Lines of research
Cellular and extracellular nano-organizationsUnderstanding the complexity of living cells and in particular those processes that cause disease, requires a detailed molecular insight in the biological processes that govern cellular behavior. This includes the detailed study of molecular interactions, both inter- and intracellularly, with molecular probes that minimally affect the processes to be analyzed. Quantitative bioimaging approaches are excellent tools to help us understand fundamental cell function at the nanoscale based on dynamic protein-protein interactions. Developments proceed at an impressive pace in the microscopy field, involving superior optics, better detectors, improved image analysis tools as well as new and more versatile fluorophores. The award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to the scientists who pioneered super-resolution microscopy is a clear indication of the broad impact that microscopy has on life sciences. Several investigators of the theme exploit advanced quantitative bioimaging techniques, such as super-resolution microscopes, that are readily available on campus and allow innovative research of nanoscale cellular processes mediating health and disease. Information on cellular nano-organization is crucial to foster the design of optimal nanomedicine tools to target specific cellular functions, thus providing an excellent link to the second major research topic.
Precision diagnostics and therapies
Understanding the complex structure-function relationships of cellular molecular processes ultimately leads to radical new nanomedicine approaches to amend biological processes that have become dysfunctional, and as such to develop precision medicines and therapies.read more
Precision diagnostics and therapiesUnderstanding the complex structure-function relationships of cellular molecular processes ultimately leads to radical new nanomedicine approaches to amend biological processes that have become dysfunctional, and as such to develop precision medicines and therapies. Such approaches can only become successful via close collaboration between researchers in chemistry, biology, and biomedicine, who have affinity for the molecular life sciences. Research into innovative diagnostic concepts and novel therapeutic approaches is one of the core areas within the nanomedicine theme. The theme has a strong expertise in bio-organic chemistry and bio-nanotechnology. A variety of groups utilizes novel click chemistry approaches to combine molecular recognition of (tumor-specific) cell-surface receptors via peptides, antibody-like structures or alternative scaffolds with a number of diagnostic functionalities. For instance, PET and SPECT tracers, or therapeutic functionalities, including small-molecule and intracellular drugs are being developed. Besides tumor targeting, work on other diseases include the targeted delivery of nucleic acids in chronic kidney disease or novel treatments to fight diseases that arise from misfolded proteins or protein aggregates. Next to the use of state-of-the-art animal models, there is now an increasing focus on the use of advanced (e.g. microfluidic) 3D culture model systems. Additionally, the development of novel molecular assemblies and/or functionalized nanoparticles, serving either as drug delivery vehicles or theranostics, is leading to radical new approaches in targeted drug delivery and cancer immunotherapy. Specific examples include the use of functionalized nanoparticles that facilitate the use of novel imaging modalities for the in vivo tracking of immune cells, or that educate the immune system on how to more efficiently eradicate tumors. Furthermore, we investigate self-assembled locomotive nanoparticles (catalytic nanomotors, nanorobots, etc.) that exhibit directional and autonomous movement towards signaling molecules provided by tumors and other diseased tissues. This is a prime example of research enabling radical new concepts in active delivery and the next generation of drug delivery systems with more advanced properties.
News & agendas
A hybrid in silico and tumor-on-a-chip approachto model targeted protein behavior in 3D microenvironments2 June 2021
NWO-Groot grant awarded to Nico Sommerdijkfor groundbreaking research with electron microscopy21 May 2021
Miniaturized microfluidic platformfor automated epigenetic profiling6 May 2021