Finding the right nanoparticles for medical applications

Macrophages with nanoparticles (green) ©Laboratoire Bourquin – UNIFR/UNIGENCCR Bio-Inspired Materials researchers at the universities of Fribourg and Geneva have developed a low-cost method to quickly select the most promising nanoparticles for biomedical applications. This approach could also help reduce the need to conduct animal experiments.

The use of nanoparticles in biomedicine has already begun. Cancer researchers have for example been considering them for oncology treatments that are better at finding their target, more efficient and with fewer side effects. However, predicting how these nanoparticles will interact with the body’s immune system is extremely difficult, restricting their use. This hurdle could be overcome thanks to a so-called flow cytometry method developed by the NCCR scientists led by Prof. Carole Bourquin, who recently moved her research group from Fribourg to Geneva.

To be used in biomedical applications, nanoparticles must be harmless for the human body, be able to sneak past the immune system, and carry out their mission. “It takes years for a laboratory to develop a nanoparticle without knowing what effect it will have on the body,” says Bourquin. “There was a real need to find a way of sorting nanoparticles at the start of a product’s development cycle. Otherwise if an incompatibility is detected too late, years of research will be tossed out.”

With the flow cytometry method developed by Bourquin and her colleagues, it is possible to characterize in less than a week the ideal biomedical nanoparticle, rather than months as previously according to an article published by the researchers in the journal Nanoscale. It also helps lower research costs and reduce the need for animal experimentation. It could also be a pathway to more personalized treatments for some pathologies, for example by testing nanoparticles on a sample of a patient’s tumor cells. It would be therefore theoretically possible to identify the most efficient therapeutical approach.

Article in Nanoscale:

Mottas I.; Milosevic A.; Petri-Fink A.; Rothen-Rutishauser B.; Bourquin C.  A rapid screening method to evaluate the impact of nanoparticles on macrophages, Nanoscale, 2017

Read more about this here (extract from the NCCR activities report).

University of Geneva press release

University of Fribourg press release (F/D)

The National Centers of Competence in Research (NCCR) are a research instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation
Hosted by: Adolphe Merkle Institute - Chemin des Verdiers 4 - CH-1700 Fribourg - Phone +41 26 300 9266