Department Seminar

Nanoparticle Based Therapeutic Approaches to Engineer Brain Cell Behavior

Speaker Details:

Anja Kunze
Assistant Adjunct Professor
University of California, Los Angeles

Lecture Details:

January 26, 2016
3:30 p.m.
Foege N130A, Wallace H. Coulter Seminar Room


Inorganic nanoparticles have emerged in many different biological fields such as imaging, sensing, or cancer therapeutics. In cancer studies, inorganic nanoparticles are used to destroy cancerous tissues either through heat or toxic interactions. In contrast, my current research focus is to use inorganic, in particular superparamagnetic nanoparticles as mechanical stimulators to control intracellular brain cell behavior, with potential applications in therapeutic methods against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
In this talk, I will introduce superparamagnetic nanoparticles on chip, which I call nanomagnets. The nanomagnets have the ability to pass the cell membrane allowing them to interfere with intracellular proteins, vesicles and molecular motors. Within a magnetic field gradient nanomagnets generate forces in the low-pico newton range at an array of neuronal cells and therefore hold the potential to engineer intracellular protein distribution and cellular behavior. I will present results that suggest the possibility to engineer the location of intracellular proteins, vesicle motion and calcium activity by nanomagnetic forces. Nanoparticle based mechanical stimulation is broadly applicable to a diverse range of brain cells and other cell phenotypes, and has a large potential to shape the development of novel therapeutics and neuronal cell models against neurodegenerative diseases.

Speaker Bio:

Dr. Anja Kunze obtained her Ph.D. in 2012 in Microsystems and Microelectronics from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland) and her M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the Dresden University of Technology in 2007. While at EPFL she was developing microfluidic based neural cell culture systems, which mimic the cortical cell layer architecture in in vitro, and applied these culture systems to biological questions in neurodegenerative diseases under Prof Renaud. During her postdoctoral research from (’12-’15) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Dr. Kunze won two postdoctoral fellowships from the Swiss National Science Foundation working on intracellular nanoparticle mediated neuronal cell engineering in collaboration with Prof. Di Carlo in the Bioengineering Department, and joint the Department of Mathematics at UCLA as an assistant adjunct professor in 2015. Her research interests include micro- and nanotechnology tools, neurodegenerative diseases, tissue engineering and modelling to advance neuro-therapeutics.