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Smallest-scale technologies for a big medical impact
With the further development of the Center for Micro and Nanochemistry and Engineering (Cµ), the University of Siegen is boosting medical research into aspects of (bio)chemical sensor technology in the School of Science and Technology.
The causes of most diseases can be found on the microscopic level. The tiniest organisms such as viruses, bacteria and fungi have an enormous impact on human health and can trigger a wide range of diseases, as shown by the current coronavirus pandemic. To enable successful therapy, we need fast and reliable diagnostics. Medical knowledge forms the basis, but the procedures and materials used are also vital for diagnosing diseases.
This is one field of work of the Center for Micro and Nanochemistry and Engineering, Cµ for short, at the University of Siegen. It also conducts research in other fascinating areas, e.g. in (bio)chemistry. The research center at the School of Science and Technology examines how chemical processes function at the microscopic and nanoscopic levels as well as at interfaces, i.e. the area between two different bodies or phases. The center pools expertise in the fields of micro and nanotechnology, sensor development, and new materials. Its research groups cooperate across disciplines to develop novel materials, methods, and integrated systems for micro and nanotechnology which can be used in diagnostics, for example to detect contamination with bacteria or fungi.
Their work has not gone unnoticed: Recently, the researchers were granted third-party funding for several medically relevant projects which focus on the detection of and effective measures against bacteria and antimicrobial resistance. This funding secured by the University of Siegen totals EUR 1.2 million. The programs are all international cooperation projects. This underlines the successful approach of the Cµ and will help cement Siegen as a central node in an international research network with ties to strong local partners. Just two of the cooperation partners in the region are ATTO-TEC, a local business, and the hospital Diakonie Klinikum Jung-Stilling. The central cell biology and microbiology labs at the Cμ play a pivotal role in all the projects. The new projects demonstrate the wide spectrum of the research center. They build on a series of medically relevant projects already being conducted by members of the Cμ. For example, in April 2020, a two-year NRW patent validation project on selective cell division and purification was launched (partner: Diakonie Klinikum Jung-Stilling). It supplements existing activities, e.g. by Prof. Dr. Peter Haring Bolívar and Dr. Anna Katharina Wigger in terahertz research into the detection of DNA and tumor markers, which has repeatedly gained funding from the DFG SPP ESSENCE (Electromagnetic sensor for Life Sciences) program. Other related projects are the cystic fibrosis project conducted by Dr. Mareike Müller (supported by the Christiane Herzog Foundation) and the research by Prof. Dr. Ulrich Jonas into wound dressings with medication depots for more efficient therapy of chronic wounds (BMBF project Medistorplast). The newly approved projects have a common focus on sensor technology and materials for the detection of and effective measures against bacteria and antimicrobial resistance.
The Marie Skłodowska-Curie training network STIMULUS started operations on October 1, 2020. Project partners include ATTO-TEC and the hospital Diakonie Südwestfalen. STIMULUS is a European project dedicated to reducing infections in the healthcare sector. Its object of research is intelligent wound dressings which can recognize and treat bacterial infections without the need to open the wound.
The NAPARBA project coordinated by Prof. Dr. Holger Schönherr was launched on November 1, 2020. It is supported by the Southeast Asia - Europe Joint Funding Scheme on Research and Innovation. The scientists are examining nanoparticle-based detection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Project partners are Koç University in Istanbul (Turkey) and the Research Centre of Chemistry – LIPI (Indonesia).
Dr. Schönherr is also coordinating another project. TARGET-THERAPY is scheduled to start in early 2021. This research project, which in Siegen also involves Prof. Dr. Ulrich Jonas and Dr. Mareike Müller, is dedicated to the targeted therapy of pathogenic bacteria in the lung by means of photodynamic treatment. Its goal is to significantly improve the treatment of infections in biofilms in the lung caused by the multiresistant pathogen P. aeruginosa, which is classed by the WHO as highly critical. This work is supported by the ANR and BMBF within German-French collaborations on antimicrobial resistance. The project partners are researchers at the School of Medicine of the University of Brest (France) and the University of Reims Champagne Ardenne (France).
The Research Center will also benefit from new buildings at the University. After the completion of the INCYTE research building on the Adolf-Reichwein-Straße campus, scientists will be able to use further capacities at a central location. This will enable them to work hand-in-hand on high-level projects in microchemistry and biology. The INCYTE building will house a large part of the lab-intensive and technically demanding research areas of the School of Science and Technology and the Technical Center for Micro and Nanoanalytics (MNaF). On a floor space of some 5,200 m², the building will offer facilities including preparation and synthesis laboratories, a clean room for sensor development, labs with special protection equipment for (bio)sensor applications, and lab spaces for the large technical systems of the MNaF.
Prof. Dr. Holger Schönherr