The BioNanotechnology field deals with the integration of biotechnology with nanotechnology. Biotechnology has its roots in molecular biology and in techniques to control biological materials. Nanotechnology has its roots in device miniaturisation and the control of nano-scale amounts of materials. These trends meet in this theme, where research is carried out into the function and possibilities of biological materials at a nano-scale level. One of the key developments is the move from the study of single molecules in clean and sterile systems to the study of single molecules inside complex biological environments. Many discoveries are still to be expected, both in revealing how biological molecules and biological cells function and interact, as well as in developing technologies to measure and manipulate these interactions.
The following programmes fall under this theme:
8A - Nanomolecular machines in cellular force-transduction - Prof. dr. A.M. Dogterom (AMOLF)
8B - Bionano interactions for biosensing - Prof. dr. ir. G.J.L. Wuite (VU)
8A Nanomolecular machines in cellular force-transduction
Nanomolecular machines in biological systems are capable of generating mechanical forces that are used for active transport processes. These machines lead to active behavior of cellular polymer networks, and lie at the basis of the ability of cells to communicate on a mechanical level with their surrounding tissue. The aim of this program is to understand, at a fundamental level, what the working principles are of these biomolecular machines, how they collectively operate in functional units, how this affects the material properties of active cellular materials, and how, within tissues, this allows cells to transduce forces to their environment. We apply both experimental and theoretical techniques, and in addition aim to develop and apply new advanced nano-measurement techniques for the study of biological systems.
Knowledge obtained in this program will be of immediate value to companies specializing in developing novel strategies and materials for tissues engineering. It furthermore holds the potential to lead to the molecular understanding of certain (motor-related) diseases, and will lead to the development of new research tools for nano- and micro-scale investigations of living cells. The program brings together leading expertise in the biophysical investigation of cytoskeletal motors, experience in the study of active bionanomaterials, (industrial) expertise in tissue engineering (QTIS/e), and (industrial) expertise in advanced measurement techniques (FEI, Nikon, NT-MDT).
8B Bionano interactions for biosensing
The aim of this program is to quantify biological systems, solidify the international lead of the Dutch single-molecule biophysics community and build the basis for novel generations of biosensor technologies based on biomolecular interactions, in order to enable the sensitive, accurate and rapid measurement of the concentration and function of biological molecules in complex biological matrices. The program consists of three clusters.
In Cluster I tools are developed that manipulate particles and biomolecules on a nanoscale to probe biological interactions in vitro. The major scientific challenge is to quantify interactions in complex biological systems and to link them to biological function. Discovering these relationships will give new insights in biological processes based on quantitative measurable quantities. The tools will increase specificity in biosensor technology and allow development of a next generation biosensors that probe functionality.
Cluster 2 aims to exploit the state-of-the-art nanobiotechnological tools developed in cluster 1 to sensitively probe interactions between biomolecules. Using these powerful tools an unprecedented detailed fundamental understanding of the action of key proteins in genome organization, the immune system and signal transduction will be gained. Moreover, these tools will facilitate the identification and optimization of chemical drugs, peptide-antibiotics and optimization of regulatory pathways, and yield sophisticated antibody-based biomolecular detection strategies.
Cluster 3 will investigate how to achieve specific and sensitive detection using novel combinations of biotechnology and device-based nanotechnologies. The cluster will collaborate with the other two clusters within the program, in biotechnological aspects (e.g. biological model systems) as well as in device-based nanotechnology aspects (e.g. physical tools for the manipulation and detection of biomolecules). The projects in this cluster aim to form a bridge between groundbreaking academic research and application-oriented industrial research, in particular to translate single-molecule based technologies into applicable biosensing systems.