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The Levinson Emerging Scholars Program

Teresa Peterson - Bioengineering

Teresa began her research experience she will was just a junior in high school. She was one of 14 students involved in a summer program called Lab Experience for the High School Student, which was created specifically to introduce high school students to the new and blossoming field of bioengineering. Since then, Teresa has been an active student researcher here at the University of Washington.

Her other activities include being a committee member for Relay for Life, and other cancer related organizations. She writes, "I regularly speak with the community about the importance of the work done by the American Cancer Society and how contributing to Relay for Life will affect the lives of millions of current and future cancer survivors. Before working with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life, I had never understood just how devastating a disease cancer is."

In the upcoming future, Teresa hopes to attend a graduate program where she can continue her research. She would like to seek a career in research where I can work towards making cellular and molecular treatments for cancer a clinical reality.

Teresa Peterson photo

Mentor: Suzie Pun, Bioengineering

Project Title: Surface-modified Listeria-monocytogenes as a carrier for the intracytosolic delivery of therapeutics

Abstract: Macromolecule therapy, the introduction of therapeutic agents into diseased cells in the body, has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of life-altering diseases like cancer. One of the major needs in delivery to tumors is the development of carriers that can efficiently transport therapeutic agents into tumor cells. Listeria monocytogenes, a facultative intracellular pathogen, is a promising potential carrier because it is highly efficient at entering the cytosol after invading host cells. It is also capable of moving through and between cells, giving it the potential to make its way past the most accessible layer of the tumor, reaching deeper, central cancer cells for delivery. Attenuated strains of Listeria are of interest for intracellular therapeutics delivery. To deliver therapeutic genes to tumor cells, I propose to attach them to the surface of Listeria via a streptavidin-biotin linkage. I have developed a surface conjugation strategy that allows modular attachment of therapeutic cargo to Listeria. Listeria were surface-modified by reaction with NHS-biotin, enabling the attachment of biotinylated cargo through a streptavidin linker. Surface biotinylation of Listeria was confirmed through a plate-binding assay. Biotinylated Listeria bound to a plate displaying surface-adsorbed streptavidin, while unmodified Listeria failed to bind. The attachment of a biotinylated, fluorescently-labeled model protein cargo to the surface of biotinylated Listeria was examined, and the invasion of host cells by this Listeria-protein conjugate was investigated using fluorescence microscopy. I will further demonstrate delivery to the cell cytosol and begin investigation of cargo loading characteristics and cell cytotoxicity. This method will then be translated to a less pathogenic strain of Listeria and I will demostrate its ability to deliver antigenic peptides and stimulate T-cell activity. Listeria-drug conjugates in the future could be applied toward nucleic acid and protein delivery.