UAMS Announces Nanomedicine Center

By Nate Hinkel

Nanomedicine, an offshoot of nanotechnology, refers to highly specific medical research and applications at the molecular scale for curing disease or repairing damaged tissues. The ANC’s goal is to maximize nanomedicine research and clinical efforts across UAMS and its collaborators with a translational emphasis to put cutting-edge nanoscience methods to work for patients.

“Over the past few years, more and more of our researchers and clinicians have been exploring applications for nanomedicine,” said Debra H. Fiser, M.D., dean of the UAMS College of Medicine. “In an institution as large as ours, an extraordinary amount of knowledge, experience and resources is spread across many laboratories and departments, not to mention our partnering institutions. The key is to bring people together, so that new discoveries can be translated into better medical care more efficiently and effectively.”

The efforts to capitalize on nanomedicine work being done between UAMS and its partners began in 2010 with the College of Medicine’s creation of a Nanomedicine Magnet Group. That group indentified the diverse nanomedicine efforts that faculty members were working toward. Group members learned what their colleagues in other programs were doing, what resources they needed, and what resources and expertise they had to share.

“The breadth of activity and the numbers of basic science, clinical and translational researchers involved in nanomedicine is truly impressive,” Fiser said. “We recently counted at least 35 faculty members who are actively working on or are interested in nanomedicine projects. They represent at least 13 College of Medicine departments alone.”

That internationally recognized work includes groundbreaking discoveries in the use of nanoparticles for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, infections, cardiovascular diseases and drug addiction treatment, among many others.

Vladimir Zharov, Ph.D., director of the Phillips Classic Laser and Nanomedicine Laboratories and professor in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine, will serve as the director of the ANC. His team’s groundbreaking research in clinically relevant nanomedicine has been featured in many of the world’s most prestigious scientific publications.

“The creation of this center is a key commitment to keep UAMS on the front edge of applications of nanotechnology in medicine,” said Zharov. “One of the goals of the ANC is to facilitate unique opportunities provided by the University of Arkansas System to bring revolutionary nanotechnology advances from bench to bedside.”

ANC associate directors are Michael J. Borrelli, Ph.D., professor and director of research in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Radiology, and Robert Griffin, Ph.D., professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology and co-leader of the Experimental Cancer Therapeutic program.

The center will continue the work that began with the magnet group, but with a greater focus on strategic planning to ensure integration among researchers and clinicians across UAMS’ College of Medicine, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, and Translational Research Institute and ANC partnering institutions: the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the Institute of Nanoscience and Engineering at University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, the Nanotechnology Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and the National Center for Toxicological Research.

“Ultimately, our goal is to use the ANC to connect the dots across the health care spectrum to support and advance nanomedicine to tackle medical disorders from multiple angles,” Fiser said. “One critical point is research to better understand the basic mechanisms of many diseases. Teams also will search for potential new diagnosis and treatment methods employing nanomedicine, and then work to evaluate them in clinical trials. Their findings will ultimately help our physicians and clinical care teams deliver better care.”

The ANC is already leading a number of activities to keep momentum from the magnet group going, Fiser said. Some of those immediate projects include building a nanomedicine website to provide public access to the ANC and research being done. A nanomedicine inter-institutional seminar series also is in the works. Finally, the center will continue the search for federal, philanthropic and other support vital to funding nanomedicine initiatives.

“Though nanoparticles are stunningly small, they pack huge potential for diagnosing and treating disease and improving patient care,” Fiser said.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit or