The Surface Nanoengineering Lab (SNL) research interests focus on the exploitation of nanostructured surfaces to endow biocompatible metals with an enhanced bioactivity and antibacterial properties. The SNL’s research also encompasses the advanced physicochemical characterization of surfaces as well as cell- and bacteria-surface interactions.

Research themes

New biomaterials in tissue engineering

Biomaterials currently used for prosthetic reconstructions enjoy a relatively good success rate, but their performance drops significantly in patients with compromised health status, and post-surgical infections still remain an important challenge. To address these needs, different nanotechnology-based strategies are a very effective approach to generate new biomaterials capable of improving the biological outcome of implanted biomedical devices.

Drug eluting surfaces

A current challenge in tissue engineering is creating biomaterials that are able to respond to any deterioration of their relationship with the host tissue. In particular, to respond to post-surgical infections, the search is on for biomaterials with ‘smart’ surfaces capable of sequestering antibiotics and providing their ‘gated’ release only when instructed by physiological cues from the body. 

 

The role of nanostructured surfaces in affecting cell biomechanics

A challenging and pertinent question is how cells sense both natural and created surfaces. Substrate topography and stiffness are believed to induce changes in cytoskeletal organization and cellular dynamics, triggering signalling pathways (mechanotransduction) that ultimately determine cell fate decisions. The atomic force microscope (AFM) will provide valuable insight into the processes and mechanisms controlling how cells generate and sense mechanical forces. 

 

Cell-surface and cell-cell interactions by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) and Raman spectroscopy

The investigation of cell-surface and cell-cell interactions is poised to have an important role in understanding the mechanisms involved in various medically relevant biological phenomena, such as the capacity of metastatic cancers to spread from their primary location to other parts of the body and/or the effects of aging, atherosclerosis and hypertension on the capacity of cells to interact with their biological surroundings. 

 

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Raman imaging and spectroscopy of biological materials

Raman imaging and spectroscopy is capable of visualizing the physicochemical characteristics of  cells, platelets and bacteria as well as healthy/diseased tissues (e.g. endometrium), ultimately permitting   to further the current knowledge of the mechanics involved in the progression of specific pathologies.

 

In collaboration with

 

 

 

Macrophages adhering onto nanotubular titanium

Eution of antibiotics from nanoporous surfaces

Raman spectra of endometrial cancer tissues

© 2013 by Fabio Variola. All rights reserved