BioNanoMaterials Group

Group members:

Jessica Rosenholm, Docent (Adjunct Professor) in Biomedical Nanotechnology, Principal Investigator

Didem Sen Karaman, PhD student (FunMat)
Eva von Haartman, PhD student student (currently visiting PhD student at Biophysics and Medical Technology, NTNU, Norway)
Tina Gulin, PhD student (Åbo Akademi Graduate School)
Diti Desai, visiting PhD student (University of Baroda, India)
Neeraj Prabhakar, PhD student (located at the Laboratory for Biophysics, University of Turku)
Desiré Lindberg, summer trainee and BSc worker
Sina Tadayon, Biomedical Imaging student trainee
Ezgi Özliseli, Biomedical Imaging student trainee (jointly with the Laboratory for Biophysics, University of Turku)
Alexander Morin, Biomedical Imaging student trainee (jointly with the Laboratory for Biophysics, University of Turku & VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland) Medical Biotechnology)
Jixi Zhang, postdoc (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China)


Former/other participants:

Helena Saarento, laboratory technician (Cell Biology) 2013 - current
Rajendran Senthilkumar, postdoc (Prof. John E. Eriksson lab) 2011 - current
Gözde Unal, project researcher (Tampere University of Technology graduate) 2013
Antonio Martín Rengel, postdoc (Rey Juan Carlos University, Madrid, Spain) 2012
Kathrin Dreher, MSc student, intern (University of Ulm, Germany) 2012
Habib Baghirov, MSc thesis student in Bioimaging (jointly with Cecilia Sahlgren) 2011-2012
Richard Fogde, FyKe summer trainee 2012
Haolin Lu, FyKe summer trainee 2012 (cont’d participation via collaboration with Dr. Tom Lindfors, Laboratory for Analytical Chemistry 2013)
Alain Duchanoy, PhD student, 2010-2012 (student of Prof. Mika Lindén, University of Ulm, Germany)
Lotta Bergman, PhD student, 2010-2011 (student of Prof. Mika Lindén, University of Ulm, Germany)

Research area and interests

The field of nanomedicine, “the application of nanotechnology to health”, has grown explosively during the last years and is currently raising high expectations for better, more efficient and affordable healthcare. The first nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems are already on the market, some are in clinical trials, but the majority is still under development. Besides drug delivery systems, another highly attractive area of nanomedicine is diagnostics at the nanoscale, which is the second out of the three interrelated nanomedical research areas that have been identified by the European Technology Platform for Nanomedicine. Furthermore, new nanoparticulate formulations can combine these two (targeted drug delivery and imaging) to allow simultaneous diagnostics and therapy, often referred to as “theranostics”, which is an important step towards personalized medicine.

In this context, the main objectives of the BioNanoMaterials group are to 1) develop functional nanoparticles for detection, tracking, diagnostic and therapeutic biomedical applications by smart design and 2) synthesize composite nanostructures for improved bio-applicability and theranostic activity and 3) to apply the developed nanomaterials for in vitro and in vivo drug targeting and biomedical imaging together with our collaborators.

Figure 1. Overview of the versatility of biomedical applications of hybrid nanoparticles.

Multifunctional nanoparticles for theranostic application

The advent of nanotechnology has not only boosted the drug delivery research but also served the growing demand for imaging tools for biomedical research in the form of greatly improved imaging probes. Along with this development, existing imaging systems have also been rapidly improved and new techniques have been developed during the past decades. Each technique, including MRI, PET, CT, as well as optical methods, has advantages and limitations, thus making them complementary. Here, nanomaterials are expected to offer not only combined drug delivery and imaging functions enabling theranostics, but also incorporating multimodal imaging properties within a single probe, as well as functional probes in terms of activation (at the target site) and targeting (tissue-specificity).

A flexible particle platform

Among the developing biomedical nanomaterial platforms, mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) have been put forward during the last decade as an attractive drug delivery platform due to its flexibility and versatility regarding materials design, allowing for concurrent drug delivery and imaging functionalities combined with controlled release mechanisms. MSN-based materials can, as a consequence of their large surface area and pore volume, serve as efficient carriers for various therapeutic and imaging agents, e.g. novel two-photon excitable lanthanide chelates. MSNs have to date been successfully studied as drug carriers especially for cancer therapy. MSNs are capable of specifically targeting tumor tissue, avoiding premature fragmentation and degradation, and facilitating the transfer of a more highly concentrated drug or imaging agent payload across the cell membrane. MSN offer a wide range of functionalities and are highly robust and modular, whereby they can further be conjugated with contrast agents to allow detection with optical microscopy and MRI, to provide accurate early stage diagnosis for patients. Key candidates considered as contrast agents within the ongoing activities are two-photon excitable lanthanide chelates, paramagnetic Gd-chelates (for MRI activity), organic near-infrared (NIR) emitting dyes as well as nanodiamonds and magnetic nanoparticles as core materials when aiming at core/shell desgins. Lanthanide chelates provide possibility to ultrasensitive time-resolved detection, NIR-dyes are more compatible for imaging in live specimens and nanodiamonds are photostable and non-toxic, which makes them suitable for biomedical imaging. Such composites could provide the resolution and an understanding of biochemistry inside a cancer cell in vivo. The advantages of multifunctional MSNs are thereby integrated in order to create a suitable “theranostic” probe for concurrent imaging and a device for drug delivery.

Taking aim at cancer

One such collaborative effort together with Tuomas Näreoja, Laboratory for Biophysics, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, University of Turku, involves the development of a nanoparticle-based multimodal imaging approach. Such an integrated cancer imaging platform encompassing advanced imaging systems like in vivo two-photon microscopy utilizing the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) model, MRI and high-content imaging in vitro, will facilitate high-resolution studies on cancer growth, vascularization, metastasis development and monitoring efficacy of treatments. These novel nanoimaging methods on CAM model provide vital information to understand cancer progression mechanisms in vivo while simultaneously providing efficient, improved diagnostic tools.

This research is largely carried out within the frames of the “Rare-earth metal incorporated silica nanoparticles as targeted probes for in vivo optical and MR-imaging” project, funded by the Academy of Finland (1.9.2012-31.8.2016) and thus also in close collaboration with project partners Cecilia Sahlgren, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Technical University of Eindhoven, The Netherlands; and Veronika Mamaeva, Institute of Medicine, Department of Biomedicine at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Figure 2. Schematic representation of a mesoporous silica nanoparticle drug delivery system design.

Ongoing projects (e.g.)

Major Funding

Other Funding

Collaborators (e.g.) :



Latest publications as listed in Google Scholar (Jessica Rosenholm)

BioNanoMaterials group has a facebook page (welcome!)

Group photo

Group photo
Figure 3. Happy participants of the International Autumn School 2013 on “Nanostructured Materials for Biomedical Applications”. Clockwise from the left: Matti Lahti (colleague, University of Turku), Jixi Zhang, Didem Şen Karaman, Eva von Haartman, Diti Desai, Tina Gulin, Jessica Rosenholm and Neeraj Prabhakar.