Biogenic Nanotherapeutics

The combination of incorrect and overly frequent application of antibiotics and insufficient hygiene measures in hospitals leads to a worldwide rise in the number of resistant germs for which ever less effective therapies exist. The scientists of the "Biogenic Nano-Therapeutics" group develop intelligent mechanisms of action and nano-systems that transport known antibiotics specifically to infected sites in the human body. In their work, they use modern biomimetic systems that utilise mechanisms found in nature or are derived from them. This allows for an effective control of pathogenic bacteria with minimal adverse effects. This group is located at the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland (HIPS)


Our Research

Our main focus is on the characterisation of extracellular vesicles (EVs) as natural information transporters. EVs are nano-particles of 50-200 nm in size that are produced naturally by virtually all eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells and are either evaginated from the cell surface or produced in and released from multi-vesicular compartments. EVs consists of a lipid double layer, bear signal molecules, such as proteins or nucleic acids (e.g. microRNA), and are very efficient cell-cell communicators that migrate from one cell type to another, interact with the target cell by means of their surface and membrane proteins and thus transfer signal molecules in a highly specific manner.

We developed methods that allow us to load EVs with different model drugs and we can study their interaction with cells using real-time microscopy. Afterwards, we aim at incorporating these drug-loaded EVs in a pharmaceutical formulation and evaluate its efficiency in complex in vitro and in vivo models.

Interestingly, not only mammalian cells make use of EVs, but bacteria also utilize so-called outer membrane vesicles (OMVs) for their mutual interaction by transporting these communication molecules specifically within a bacterial colony or a biofilm. Moreover, OMVs of certain bacteria, such as e.g. Myxobacteria, contain hydrolytic factors for the fight against other bacteria which compete for biological niches. We isolate and characterise OMVs of different bacteria and study how these interact with other bacteria or human cells and which physiological role they have. New therapeutic approaches to combat bacterial infections can be derived from these studies.

In addition to the development of biogenic agent carriers we are also interested in real-time analysis methods imaging the stability and activity of agents in complex in vitro and in vivo models by means of a non-invasive technique. We have successfully developed a fluorescence-based system for the analysis of therapeutic enzymes and we noted significant differences to the tests in a test tube. We aim to extend the fluorescence-based measuring principle to other diseases, such as inflammations and infections. 


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