Contact person: Dr. Guruprakash Subbiahdoss

Controlling the interaction of biological molecules and cells with interfaces is an important technological challenge that requires a fundamental understanding of nanoscale interactions and cellular recognition. This is particularly important in bacterial adhesion, because bacteria have shown themselves particularly adept at colonizing a wide variety of surfaces over time. From the materials aspect this is an interfacial problem, where the properties of the first few to tens of nanometers of the interface determine the thermodynamics and kinetics of bacteria binding to a surface. To address the problem of bacterial adhesion we therefore must characterize, understand and modify any surface on these length scales. We study this challenges through:

  • the creation of functional polymer interfaces that control biomolecule binding by suppressing it and thereafter introducing controlled specific interactions;
  • surface modifications that are self-assembled polymer brush, nanoparticle-structured or liquid-like interfaces coatings;
  • the assembly of biomimetic membrane mimics to biophysically study membrane interactions, e.g. the influence of molecular mobility on multivalent binding and the interaction of polymers and membranes;
  • the interaction of cells and in bacteria with artificial interfaces, e.g. their interaction with liquid or nanostructured interfaces.

The main concept that interests us is the role of entropy, dynamics, mobility and the ability to reconfigure an interface on the attachment and colonization of interfaces by cells as wells as bacteria, to control e.g. the “race to the surface”. In particular, we investigate how bacteria adhesion and early stages of biofilm formation could be influenced by nanostructured interfaces, presentation of (bio)polymers and interfacial mobility.

Our research on polymer functionalized interfaces is strongly inspired by new concepts we have developed for functionalization of nanoparticles with functional polymer brushes. We use our research in this area as basis for new polymer functionalization strategies for planar and nanostructured extended surfaces. The coatings are therefore based on biomimetic adhesive techniques such as catechols and novel structured and responsive polymers such as polypeptoids and polyoxazolines.