I started studying at the Zuyd Hogeschool in Heerlen, Limburg where I obtained my Bachelor degree in Organic Chemistry in 2013. I did my graduation internship at the TU/e in the group of Bert Meijer, studying the effect of hydrophobic tail-length on the self-assembly of BTAs. After this, I moved to the Radboud University in Nijmegen where I studied Molecular Chemistry. I graduated in 2016 in the group of Jan van Hest researching the formation of click-activatable hydrogels. Directly after, I started my PhD in his group, which moved to Eindhoven in October.
Shaped for succes: Designing the morphology of biodegradable polymersomes for applications in nanomedicine
My research involves the formation of polymeric vesicles, due to their resemblance to liposomes named polymersomes, from biodegradable amphiphilic polymers. Polymersomes are hollow particles with the benefit that hydrophilic molecules can be entrapped inside the polymersome and hydrophobic molecules can be contained in the membrane, allowing for dual-loaded particles. This makes these polymersomes interesting candidates for applications drug delivery. Because of the immense diversity in tailoring the amphiphilic polymers, these particles can contain a plethora of properties which can be tuned at will.
This research involves the self-assembly of polymersomes consisting of a biodegradable (polyester) diblock. By applying an osmotic pressure to the suspended particles, a shape change into tubular particles will occur. My research focuses on this shape change and how it can be influenced via external factors. Although size and different types of polymers have been studied before, shape has been neglected a bit, while nature clearly demonstrates the importance of it. For example in the way bacteria and viruses can trick the immune system and thus remain there long enough to infect cells. We can study the effect of shape both in cell uptake and internalization as well as the immune response to differently shaped particles. By adhering specific peptides to the surface of these particles, we can obtain cell-homing or cell-penetrating properties and by functionalizing the surface with antigens we can create particles that can cause an immune response. In this way, we aim to create an optimized system for drug delivery or vaccination.