Two new high-tech laboratories for the development of nanomaterials were inaugurated on 30th November 2016. These materials could help treat serious diseases such as osteoporosis and cancers.
The 2 new structures of the Politecnico di Torino were both financed by funds obtained by 2 researchers of the University, who were awarded the prestigious ERC Grant. Chiara Vitale Brovarone and Valentina Cauda are both winners, the first student won an ERC Consolidator Grant (BOOST – 2 million euros) and the second one got an ERC Starting Grant (TrojaNanoHorse – 1.5 million euros).
The new laboratories will allow to carry out research on 2 projects, which aim to find treatments for diseases with a severe social impact through a highly innovative approach: no drugs, but nanomaterials that affect the behavior of diseased cells, potentially without any side effects.
The Project BOOST (Biomimetic trick to re-balance Osteoblast-Osteoclast loop in osteoporoSis treatment: a Topological and materials driven approach) aims to develop an intelligent scaffold, made of nanomaterials and biomolecules, that is able to “deceive” bone cells, in case of fractures caused by osteoporosis, and to enable them to reactivate the behavior of healthy cells, thus recreating the physiological microenvironment. To carry out this kind of research, researchers need a very innovative instrumentation. The BOOST laboratory is equipped with, among other tools, a scanning electron microscope, which can perform compositional analysis and topographic mappings, and a computerized nanotomografia, with resolution up to 350 nanometers for the analysis of bone tissue and scaffold products.
The TrojaNanoHorse (TNH) project focuses on developing a nanoparticle that acts as a kind of Trojan horse: the aim is to create a nanomaterial, which is lethal for tumor cells, that is able to destroy the target, without toxic effects on healthy tissues. The TNH laboratory is equipped with a fluorescence inverted microscope, which allows to measure living cells in real time and follow them over time, and one EPR spectrometer (Electron Paramagnetic Resonance), that will allow the analysis of free radicals, that are the weapons that the nanomaterial use to kill cancer cells.
The two projects have also led to the creation of research groups: fifteen people including doctoral students and postdocs have already been recruited and there are three temporary employments as researcher, one of which has already been assigned.