We offer several exciting projects at the interface of nanomaterial engineering and life sciences. Below there is a list of such projects.
In case you are a BSc or MSc student that is interested in carrying out their project thesis with our lab, please contact the corresponding persons below!
Biosensing of physiological parameters with luminescent nanoparticles
This project would concern the analysis of pH and hydrogen peroxide gradients in tumour microenvironments to help investigate the efficacy of novel therapeutics. Although new therapeutic agents to treat cancer are constantly being developed, cancer is still the leading cause of death worldwide. One challenge in developing drugs is the evaluation of their efficacy and mode of action, in a human relevant model. One indication of this can be the physicochemical microenvironment. Previously this has been investigated using SERS or organic fluorescent dyes. However, fluorescent dyes typically exhibit problems of photobleaching when used over extended periods of time and the equipment necessary for SERS is poorly available and expensive. This project would therefore aim to utilise two all inorganic sensing nanoparticles developed by the Sotirioulab to achieve three dimensional mapping of both pH and hydrogen peroxide in spheroid tumour models.
Contact: Padryk Merkl, firstname.lastname@example.org
Flame spray synthesis of Bioglass nanoparticles (NPs) with antibacterial properties
One of the main reasons for implant failure is bacterial infection. The widespread use of antibiotics leads to resistant bacteria and demands novel antimicrobial actions while maintaining the biocompatibility of the implant. The novelty in this project is the fabrication of a multifunctional coating. It should combine antibacterial efficiency and biocompatibility without having a complex route of manufacture. We will produce bioglass NPs with antibacterial dopants and collect them on a filter but also deposit them on a substrate to get a NP layer. Various characterisation techniques (SEM, XRD and FTIR, N2absorption) will assist gaining knowledge of the size and morphology of the particles. As a next step, the ion release mechanism in fluids will be studied and the influence of the dopant will be assessed. The ion release of the most promising metal can be studied in bacterial cultures (E. colior S.aureus) using a cell viability essay or measuring the colony forming units of bacteria inoculated on flame made samples. In a last step, the biocompatibility will be evaluated in-vitro by growing macrophage cell lines or osteoblasts on substrates coated with the doped NPs.
Contact: Felix Geissel, email@example.com
Fighting skin infections with microneedles
Approximately 7- 10% of hospitalisations are associated to skin infections and with the emerging challenge of antibiotic resistant germs, there is a tremendous need for alternative treatment of bacterial skin diseases. The standard procedure to combat bacterial skin infection is to continuously administer high dosages of antibiotics, which unfortunately show high side-effects while exhibiting only low local drug concentrations. Therefore, a targeted drug release and the improvement of the efficiency of the antibiotics is needed. We aim to use microneedle patches, which were already successfully used to deliver high concentration of drugs (e.g. vaccines) locally into the skin, for administration of plasmonic nanoparticles and antibiotic. Plasmonic nanoparticles can be stimulated by infrared light resulting in energy dissipation in form of heat, which was already shown to, in combination with a high antibiotic concentration, improved bacterial killing through synergistic effects and we will apply this to treat skin infection locally.
Contact: Jill Ziesmer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nanoparticle-drug conjugates for transfollicular drug delivery
The proposed project will focus on the development of novel nanoparticle-based drug conjugates suitable for the transfollicular (i.e. through skin hair follicles) delivery of biological drugs against skin diseases. Topical treatment of skin diseases represents an attractive alternative to oral administration increasing the local therapeutic effect and reducing systemic toxicity. Several studies (both in vivo and in vitro) have highlighted the importance of transfollicular nanoparticle drug penetration, as hair follicles represent an efficient long-term reservoir for topically applied substances, and hence better penetration and efficient drug absorption are achieved. Nevertheless, despite the advances on nanoparticle based-drug delivery through skin hair follicles, still there are several issues to be addressed and optimized. The present project will address these challenges by the development of novel nanocarriers based on inorganic materials for transfollicular drug delivery. The nanocarriers will be synthesized by flame spray pyrolysis, a one-step synthesis method that permits manipulation of nanoparticles properties by tuning process conditions. Their functionalization with biological drugs will follow. The obtained nanoparticle-drug moieties will have optimized properties (ex. drug loading) for effective drug release transfollicularly.
Contact: Vasiliki Tsikourkitoudi, email@example.com
A “smart” temporary tattoo that monitors your UV exposure
Skin exposure to ultraviolet (UV) irradiation is a major risk factor for most skin cancers. The main source of UV irradiation is the sunlight. Sunburn and tanning are the short-term results of too much exposure to UV rays, and are signs of skin damage. However, frequent sunburns in childhood may increase the risk for some types of skin cancer many years or even decades later. Long-term exposure can cause early skin aging, wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, dark patches (lentigos, sometimes called age spots or liver spots), and pre-cancerous skin changes (such as dry, scaly, rough patches called actinic keratoses). This project contributes decisively to prevent the prolonged skin exposure at UV irradiation based on the idea of a smart temporary tattoo-sticker that attaches directly to the skin and detect the UV exposure. The tattoo will be based on non-toxic photocatalytic nanoparticles that monitor UV exposure at harmful levels.
Contact: Eleni Bletsa, firstname.lastname@example.org