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Dr. Masakatsu Watanabe

Institution: University of Saint Mary

Department: Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Proposed research ideas: 

With the potential wide uses of nanomaterials in biomedical application, the recently focused on carbon-based nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes or graphene, concerns of nanotoxicity of carbon-based nanomaterials have been growing. To eliminate nanotoxicity in these engineered materials, we would like to investigate naturally occurring nanovesicles, exosomes, for possible delivery vehicles in the biological systems. Exosomes are biological nanovesicles (30–200 nm diameter) that mediate local and long-range communication, such as tumors to communicate signals to local and remote cells and tissues. Because of their naturally occurring nano-size, by unraveling the functional role of exosomes and their cargo of messengers in this biological communication process, exosomes could be explored as nanodevices for the development of new therapeutic applications. My research proposal is to investigate functions and structure of exosomes by molecular dynamics simulations to understand how they deliver the messages to remote cells. Since exosomes have not been studied widely by the simulation yet, detail structures of exosome has not been modeled. There is a proposed and plausible structure of exosomes. So in the proposed research, we will utilize available experimental data and images, such as Fluorescence microscopy images etc., to model its detail structure. Then, by applying computer simulation methods, we will study its structure-activity relationships and mechanism of delivering messages. This study will shed a new light on how we can use exosomes as delivery vehicles for certain drugs by understanding the process in molecular levels.


At the small liberal arts institution, like ours, most of science major undergraduate students do not have the opportunity to have a mentoring relationship that builds confidence in their abilities and an appreciation for conducting researches. The program may give me a tool to expand the research opportunity for our students. I would be thrilled to see that many students have the opportunity to further develop themselves and achieve their goals as successful science researchers. Additionally, as a faculty member at the undergraduate and liberal arts institution, this program will assist to engage me in the professional field, to build capacity for research at my home institution, and to support the integration of research and undergraduate education.