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Module 1 – Nanobiology

The objectives of the planned research in Nanobiology are

  • the application of nanotools to relevant medical and biological problems
  • the refinement of such applications
  • the development of new tools for medicine and biology

Major topics concern imaging of native biomolecules, membranes and tissues with the AFM, the use of cantilever array sensors for genomics, proteomics and diagnostics, and the application of nanooptics for observing and manipulating molecular processes in living cells.

Progress in imaging will be achieved by the use of multifunctional cantilevers that enable to switch biological processes while observing the structural changes, and by fast AFM employing small cantilevers and fast scanners. A wide range of questions on the structure and function of the cytoskeleton, the nuclear envelope, the cell membrane and the respective individual building blocks will be addressed. Key questions concern the nanomechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (cartilage) and cytoskeletal fibers, nuclear transport, ligand and voltage induced channel gating, and the signal transduction by membrane embedded receptors.


Native disk membranes of visual rods in the murine retina revealing rows of rhodopsin dimers, which are separated by 3.5 nm. The topograph has been recorded by operating an AFM in buffer solution.

A fast developing area is related to the fragmentary understanding of regulatory networks within cells and between cells of an organism. Such networks dictate how a cell responses to external stimuli, which activate a signaling cascade and induce expression of certain proteins. The quantitative assessment of the nucleic acids involved and the proteins expressed is a difficult endeavor. Our cantilever technology is an ideal platform for such analyses, because it is sensitive and allows label-free detection of specific nucleic acids (RNA) or proteins. This technology will be integrated as lab on a chip, to provide a fast and sensitive instrument for future medical diagnostics. Imaging and array technology will be combined to develop a tool with single molecule detection capability that will ultimately allow the proteome of a single cell to be assessed.


Multifunctional cantilever arrays will enable parallel in situ detection of a multitude of genomic and proteomic markers.

Nanooptics will provide tools to observe cellular events at the single molecule level and to manipulate single biomolecules for assessing their nano-mechanical properties. Such tools will be of importance in medical diagnostic, as well as in cell biology and biophysics.

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