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Research Lines

The Nanomol-bio research is focused on the preparation and characterization of organic-based molecular materials for biomedical applications. The research is divided into the following research lines: i) Nanovesicles for drug delivery; ii) Nanostructured molecular materials for therapeutic and preventive medicine; iii) Hierarchical nanoarchitectonic materials for regenerative medicine; iv) Fluorescent nanovesicles and organic nanoparticles for sensing and bioimaging; v) Radical dendrimers and radical nanovesicles as MRI contrast agents and other biomedical applications; vi) Gold NPs decorated with organic radicals for multimodal imaging and other applications; and vii) Nanozymes for biomedical applications.

Nanovesicles for drug delivery

Scientific Leaders: Dr. Mariana Köber (PI), Dr. Elisabet González (PI), and Prof. Nora Ventosa (PI).

Personnel involved: Dr. Aida Carreño, Dr. Judit Tomsen, Dr. Guillem Vargas, Marta Alcaina, Laia Aviés, Carla Castellar, Guillem García, Angélica P. Pichardo, David Piña, Júlia Piqué, Núria Pujol, Enrique Vilalta, and Marta Vieira.

The Nanomol-bio group develops lipid-based nanovesicles for drug delivery applications. We have strong expertise in the preparation of liposomal and non-liposomal formulations. One example is quatsomes nanovesicles, which are thermodynamically stable nanovesicles. The nanovesicles produced at Nanomol-bio are multifunctional, as they can encapsulate different therapeutic agents, be functionalized with specific ligands, and load fluorescent molecules. Nanovesicles produced in the group have been used to treat cancer, microbial infections, topical injuries, or rare diseases. These nanovesicles can be prepared by different methods, one of which is the DELOS-susp method, a green scalable method that allows the production of highly homogeneous colloidal suspensions.

Nanostructured molecular materials for treatment & prevention medicine

Scientific leaders: Dr. Imma Ratera (PI), Prof. Nora Ventosa (PI), and Dr. Mariana Köber.

Personnel involved: Dr. Judit Tomsen, Elba Guasch, Nicolàs Levrier, and Xavier Rodríguez.

The Nanomol-bio group has wide experience in processing: i) functional molecular materials nanostructured as self-assembled molecular monolayers (SAMs) to coat surfaces and ii) protein nanoparticles on surface through different chemical interactions (physisorption, coordination or covalent anchoring) which, recently has become a subject of intense research efforts in tissue engineering and biomedical applications. The strategy has been used to immobilize proteins both, in soluble form and nanostructured as nanoparticles, able to enhance its performance once interacting with biological systems. For instance, increasing cell guidance control for tissue engineering applications or reducing biofilm formation of microorganisms through a controlled immobilization of antimicrobial proteins on TPU catheters. Thus, contributing to avoid nosocomial infections and to solve the problem of constant increase of microorganisms’ resistant to antibiotics which has been classified as a global health emergency, and is especially challenging when biofilms are formed on surfaces.

Hierarchical nanoarchitectonic materials for regenerative medicine

Scientific leaders: Dr. Imma Ratera (PI), Prof. Nora Ventosa (PI), and Dr. Mariana Köber.

Personnel involved: Elba Guasch.

The Nanomol-bio group develops new methods for the hierarchical immobilization of biomolecules on surfaces using a versatile colloidal system named quatsomes as a robust and novel tissue engineering strategy. In this research line, the fluid nanovesicles formed by the self-assembling of cholesterol and surfactant molecules, are used as novel template to achieve hierarchical nanostructures of biomolecules (i.e. RGD peptides). To this end, the biomolecules are anchored on the vesicle’s fluid membrane of quatsomes, and the functionalized nanovesicles are covalently anchored to surfaces, forming a state of quasi-suspension, through a long poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) chain with a thiol termination. In comparison with substrates featuring a homogeneous distribution of biomolecules, the resulting hierarchical nanoarchitectonic shows enhanced performance when interacting with biological systems (i.e. dramatically enhanced cell adhesion), despite lower overall biomolecules on the surface.

Fluorescent nanovesicles and organic nanoparticles for sensing and bioimaging

Scientific leaders:  Dr. Mariana Köber (PI), Dr. Imma Ratera (PI), Prof. Nora Ventosa (PI), Dr. Paula Mayorga, Dr. Vega Lloveras, and Dr. José Vidal Gancedo.

Personnel involved: Dr. Guillem Vargas, Rubén García, Sara Garrido, Giovanni Schievano, and Yufei Wu.

Imaging techniques are crucial in the diagnosis/study of many diseases and have become essential in clinical practice. The Nanomol-bio group develops fluorescent nanovesicles (i.e. FRET nanovesicles) for bioimaging and imaging-guided surgery applications and radical-based organic nanoparticles (i.e. ratiometric nanothermometers with near-infrared emission) for in vivo sensing applications with high brightness. In addition, bimodal optical/magnetic imaging probes are also developed.

Radical dendrimers and radical nanovesicles as MRI contrast agents and other biomedical applications

Scientific leaders: Dr. José Vidal Gancedo (PI) and Dr. Vega Lloveras.

Personal involved: Rubén García, Ehsan Shirdel, Xuejiao Wang, Yufei Wu, and Chuanting Zhou.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the best non-invasive clinical imaging methods used in medicine. MRI contrast agents (CAs) play an important role in improving the sensitivity, in particular of the tumor diagnosis. Currently, Gd(III) chelates are the most widely used paramagnetic metal ion-based CAs in the clinic. However, alternatives to Gd-based contrast agents (CAs) are highly required to overcome their established toxicity. Persistent organic radicals anchored on a dendrimer surface (radical dendrimers) provide an alternative to Gd(III). Our work ranges from the synthesis of new macromolecular systems with organic radicals as contrast agents for MRI and the development of different types of biosensors based on these systems.

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Gold NPs decorated with organic radicals for multimodal imaging and other applications

Scientific leaders: Dr. José Vidal Gancedo (PI) and Dr. Vega Lloveras.

Personal involved: Eshan Shirdel and Xuejiao Wang.

Supramolecular magnetic assemblies can be built using a range of different materials as scaffolds: functionalized polymers, dendrimers, metallic nanoparticles, etc. We are working on gold nanoparticles decorated with organic radicals on their surface to study not only the magnetic properties but also the optical and electrochemical properties that bring these new hybrid inorganic-organic materials. We are also exploring their use for multimodal imaging, taking advantage of the interesting and unique properties of AuNPs (i.e. surface plasmon resonance) together with the paramagnetism displayed by radicals.

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Nanozymes for biomedical applications

Scientific leaders: Dr. Paula Mayorga (PI) and Imma Ratera.

PhD students invoved: Allan Lancézeuz.

Nanozymes or artificial enzymes, are nanomaterials with enzyme-like or high catalytic activity and the ability to accelerate biochemical reactions. The Nanomol-bio group develops original nanozymes as enhanced ROS-generators against cancer and microbial infections. Their expertise on nanostructuration of molecular entities is used to perform original and specific surface modifications of the nanozymes to optimize their efficiency.