The main objective of the project running over four years is the non-invasive »reprogramming« of the destiny of individual cells on an industrial scale, the abbreviation »CellPROM« stands for »Cell Programming by nanoscaled devices«.
The principle relies on specific reactions of immobilised cell surface receptors in response to contact with customised nanostructured surfaces – the NanoScapes – whose macromolecular landscapes mimic biological functions routinely exerted via surface contacts, e.g. by immune cells in the human body and cell differentiation. The project started in March 2004 and will be completed in February 2008.
Since the transmission of the reprogramming or differentiation information from the surface receptor to the nucleus of the cell occurs via natural intracellular signal pathways and without further technical interference, this approach promises a minimisation of undesirable side effects of artificial cell imprinting, while its mastery on an industrial scale opens up important areas of application in the fields of biotechnology, medicine, pharmacy and general technological development. The project CellPROM gives a strong push to and knits together interdisciplinary research in nanostructuring and on signal pathways in biological cells because large-scale production and use of these NanoScapes require the development of suitable tools – e.g. reusable nano-stamps – and their testing on cells as well as the adaptation of current methods of cell handling and characterisation to the technical requirements of the imprinting process. At the end of the project, functional modules are to be provided that already incorporate first solutions to these technical challenges. They can serve as vantage points for further development until maturity phase as well as for the design of subsequent applications whose aggregated effects will considerably bolster the significance of the location Europe in the key market of Nano-biotechnologies.
Although surface imprinting of cells will be realised via artificial nano-biotechnological devices, e.g. nanostructured stamps or beads, these tools are designed according to the natural principles of cellular signalling and differentiation. As nanocomponents are essential to the imprinting process, suitable techniques and principles to form nanoscaled macromolecular patterns on arbitrary surface geometries have to be developed. All components, ranging from the nanoscale of functional interfaces up to the macro level for cell handling, are to be developed as functional modules suitable for further application.
The project features multiple nano- and biotechnological challenges, meeting which will lead to breakthroughs in nanotechnological device development and, moreover, drastically advance our understanding of biological signals relevant to cellular differentiation. A potential device for the mass production of such precisely differentiated cell samples will follow a modular approach. Within this Integrated Project, we will address those modules by highly interlinked workpackages, each of them dedicated to a special module development. Different expertise has to be combined to bridge on the one hand side the gap between biology and nanotechnology, but at the same time to make the transition between the macro world of a medical device over meso- and micro-fluidic systems to the NanoScapes well in the nanometre range.