Silvia Villa has received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Chemical Sciences from University of Genoa, Italy. Later, she began a Fellowship on the synthesis of iron oxides NPs as MRI contrast agents at the Italian Institute of Technology, Pisa, Italy. She is currently pursuing PhD at the University of Genoa, Italy, working on magnetic nanoparticles for environmental and biomedical applications. During her PhD, she had the opportunity to work on magnetic ferrites for hyperthermia studies at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.



Multifunctional nanoprobes combining magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) with organic dyes have attracted great interest due to their promising applications in biomedical field. Among the wide selection of different nanoprobes, superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs), loaded with different functionalities, provide promising application in the drug delivery therapy. In cancer treatment, a possible drug delivery approach is the well-known prodrug monotherapy (PMT), in which the drug is released by enzymes naturally overexpressed in tumor tissues. A recognized enzyme suitable for this method is plasmin, a serine protease. A combination of the two approaches can enhance the cancer treatment because, under the influence of an external magnetic field, it is possible to orient the magnetic nanoparticles to the tumor site and concentrate the drug in the ill tissue. In this perspective, our project aimed at optimizing this approach, planning a superparamagnetic probe based on iron oxide NPs and conjugating a fluorescent tag through a tripeptide linker. This peculiar system has been designed to be cleaved by plasmin with the resulting release of the fluorescent tag. Therefore, this original system could find applications either in the imaging diagnostic or in the drug delivery fields. Herein, we present the synthesis and the characterization of the two components (SPIONs and the tripeptide linked to a fluorescent tag) and the study of their conjugation. Furthermore, we present the preliminary results of the enzymatic cleavage, as proof of concept of our project.