Heterogeneous Catalysis of Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants Using Porous Inorganic Supports

Chemical warfare agents (CWAs) are chemicals that cause biological damage by inducing biochemical and morphological changes in tissues. The development of technologies that will simultaneously decompose multiple types of CWAs is a prime objective of Defense-related decontamination activities. Current technologies being developed include solution-based processes, physically-based technologies such as plasmas, and catalytic solids. Of the methods under investigation, formulations containing solid particles are some of the most promising candidates for CWA decontamination.

Using mesoporous silica, a highly porous material with a large internal surface area, we have developed metal-doped porous silica catalysts to degrade chemical warfare agent simulants. Materials with as little as 1 wt% V are effective at completely oxidizing the mustard gas simulant 2-chloroethyl ethyl sulfide in 15 minutes, using peroxides as the oxidizing agents. Peroxides, however, can pose transportation hazards, and a better oxidant would be molecular oxygen under ambient conditions. Interestingly, we found that the same V-doped catalyst converted aldehydes to peroxyacids in situ, which in turn oxidized sulfides rapidly. This represents a simple, easily-prepared system that can be used to decontaminate mustard gas under ambient conditions.

Surface-Modified Nanoporous Beads as Encapsulation and Delivery Devices for Chemical and Biological Decontaminants

The goal of this project is to synthesize porous materials that will be used as delivery devices for chemical and biological decontaminants. Using methods previously established in our laboratory, the external surface of APMS particles will be modified with chemically active organosilane "linkers". After the exchange of the decontaminant into the pores of the particles, the linkers will be used to bind smaller particles or polymers in order to encapsulate the decontaminant. At any later point, a simple chemical trigger will then be used to release the dense beads, open the pores, and release the decontaminant as desired. This is a basic research study in which the particle diameter, pore diameter, and surface chemistry will be explored.

Improving Transfer of ERK1/2 siRNA Constructs Using Nanoporous Silica

We have validated in vitro that APMS loaded with siRNA constructs both increases the preclinical effectiveness of the constructs and improves the inhibition of cell signaling pathways in human MM cells. Our specific aims are to engineer APMS for maximum and selective uptake by human MM cells in vitro, to study the kinetics of uptake of shRNA constructs into APMS, and to use siRNA-loaded APMS to block ERK1/2 and ERK5 pathways.

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photo: Sally McCay, UVM Photography