assay. Intermittently, Aaron was also laboratory technologist with Michigan State University’s Molecular and Cellular Imaging Lab (MCIL) with Erik Shapiro between his undergraduate and graduate studies. With the MCIL group, Aaron developed and optimized nanoparticle-based contrast agents for enhanced detection of pathology via X-Ray CT and MRI.  Currently, Aaron’s research towards nanoparticle-based theranostics with the Pan lab capitalizes on many utilities/structures found or inspired by nature. This biomimetic (bios-life; mimesis-imitation) approach utilizes two approaches:

  1. Making artificial substances or structures similar to those found in nature.
  2. Utilizing materials or structures naturally occurring toward individual applications.

Aaron optimizes nanoparticles for drug/contrast agent loading using the first approach in biomimetics by aiming to develop high-ordered branching nanoparticles termed polyvillic (poly-many; villi-shaggy hair) after the villi/microvilli of the intestines.

For the second approach to biomimicry, Aaron utilizes and capitalizes on features of the pathology which have homophilic (homo-self; philic-loving) characteristics which are unique to specific portions of the cells which they originate. Within this project, Aaron aims to incorporate these homophilic portions of diseased cells with nano-theranostics for a patient-to-cell level of specificity of delivery.

When Aaron is not in the lab, he relaxes by playing music, underwater hockey, cooking, and rock climbing.


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