Seeing is believing. We use zebrafish as a model organism to visualize unsolved mysteries in biology – such as the physiological role of extracellular vesicles – in a way that cannot be achieved by the traditional use of cell cultures or mammalian models. What makes us unique is our interdisciplinary approach, where nanoscience meets zebrafish in search of new inspirations for nanomedicine.
Why zebrafish, not mice? We can manipulate their genome e.g. to label cells of interest by fluorescent (and functional) proteins, and it allows us to image live embryos in real-time seeing through the tissues non-invasively. A particularly successful example of our approach is live imaging and electron microscopy of how nanoparticles injected into the bloodstream are captured by macrophages – the cells that eat/clean up foreign materials, pathogens and dead cells just as they do in mice and humans. Therefore by looking at the biology evolutionarily conserved at the cellular and molecular levels, we can study how life behaves at the interface with nanotechnology.
Our current interest centers around bioinspired nanomedicine, for which we have just started a journey to explore novel ideas in extracellular vesicles. We are particularly interested in their mechanisms that drive long-distance cell-to-cell communication, because they can be therapeutic targets for molecular intervention or potentially mimicked as drug delivery vehicles. Much is still not known about these natural nanoparticles that carry biomolecular cargoes. For example, by which mechanisms can extracellular vesicles find the target recipient cells via the bloodstream? What kind of messages are conveyed to regulate/support the recipient cells? With zebrafish as our little partners, we seek answers to these questions by nanoscience approaches, bioinformatics and 4D imaging of live transgenic embryos. The big picture of our research is thus to learn, manipulate and mimic nature's biomolecular architecture to advance the field of nanomedicine.
We do both basic and applied sciences. Apart from the fish, we strongly collaborate with nanoscientists at iNANO and health science researchers at the Department of Biomedicine to make our interdisciplinary research happen!