report Micro, Nano & Materials
An interested audience. (Img: i-net)

An interested audience. (Img: i-net)


Artificial muscles, soap bubbles and toasted cancer cells at i-net Nano Event on novel nanomaterials

A crowd of over 100 people flocked into the new Department of Biomedical Engineering of University of Basel, Allschwil, on Thursday, 21st January 2016. For some selected participants, the event started with a lab tour through the narrow corridors and full laboratories of the department.

After welcoming words by André Moeri, CEO of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area and Ralf Dümpelmann of i-net, Bert Müller of University of Basel and Marc Pauchard, Vice-Director of the Adolph Merkle Institute (AMI) in Fribourg quickly introduced their institutions and their interest in industrial collaborations. And Susanne Daniel of Euresearch explained, how such research collaborations might be funded (her presentation can be found on our event page).

Imaging, micro-CT and an artificial muscle
The first presentation was given by Vanessa Leung of the Biomaterials Science Center (BMC) of University of Basel. She showed in her speech, how nanotechnology-based artificial muscles could be used for fecal incontinence treatment. «It’s not a life-threatening disease, but incontinence affects up to 45 percent of residents in a retirement home», Leung stated. For an affected person, fecal incontinence reduces the quality of life and may even lead to isolation. Leung showed how artificial muscles could be created which are reacting to a low voltage and therefore open and close a sphincter (video and more information).

Georg Schulz of the BMC focused in his talk on tissue imaging in order to visualize the human body down to the molecular level. He explained the differences and difficulties to create visualizations of hard or soft tissue and of nano-structures (more information).

The computational analysis of tissue based on high-resolution microtomographical images was the topic of Simone Hieber’s speech. Hieber showed how she and her team at BMC combine layers of different images in order to make the parts in the image much more distinguishable. «Our approach opens the door for further applications, such as visualising degenerated brain tissue areas responsible for epilepsy», Hieber said.

Soap bubbles and nano containers
After a short break, Andreas Zumbühl of the AMI held an entertaining presentation on mechanosensitive nanocontainers for targeted drug delivery, for example after a heart attack in order to ease the pain and treat the narrowing of the artery wall.

Zumbühl compared the molecules they used to build the nano containers with the molecules of a soap bubble and with a folded container under tension which opens upon shear stress. «Our tests show that our nanocontainers carrying the drug don’t have a toxic effect», he stated (informative video).

Heating up cancer cells
Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser (AMI) focused on the creation and application of novel nanocarriers. They had the idea to induce special nanoparticles into – for example – cancer cells. «Tests have clearly shown the intake of our particles into the cells», Rothen-Rutishauser said. Once the particles are incorporated into the cancer cells, light could be used to heat up the particles and help destroying the cancer cells from the inside. «But there is still a lot of work to do, we are not there yet», she added.

Priscilla Brunetto from the Chemistry Department at the University of Fribourg showed how silver coatings could be used to prevent implant-related infections. «Not only have we developed a self-protective silver coating effective against bacteria, but the release of silver is also triggered by bacterial infection», Brunetto explained.

The event ended with a networking apero where the participants lively discussed all the new inputs they had received.

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