Multimodal contrast agents

The group develops new types of agents for applications in molecular imaging and therapy based on new types of nanomaterials and nanoconstructs. Complex materials of basically any length scale, ranging from nanometers to microns, can be manufactured in a controlled way through the exploration of specific interactions between self-assembling molecules for bottom-up creation of nanostructures. With sizes matching those in nature, interactions between man-made and biological material can be fine tuned to a high degree leading to new applications in medicine.

Current activities comprise research on liposomes for drug delivery, emulsions and nanoparticles as MRI or CT contrast agents as well as radiolabled ligands for nuclear imaging (SPECT, PET). The ambition is to design of new multi-potent nanoconstructs that could be used to improve early diagnosis of a disease or therapy by enabling for example drug delivery under image guidance. Bringing these concepts from preclinical research into the clinic is very challenging, as biodistribution, toxicity issues, and long-term effects in humans need to be considered. However, many approaches of agent design rely so far simply on empirical rules.

One bottleneck is the fundamental understanding of how material properties affect the behavior and interactions of the nanomaterials in-vivo. Preclinical imaging therefore plays a crucial role in my research to study and visualize the biodistribution of agents. For example, labeling of agents with radioactive isotopes allows to visualize and quantify organ uptake using preclinical SPECT or PET imaging.


If you have any questions about this research topic, please contact prof. Holger Grüll or prof. Klaas Nicolaij.