“Lorenzo is a talented young researcher who has achieved an impressive record of results during his career so far, having already published in such top-ranking journals as Science,” says IBEC Director Josep Samitier. “His research will complement and boost the activities of IBEC by contributing to our ‘Bioengineering for Future Medicine’ area of application by way of its focus on innovative and ground-breaking drug delivery systems.”
“Tasks that happen naturally in the body, such as site-specific delivery of molecules, genetic modifications and tissue regeneration, are among the greatest inspirations in biomedicine,” says Lorenzo, who completed his PhD in Pisa, Italy and has spent time as a visiting scientist at the University of California in Santa Barbara. “If we can develop synthetic molecules that are able to perform these functions, it would have a tremendous impact on modern medicine.”
To design novel biomaterials Lorenzo plans to use self-assembly – basically, designing materials that build themselves. This phenomenon is common in biological systems that self-organize, and is emerging as a powerful tool to create chemical structures with broad applications in material science and medicine. “Supramolecular polymers show promising properties for the delivery of drug and genetic material,” he explains. “The ability of viruses, for example, to target a specific cell population and to deliver DNA or RNA within cells has been a source of inspiration for the design of virus-like nanoparticles for gene delivery.”
These architectures can also be used as biophysical tools to investigate the structure and functionality of biological cellular machineries or biological processes. These materials will allow biologists to address open issues that have not been accessible before.
Several biomaterials that make use of the unique properties of self-assembly have already been developed; “however, despite their promising properties, they’re difficult to design, and their behavior in such a complex environment as the body is poorly understood,” Lorenzo explains. His group will address this by using super-resolution microscopy, a new technique recently developed to improve the resolution of classical microscopes. A STORM microscope – a super resolution technique – will be soon installed at IBEC. “It will allow us to see things that have been impossible to visualize until now, and to understand how nanomaterials interact with cells and tissues at the single molecule level,” he says.