Biocompatible Nanomaterials



Figure 1: Interdisciplinary research in the Selhuber-Unkel lab. We investigate biophysical questions at the interface between materials science and cell biology, with a focus on intracellular motion, cell adhesion and mechanotransduction.


(i) Molecular and cellular mechanotransduction

We investigate cell adhesion and mechanotransduction using single cell force spectroscopy, traction force microscopy and surface-integrated force sensors. These methods allow for studying cell adhesion and mechanotransduction from the single molecule level to the level of cells and tissues. In one of our recent studies we have shown by using RGD-functionalized push-pull substituted azobenzenes that light-induced molecular oscillations induce a reinforcement of cell adhesion (Fig. 2).

L. F. Kadem, K. G. Suana, M. Holz, W. Wang, H. Westerhaus, R. Herges, C. Selhuber-Unkel (2017): High Frequency Mechanostimulation of Cell Adhesion. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 56: 225-229. 

S. Huth, J. F. Reverey, M. Leippe, C. Selhuber-Unkel (2017): Adhesion Forces and Mechanics in Mannose-Mediated Acanthamoeba Interactions, PLOS ONE, 12(5):e0176207.

L. F. Kadem, M. Holz, K. G. Suana, Q. Li, C. Lamprecht, R. Herges, C. Selhuber-Unkel (2016): Rapid Reversible Photoswitching of Integrin-mediated Adhesion at the Single-Cell Level. Advanced Materials, 28:1799-1802.

Q. Li, S. Huth, D. Adam and C. Selhuber-Unkel (2016): Reinforcement of integrin-mediated T-Lymphocyte adhesion by TNF-induced Inside-out Signaling. Scientific Reports, 6:30452.

(ii) Intracellular and cellular dynamics

Intracellular motion of endogenous particles is an essential mechanism for the biological function of cells. It is not only important for ensuring the transport of stored molecules, e.g., lipids and enzymes, but can also be a decisive factor for the development of diseases. Crowded systems are of particular interest. A very specific biological system, in which intracellular motion is related to pathogenicity, is the human pathogenic amoeba Acanthamoeba castellanii. This amoeba can, upon contact with the human eye, cause a severe keratitis after entering the eye through small lesions of the outermost epithelial cell layer. After having reached the cornea, the amoebae start to destroy target-cells by an extracellular killing mechanism that is based on the intracellular transport of granules towards the target-cell. The granules release pore-forming molecules, which destroy the membrane of the target-cell. With our investigations we aim at understanding the biophysical principles underlying such a “killing kiss” between amoeba and target-cell.

J. F. Reverey, J.-H. Jeon, H. Bao, M. Leippe, R. Metzler and C. Selhuber-Unkel (2015): Superdiffusion dominates intracellular particle motion in the supercrowded cytoplasm of pathogenic Acanthamoeba castellanii. Scientific Reports, 5: 11690.

S. B. Gutekunst, C. Grabosch, A. Kovalev, S. N. Gorb and C. Selhuber-Unkel (2014): Influence of PDMS substrate stiffness on the adhesion of Acanthamoeba castellanii.  Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology, 5: 1393-1398. 

(iii) Structured and cell-inspired materials

Structured materials can be used to mimic the natural 3D environment of cells. On the other hand, they can also be used to resemble the complex mechanical properties of cells themselves. For example, aerographite is a novel carbon-based material that exists as a self-supportive 3D network of interconnected hollow microtubes. It can be synthesized in a variety of architectures and its structure mimics that of collagen fibers (Fig. 3). We can also work on the inverse structures of such fibrous materials, i.e. hydrogels containing microchannels. Both materials are very promising for tissue engineering. Furthermore, we are employing structured synthetic materials to mimic mechanical properties of cells, in biohybrid systems, and in studies on collective cell systems.

M. Taale, F. Schütt, K. Zheng, Y. Mishra, A. Boccaccini, R. Adelung, C. Selhuber-Unkel (2018): Bioactive Carbon Based Hybrid 3D Scaffolds for Osteoblast Growth. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b13631.

C. Lamprecht, M. Taale, I. Paulowicz, H. Westerhaus, C. Grabosch, A. Schuchardt, M. Mecklenburg, M. Böttner, R. Lucius, K. Schulte, R. Adelung, C. Selhuber-Unkel (2016): A tunable scaffold of microtubular graphite for 3D cell growth.  ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 8:14980-14985.





GRK 2154





Zwei Studenten und eine Tasse Kaffee


SFB 1261





Pictures from the lab

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