Dynamic Interactions at Cell Membrane Interfaces

Project summary

Membrane Nanoparticles (MNPs) are small vesicles ubiquitously released into bodily fluids from cells. They have therapeutic potential in immune therapy, vaccination, regenerative medicine, drug delivery, personalized medicine and point-of-care market (projected £1 billion/year by 2022).

A handful of recent reports have shown that the physical properties of MNPs can be related to their function, in particular with respect to ageing, cancer and diabetes propagation. This presents a unique, but time sensitive, opportunity for low cost and fast, point-of-care and longitudinally based biodiagnostics relying on cheaper and more easily accessible physical properties of MNPs from liquid biopsies (e.g. lab-on-chip platform).

This project aims at (i) exploiting technology developed by engineers and physicists at Durham University to measure the biophysical properties of synthetic membrane nano-vesicles will be tested on natural MNPs for future lab-on-chip diognostic. (ii) It will develop an interdisciplinary network of UK scientists and companies interested in the field, starting from the expertise available here at Durham, but also including strategic key players. This is crucial for the development of the field in the UK post Brexit. The network will serve as springboard for initiating grant applications to external funding bodies (RCUK, Wellcome Trust, etc).

Term: Epiphany 2019


Project fellows

Principal Investigator: Dr Kislon Voitchovsky (Department of Physics)

University of Auckland

Professor David E Williams is Professor in Electrochemistry at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, a principal investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, NZ, and a serial founder of technology start-up companies. His research has broad scope in electrochemistry and chemical sensors.

“It has been an intellectually intense experience, which has opened my eyes and ears to different ways of thinking. My own research work has been enriched and adapted as a consequence, and I hope that the conversations started will develop. I have hugely appreciated the environment and the hospitality shown to me by Ustinov College and by the IAS. It has been truly memorable.”

National Academy of Science

Boris Snopok is a senior scientist and head of the Department of Physics and Optoelectronics Technical Bases at the Institute of Semiconductor Physics (ISP), National Academy of Science of Ukraine. His research interests concern the capacity of physics to open new ways of understanding in biology, especially at the nanoscale.

“This fellowship opened up a number of new opportunities for multifaceted cooperation with various institutes and departments of Durham University.”

National University of Singapore

Zakaria A. Almsherqi is a lecturer and research scientist in the department of Physiology, School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS). His research interest is primarily related to biomembranes and their clinical applications. His main research work investigates biomembranes structure, function and their biomolecular organisation.

University of Twente

Jurriaan Huskens is Professor of Supramolecular Chemistry and Nanotechnology, and Chair of the Molecular NanoFabrication group at the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente, The Netherlands. Present research interests encompass: functional molecular layers at interfaces, supramolecular materials, multivalency, biosensing, nanofabrication, and solar fuels.

“My period at the IAS and the interaction with the IAS, the fellows and associated scientists, has tremendously broadened my view, and given me the opportunity to put developments (my own and others’) into perspective. It has, amongst others, forced me to rethink on how to communicate my questions and progress to a broader audience in order to provoke discussion and joint thinking.”