Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces is a multidisciplinary research centre within materials and life sciences. The centre’s activities focus on phenomena associated with biofilms and biobarriers. The practical applications of the research include diagnostics, treatment methods, drug formulation and the use and development of medical implants and sensors.

Our vision is to shape novel solutions for improved health through excellent science in partnership with industry.

Therése Nordström, Director

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Research highlights

Facts and figures

Facts & Figures

  • 12 Professors
  • 50 PhD and Post docs
  • 15 Assoc. Prof. and lecturers

Our research

Researchers at the centre include a wide range of experts from the fields of chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, cell and molecular biology, mathematics and microbiology. These experts, with overlapping interests, are advancing research in three core areas:

  • biobarriers and pharmaceutical design;
  • biofilms at interfaces; and
  • smart material at interfaces.

Biobarriers and pharmaceutical design

Biobarriers and pharmaceutical design include pharmaceutical formulation, transdermal and mucosal drug delivery as well as hydration of biological interfaces, proteins and nanoporous materials. 

The research in detail

Biobarriers

We focus on advancing the knowledge of the key physicochemical properties of biointerfaces, and how they determine the interactions with biomolecules in solutions. In order to achieve this, we develop biomimetic systems that aim at mimicking specific biobarriers in an easily producible and reproducible manner. The biobarriers we are interested in include cellular membranes, plant cell walls and blood vessels. Currently, we are applying these biomimetic systems to improve our understanding of the onset and treatment of various diseases such as atherosclerosis and bacterial infections.

Hydration of biological interfaces, proteins and nanoporous materials

The functional properties of biological materials and nanomaterials are strongly dependent on their interactions with the surrounding environment, where the presence of water in the form of liquid or vapour is inevitable. We have a special interest in nanoporous materials, such as mesoporous silica, and we study their hydration, characterisation and interactions with organic molecules and biomolecules. We also study the hydration of carbohydrate materials, such as cellulose. In the drug delivery field, we work with the interaction of solid excipients with water; hydration of proteins; hydration and phase transitions in lipids; and hydration of biological barriers.

Pharmaceutical formulation

In the development of transdermal and topical formulations, it is important to understand how formulation ingredients interact with the molecular components of the skin barrier and thereby influence its macroscopic barrier properties. Our research activities focus on the effects of commonly used excipients and other chemicals, such as penetration enhancers, on the molecular, as well as the macroscopic, properties of the skin membrane. We also investigate how nanomaterials, such as mesoporous silica particles, can be used in controlled release applications. The advantage of mesoporous silica, such as MCM-41 and SBA-15, is that these materials have remarkable properties due to their well-defined structure with tunable pore diameter and narrow pore size distribution, which can be optimised for loading and controlled release of drugs or biomolecules.

Transdermal and mucosal drug delivery

The skin barrier (the stratum corneum) is an effective permeability barrier. Despite this, the skin is an attractive alternative to the oral route for drug delivery because it avoids first-pass metabolic degradation, which can be an important advantage for certain drugs. Two common strategies to overcome the skin barrier for increased transdermal drug delivery are to increase skin hydration and add a penetration enhancer. Our research focuses on how hydration affects skin permeability, with and without penetration enhancers. Our approach is to combine several experimental methods to obtain both macroscopic and molecular-scale information on how hydration and penetration enhancers influence the stratum corneum.

Biofilms at interfaces

Microorganisms have a strong tendency to associate with surfaces and form adherent microbial communities, known as biofilms. Within this field, we study mechanisms by which bacteria adapt to and survive in the biofilm environment, as well as studying the salivary and mucosal barrier.

The research in detail

Biotherapeutics

Bacterial proteases are a driving force for the inflammatory responses involved in both periodontitis and cardiovascular disease. Our aim is to develop advanced technological tools based on an array of biomarkers (bacterial proteases and inflammatory mediators) to aid the identification of individuals at risk of severe alveolar bone loss disease, as well as the prediction and treatment of periodontal disease and associated inflammatory disorders.

Oral microbiology

In any environment, macromolecules and micro-organisms have a strong tendency to associate with surfaces and form adherent microbial communities, so-called biofilms, which are now recognised as the cause of most infectious diseases. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms by which oral bacteria acquire virulence in biofilms and to identify key points of intervention. We anticipate that our results will contribute to the development of future antimicrobials that target disease-inducing properties in biofilms rather than specific microorganisms.

Saliva research

Our main focus is the study of salivary pellicles — the film of nanometric dimensions that forms immediately upon contact of saliva with almost any type of surface. Pellicles play an important role in the maintenance of oral health, as they protect and lubricate oral surfaces. Our aim is to better understand the mechanisms underlying salivary lubrication. We also study the mechanisms underlying the protection offered by salivary pellicles against dental erosion and how this can be improved by complementing acidic beverages with anti-erosive compounds.

New methods and instruments
We are developing instruments that will allow structural studies of very thin and soft films under load and shear by means of neutron scattering and reflectometry. This is being carried out in collaboration with ESS and the two other big neutron facilities in Europe. We expect that this will be useful to apply in a broad range of fields, as soft-matter thin films are ubiquitous both in natural and artificial systems, for example, in the macromolecular layers that are often found at the solid/liquid interface in colloidal dispersions and biomedical implants.

Smart materials at interfaces

Smart materials at interfaces include bioelectronics (biosensors and biological power sources), oral implants and artificial biomimicry with biological applications. 

The research in detail

Artficial biomimicry

Biomimicry (defined as the imitation of life or nature) is used in biomedicine and biotechnology to develop novel treatments and diagnostic methods. We focus on two major areas within biomimicry. The first being the development of novel diagnostic tools for cancer. And secondly, biomimetic systems for better understanding of the onset and treatment of diseases including atherosclerosis and bacterial infections.

Finding new and better ways to diagnose and treat cancer is one of a pressing task for researchers. Early diagnosis, where the cancer is still curable, is therefore crucial. This emphasises the need for sensitive, robust and affordable diagnostic tools that can sense the cellular state, commonly in the form of tumour-specific protein markers, early on in the process. We are developing and using molecularly imprinted polymers, plastic antibodies and other smart materials to detect and sense previously inaccessible tumour markers and discover novel disease biomarkers.

Biodegradable implants
The treatment of bone fractures and bone defects often requires the placement of metal plates or screws that joins the broken bones and allows them to heal. They are typically made of titanium or stainless steel, which functions well to stabilise the bone. However, as these plates or screws remain in the body, they can cause pain or other complications and often require the patients to undergo more surgery to remove the metal. We are studying implants made of magnesium – a metal with good mechanical properties – because it dissolves in

Biosensors and implantable bioelectronics

Research on biosensors and implantable bioelectronics is focussed on development of specific analytical devices and methods for monitoring clinically relevant analytes and biomarkers, as well as the development of potentially implantable electric power devices. It includes synthesis and characterisation of nanomaterials, development of novel sensing and power generating principles, as well as assessment of biosensor and biofuel cell performance in clinical and implantable situations. Our research strength lies in electrochemical sensors and enzymatic fuel cells. Lately, we have exploited biosensor approaches for the investigation of processes at biological barriers, tested enzymatic fuel cells in human blood under homeostatic conditions, as well as disclosed a new type of bioelectronic device – self-charging biosupercapacitors.

Cancer diagnostics
Finding new and better ways to diagnose and treat cancer is one of the most pressing tasks for researchers today. We use molecularly imprinted polymers to detect, sense and image previously inaccessible tumour markers and discover novel disease biomarkers with the aim of detecting cancer at an early stage.

Mathematical modelling
Scientific computing and simulations of phenomena on micro and macroscopic scales is a field of great scientific importance. General mathematical techniques, such as differential equations, combined with computational methods, allow a very broad range of applications. Our main focus is on three different areas: computational quantum physics; modelling of infectious diseases; and resonance spectrum for stratified media.

New methods and instruments
In collaboration with MAX IV, we are building sample environments to be used in tomography synchrotron beamlines. This will allow the study of how changes in the ambient conditions effect, for example, the structure and morphology of samples that have synthetic or biological origins. We are also developing methods for monitoring the interaction of formulations that comprise, for example, microparticles with biological barriers. These methods have a clear application in non-invasive drug delivery

 

Researchers, publications and projects

We are always interested in new collaborations with academia and industry. Please contact our researchers if you have any questions.

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Organisation and Partners

Advisory Board

  • Cristina Glad, CEO, Chairperson, C Glad Consulting AB
  • Gunnel Svensäter, Professor of Oral Health, Faculty of Odontology
  • Martina Kvist Reimer, Executive Vice President, Red Glead Discovery
  • Sven Frökjaer, Vice-Dean, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen
  • Thomas Arnebrant, Professor of Biointerfaces, Vice Dean, Faculty of Heath and Society
  • Tomas Lundqvist, Senior Coordinator Research Infrastructures, RISE — Research Institutes of Sweden
  • Ulf G Andersson, CEO, Medeon Science Park & Incubator

 

 

 

 

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