Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Pharmaceutical Sciences



Research Advisor

George C. Wood, PhD


Vinayagam Kannan, PhD Duane D. Miller, PhD Robert J. Nolly, MS P. David Rogers, PharmD, PhD


Amphotericin B, Candida species, Intracellular trafficking, Invasive fungal infections, Magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, Targeted drug delivery


A targeted nanotheronostic drug delivery system to diagnose and treat life threatening invasive fungal infections (IFIs) such as cryptococcal meningitis was designed, developed, characterized, and evaluated. To address the development processes, first, iron oxide nanoparticles (IONP) (34-40 nm) coated with bovine serum albumin (BSA), loaded and targeted with amphotericin B (AMB) (AMB-IONP) was formulated by applying a layer by layer approach. Several designs (A, B, C, D, & E) of AMB-IONP were developed and their physicochemical properties such as drug loading with HPLC method, particle size, poly dispersity index (PDI), and ζ-potential using dynamic light scattering (DLS) technique, morphology with transmission electronic microscopy (TEM), and in vitro drug release profile with dialysis method were evaluated. Second, uptake (with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry) and killing efficacy (with susceptibility testing) of AMB-IONP in fungal clinical isolates of Candida species were evaluated and compared with standard drug AMB deoxycholate (AMB-D) data. Third, the cellular uptake mechanisms with endocytosis inhibitors and intracellular trafficking using TEM for design D were evaluated in selected isolates. Fourth, a stable lyophilized AMB-IONP formulation was developed and was suitable for clinical trials.

A validated isocratic HPLC method was developed and validated for the quantitative determination of AMB. Design D was determined to be the lead formulation with drug loading of 13.6±6.9 of AMB/mg of IONP. The size, ζ-potential, and PDI for all formulation designs were found to be in an optimum range for a nanomedicine with ≤36 nm, ~ -20 mV, and ≤0.2, respectively. The TEM images confirmed that the nanoparticles were monodispersed and spherical in shape. The drug release profile indicated a burst release up to 3 hours for designs A and B, followed by a sustained drug release profile up to 72 hours. Designs C and D (with and without glutaraldehyde) also had a sustained drug release profile up to 72 hours. The major mechanisms of drug release from these formulations were determined to be Fickian and non-Fickian diffusion with first order and Higuchi kinetic models as best fit.

The cellular uptake profile for design D exhibited a time dependent uptake with maximum uptake at 0.5 and 4 hours for C. albicans and C. glabrata, respectively. All designs exhibited improved efficacy over AMB-D in the susceptibility testing conducted on clinical isolates of Candida. Design D was found to have an enhanced killing ability and was 16-25 fold more efficacious than AMB-D. An in vitro cellular association study found the uptake mechanism was energy dependent. An endocytosis inhibitor evaluation determined the major particle uptake pathway for C. albicans was lipid-raft mediated endocytosis, whereas for C. glabrata, it was clathrin-, caveolar-, and lipid-raft-mediated endocytosis.

TEM and confocal images provided evidence the AMB-IONP were localized at or near the cell wall and membrane wall and inside the cytoplasm, nucleus and endolysosomal vesicles for tested isolates. The lyophilized formulation of AMB-IONP was successfully prepared using an appropriate amount (1:16 to the weight IONP) of the of lyoprotectant, sucrose. A short term stability study of both formulations (lyophilized and aqueous dispersion) at 5°C and 25°C for up to two months showed the lyophilized form was stable.

In conclusion, a targeted nanotheronostic drug delivery system (AMB-IONP) was successfully designed, developed, characterized and evaluated as a potential drug product for IFIs treatment.