NEWS & EVENTS
Laura Rodriguez-Lorenzo wins the L’Oréal Fellowship «For Women in Science»
Laura Rodriguez-Lorenzo wins the L’Oréal Fellowship «For Women in Science». After a careful evaluation by the scientific committee, the L’Oréal jury members judged Laura’s project as excellent. This project entitled «Surface-enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS)-based Imaging and ultrasensitive-detection of Biomarkes in Biological Samples» has therefore been granted with a Fellowship of 80’000 CHF for one year.
AMI on the cover of Nanoscale
Researchers of the BioNanomaterials group recently published their latest research in Nanoscale. The article entitled “Surface charge of polymer coated SPIONs influences the serum protein adsorption, colloidal stability and subsequent cell interaction in vitro” is available online (2013, 5 (9), 3723 - 3732) and is highlighted on the front cover of the RSC Journal now. In this paper AMI researchers show how nanoparticle-protein interactions may relate to the particular physicochemical characteristics of nanoparticles in a biological fluid, and how these parameters could significantly influence the subsequent nanoparticle-cell interaction in vitro.
Involved researchers: Vera Hirsch (Pharmaceutical Sciences), Calum Kinnear (Chemical Physics), Martin Clift (Nanotoxicology), Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser (Biology) & Alke Fink (Chemistry of Materials). Collaborations: Dr M. Moniatte (Proteomics Core Facility, Platform Coordinator, EPFL)
Annual Report 2012
AMI’s Annual Report 2012 is out. It provides an overview of our activities and achievements in 2012, another very good year for our young institute. AMI continued to grow, not only thanks to a significant expansion of the existing teams focused on bionanomaterials and polymers, but also through the addition of new research groups with expertise in the self-assembly of nanoparticles and soft-matter scattering. We also published a record number of high-quality papers, filed our first patents, and continued to win competitive grants. Perhaps more important than the normal metrics is the fact that the individual groups have begun to interact on many different levels, grow together as a team, and are starting to define areas of common research interests. We are also happy to convey that AMI is rapidly integrating into the local and national academic community. Regular exchanges and collaborations with other Swiss institutions with overlapping interests provide AMI researchers with access to valuable complementary expertise and infrastructure. With multiple partners, we have been involved in several multi-institutional initiatives in Fribourg that revolve around interdisciplinary research and development, new educational ventures, and creative mechanisms to foster innovation.
We hope you enjoy reading more about our research and the team behind it! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, comments or feedback.
Interdisciplinary project of the BioNanomaterials group highlighted by the journal Angewandte Chemie
Under the title “Everything under control”, the editors of the renowned journal discuss the paper by Prof. A. Petri-Fink et al., where the researchers demonstrate how to control the surface chemistry of gold nanorods to increase their biocompatibility. The work is the result of a strong interdisciplinary effort and the study is centered around gold nanorods, which are abundantly investigated for biomedical applications. However, the surfactant stabilized rods are challenging for any subsequent surface derivatization, since their stability is poor at low surfactant or high salt concentration. In addition, the generally used surfactant CTAB (cetyltrimethylammonium bromide) shows very poor biocompatibility, with in vitro toxicological studies yielding IC50 values in the low micromolar range. Calum Kinnear of the BioNanomaterials group has realized complete detoxification of gold nanorods by manipulating the position in the stability map between surface-adsorbing polyethylene glycol (PEG) and destabilizing ethanol (see picture). The work is selected as the cover picture of the research section.
Involved AMI researchers: Calum Kinnear (Chemical Physics), Hervé Dietsch (Colloidal Physics&Chemistry), Carola Endes (Biology), Martin Clift (Nanotoxicology), Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser (Biology) & Alke Fink (Chemistry of Materials).
Controlled and targeted release of drugs: new discovery in the team of Prof. Alke Fink
Prof. Alke Fink and team have discovered a method that allows for the controlled release of an active agent on the basis of a magnetic nanovehicle. The research, conducted as part of the National Research Programme "Smart Materials" (NRP 62), opens up new possibilities for the development of targeted treatments, which are more efficient and trigger fewer side effects.
Certain drugs are toxic by nature. For example, anti-cancer drugs developed to kill diseased cells also harm healthy ones. To limit the side effects of chemotherapy, it would be a great step forward if it were possible to release a drug only in the affected area of the body. In the context of the National Research Programme "Smart Materials" (NRP 62) - a cooperation between the SNSF and the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) - researchers of ETH Lausanne, the Adolphe Merkle Institute and the University Hospital of Geneva have discovered a method that might represent an important step towards the development of an intelligent drug of this kind. By combining their expert knowledge in the areas of material sciences, biological nanomaterials and medicine, they were able to prove the feasibility of using a nanovehicle to transport drugs and release them in a controlled manner.
Prof. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser wins the 2nd prize from Ypsomed Innovation Fund for Research and Development
The Ypsomed Innovation Fund awarded for the sixth time its Innovation Award for research, development and technology transfer with a total of CHF 60'000. AMI’s Professor Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser received the second prize of CHF 20'000 for the "development of a new platform to engineer a 3D lung tissue of the air-blood barrier based on a novel bio-printing approach."
To assess the risk of inhalation of foreign substances and newly developed drugs in the lungs, most current studies are conducted on animals, however to reduce these animal experiments, three-dimensional cell models have been developed in the laboratory. To date, there is no scientific research validated model of the air-blood tissue barrier, ie the alveoli. Prof. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser has now in collaboration with Mark Thurner from the company regenHU biosystems architects in Villaz-St-Pierre started a new project to produce a 3D lung tissue of the air-blood barrier with a bio-printer. With this special method of bio-printing, the desired tissue is "printed" layer by layer built from different types of cells. The artificial lung model of the alveolar region could be used for the study of environmental pollutants and effectiveness of new drugs.
Ypsomed Innovation Fund aims to promote innovative activities in the central part of Switzerland and supports projects for independent funding of young startups and existing businesses.
AMI on the cover of the Journal of Materials Chemistry
Yoan C. Simon and Christoph Weder recently published a Feature Article in the Journal of Materials Chemsitry. The article entitled “Low-power photon upconversion through triplet–triplet annihilation in polymers” is available online and will be highlighted on the front cover of the RSC Journal on October 21, 2012. "Low power sensitized light-upconversion in solution has been known for several decades. However, transposing it into a solid polymer matrix poses some serious challenges. In this perspective article, we wanted to provide material scientists with a thorough yet simplified toolbox to broach this exciting topic" says Yoan.
Click here to read the full article.
The group of Prof. Marco Lattuada joins the Adolphe Merkle Institute
As of the beginning of this year Prof. Lattuada, who was awarded with an SNSF-Professorship grant in 2011, joined the Adolphe Merkle Institute to pursue his research on nanoparticles self-assembly. “The research activity of our group is devoted to the rational design and the synthesis of nanoparticles and to the investigation of their self-assembly behavior. We use a balanced combination of experiments and simulations, with the objective of creating new materials with tailored properties” says Prof. Lattuada. AMI is proud of hosting this highly experienced nanoscience expert and his research team currently consisting of one post-doctoral researcher and three PhD students. Welcome to the team.
Click here to get to the research page of Prof. Lattuada.
Annual Report 2011
The annual report 2011 is fresh off the press and again provides an insight into a very successful year of the Adolphe Merkle Institute. We invite you to read about the many good things that have happened during the last year, such as the arrival of Professors Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser and Alke Fink, who together lead the new Department for bio-nanomaterials, the tremendous growth by all metrics, and the wonderful recognition that our research has earned nationally and internationally. Besides bringing you highlights, facts, and figures, our annual report also introduces some of our researchers and showcases a handful of research programs and projects. This year, we feature nanomaterials for applications in biology, medicine, and life science. We hope you enjoy reading our report. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, comments or feedback for us.
Prof. Christoph Weder wins an ERC Advanced Grant of €2 million
Prof. Christoph Weder, Director of the Adolphe Merkle Institute, is awarded with a European Research Council Advanced Grant. This grant of €2 million will be dedicated to his research on ‘mechanically responsive polymers’. He is the first Professor at the University of Fribourg to win this highly prestigious grant. The ERC Advanced grant is intended for well-established top researchers of any nationality or age, scientifically independent and with a recent research track-record and profile which identifies them as leaders in their field. 20 AMI researchers already work with Prof. Weder’s on the topic of smart materials. With this grant, 5 additional scientists will now exclusively work on the topic of mechanically responsive polymers for a duration of 5 years. The Adolphe Merkle Institute, created in 2008, already acquired strong credibility in the field of nanotechnologies. This prestigious award does further strengthen the reputation of the Institute nationally and internationally.
An AMI project on the cover of the Journal of Physical Chemistry
Ilya Martchenko, Hervé Dietsch and team published an article in the Journal of Physical Chemistry this month. The article is available online and will be highlighted on the front cover of the ACS Journal on December 15, 2011. « Dynamical behavior of ellipsoidal and spherocylindrical-shaped particles in solution was predicted already more than 70 years ago. In this work, we experimentally validated the mathematical models using Depolarized Dynamic Light Scattering on monodisperse anisometric silica coated hematite with different coating thickness and so different aspect ratios » says Hervé. Click here to read the full article
AMI on Swiss German Television
The Swiss German Television forecasted a 5 minutes report on the AMI this month. The TV show named “Einstein” visited the Institute to get an overview of its research on ‘smart materials’. A self-healing material or a polymer changing its color when heated, many of our current projects have been explained in this TV show. Scientists often struggle to explain their projects in a clear way. Einstein used cool animations to explain complex reactions clearly to any audience. Click on the link to have a look at this report (German/Swiss German only).
Prof. Alke Fink and Prof. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser join the Adolphe Merkle Institute (AMI)
Professors Alke Fink and Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser share the chair “Bionanomaterials” at the Adolphe Merkle Institute since July 1st, 2011. The Bionanomaterials chair is one of three current positions funded by the Adolphe Merkle Institute for Nanotechnology.
The Bionanomaterials group envisages all concepts of nanoscience. By combining various aspects of this emerging scientific discipline, the group of Prof. Alke Fink and Prof. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser are in a unique position to study and develop bio(nano)materials from their initial synthesis and characterization, to thorough understanding how they may interact with biological systems.
In this newly formed research group, the chair position is shared equally between Prof. Alke Fink and Prof. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser. This situation is a fresh, novel and exciting perspective upon scientific research in an academic setting, enabling the unification of two different scientific backgrounds together in order to make a truly strong interdisciplinary research group.
A smart material with shape memory technology changes its rigidity on command
An innovation by the Adolphe Merkle Institute Researchers
In the scope of the National Research Programme "Smart Materials" (NRP 62), researchers from the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg are taking cues from sea cucumbers to develop shape memory polymers. An initial application could comprise the development of artificial bait for fishing. The researchers from Fribourg are also planning further, more high-tech applications in the medical field.
When Johan Foster, a group leader from the Adolphe Merkle Institute (AMI) puts an artificial worm at the end of a fishing hook, the bait is perfectly inert. But once it is in the water it starts to wiggle, thus wondrously imitating its natural counterpart. The explanation: when it comes into contact with water, this piece of shape memory polymer regains its initial geometry.
Although fishing lures might indeed be an easy-to-realize first product, the artificial worms were primarily made to demonstrate the properties and potential of the new water-activated shape-memory materials. Christoph Weder and Johan Foster are considering more sophisticated applications of their new materials in the biomedical area.
When the polymer is immersed in water, the bonds between the crystalline cellulose nanofibres it contains are loosened. Released from this “yoke”, the polymer settles back into its initial geometry. ©Institut Adolphe Merkle/SNF
A scratched coating heals itself
Research by Adolphe Merkle Institute Researchers and partners published in the journal Nature.
Together with partners in the USA, researchers at the Adolphe Merkle Institute have developed a polymer-based material that can heal itself when placed under ultraviolet light for less than a minute. Their findings were published in the April 21st issue of Nature.
The scientists envision that healable materials like theirs could be used in automotive paints, varnishes for floors and furniture, and many other applications. Their polymers aren’t ready for commercial use, they acknowledge, but prove that the concept works. The new materials were created by a mechanism known as supramolecular assembly. Unlike conventional polymers, which consist of long, chain-like molecules with thousands of atoms, they are composed of smaller molecules, which are assembled into longer, polymer-like chains using metal ions as “molecular glue”. The result: the new materials, which the scientists call “metallo-supramolecular polymers”, behave in many ways like normal polymers. But when irradiated with intense ultraviolet light, the assembled structures are temporarily unglued. This transforms the originally solid material into a liquid that flows easily. When the light is switched off, the material re-assembles and solidifies again: the original properties are restored.