Research

The Laboratory for Cell Mimicry aims at providing nature-inspired solutions to counteract biomedical challenges. 

Artificial Organelles

Artificial organelles are nanosized reactors with intracellular activity, often encapsulated catalysis. In contrast to traditional pharmaceutical, artificial organelles are envisioned to provide a sustained solution for a chronic condition.

Key Publications

Subcompartmentalized Nanoreactors as Artificial Organelle with Intracellular Activity

Nanoreactors equipped with glucose oxidase (GOx)-loaded liposomal subunits exhibit intracellular activity in macrophages. The intracellular activity is demonstrated by exposing macrophages with internalized nanoreactors to glucose and assessment of the cell viability after 6 and 24 h. The macrophage viability is found to be reduced due to the intracellularly produced hydrogen peroxide by GOx. This report on the first intracellular active subcompartmentalized nanoreactors is a considerable step in therapeutic cell mimicry.  

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Artificial Cells

Artificial cells are larger micron-sized assemblies which aim at structurally and functionally support biological tissue. 

Key Publications

Small Subcompartmentalized Microreactors as Support for Hepatocytes

The interaction of artificial cells with their biological counterparts including the exploitation of the activity of the synthetic partner remains thus-far a rather unexplored avenue. We successfully co-cultured microreactors with hepatocytes to form bionic tissue. If the microreactors were loaded with the liver enzyme catalase, they could be used to alleviate external pressure, induced by the addition of hydrogen peroxide, from such bionic tissue. Bionic tissue open up a different route in combining synthetic and biological entities for tissue engineering by using the former partner not only as structural support, but also to induce beneficial activity. 

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Janus subcompartmentalized microreactors

 Janus subcompartmentalized microreactors which could perform locally confined enzymatic encapsulated catalysis are a fascinating first step towards artificial cells with polarity. 

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Extracellular Microreactor for the Depletion of Phenylalanine Toward Phenylketonuria Treatment

Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a genetic enzyme defect affecting 1:10 000–20 000 newborn children every year. The amino acid phenylalanine (Phe) is not depleted but accumulates in tissues of several organs, which leads to severe medical conditions. A promising concept to restore the metabolism of the affected patients will be to orally administer the defective enzyme which will remove Phe in the intestine. We considered microreactors loaded with the enzyme phenylalanine ammonia lyase to convert Phe into trans-cinnamic acid (t-ca). These microreactors remained active in a microfluidic-based mimic the dynamic environment in the intestine, representing the first active extracellular multicompartment microreactor a medically relevant enzymes and settings toward the treatment of the medical condition PKU.

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Confined Multiple Enzymatic (Cascade) Reactions within Poly(dopamine)-based Capsosomes

The design of compartmentalized carriers as artificial cells is envisioned to be an efficient tool with potential applications in the biomedical field. We demonstrated  the potential of subcompartmentalized microreactors to simultaneously perform a two-enzyme coupled reaction and a single-enzyme conversion. 

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Artificial Motility

Self-propelled particles attract a great deal of attention due to the auspicious range of application nanobots can be used for. In a biomedical context, self-propelled swimmers hold promise to autonomously navigate to a desired location in an attempt to counteract cell/tissue defects either by releasing drugs or performing surgical tasks. Self-propelled particles attract a great deal of attention due to the auspicious range of application nanobots can be used for. In a biomedical context, self-propelled swimmers hold promise to autonomously navigate to a desired location in an attempt to counteract cell/tissue defects either by releasing drugs or performing surgical tasks.   

Key Publications

Double-Fuelled Janus Swimmers with Magnetotactic Behaviour

We introduce two new engines for self-propelled swimmers: 1) a motor which couples enzymes i.e., glucose oxidase and inorganic nanoparticles i.e., platinum nanoparticles to gain power and 2) a peptide-fuelled trypsin motor. By combining both engines on the same carrier and the addition of magnetic nanoparticles magnetic nanoparticles , we showed self-propelled double-fuelled swimmers which can move in a magnetic gradient.

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Enhanced Diffusion of Glucose-Fuelled Janus Particles

The search for biocompatible fuels to induce autonomous motion in particles is a long-standing challenge in the field of nanorobotics. To accomplish this task, we assembled sub-micron-sized Janus particles that feature one hemisphere decorated with the enzyme pair glucose oxidase and catalase and the use of glucose as fuel. It is found that the colloids exhibit glucose-concentration-dependent enhanced diffusion behavior, thus bringing the concept of nanomachines closer to use in biomedical applications. 

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