The activities of the Bioprocessing & Bioanalytics Department can be summarized under the heading of "nano and human". One aim is to address the question as to which influences nanomaterials have on humans and the environment. Answers can be found within the field of nanotoxicology. Here, the two working groups Nanotoxicology and Biomonitoring & Biobanks are leading the government-funded (BMBF ) project “NanoUmwelt” in which the risks to the environment of synthetic nanomaterials, many of which have been around for quite some time, in cosmetics and food, for example, are analyzed. To evaluate such questions with regard to the risk potential of contaminants for humans and the environment in the future, and to make it possible to give recommendations for official regulatory procedures, samples of human and environment are being collected, characterized and cryopreserved by the working group Biomonitoring & Biobanks by order of the Federal Environment Agency inter alia. As there are not many suitable detection methods for most of the nanomaterials, both working groups are researching applicable analysis methods.
But nanoparticles do not only have bad or unfavourable influences on humans, they can also be of use in newly targeted therapeutic approaches. This is what nanomedicine is all about and it is the field the working group of Preclinical Nanomedicine is dealing with. Alongside the synthesis of new nanoparticle formulations, questions about specific surmounting of biological barriers like the blood-brain barrier, the intestinal barrier, or the skin or lung barrier for better therapy of humans are answered, as well as the targeted transport of active agents for specific tumour targeting.
In the broadest sense, natural nanoparticles which have existed for thousands of years include viruses - viruses that can cause diseases like HIV/AIDS in humans. Vaccines are still the best protection against such viral illnesses. In this context a global HIV cryobank on S3 level had been established at Fraunhofer IBMT within the global initiative for development of a HIV vaccine (CAVD), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Saarland Government. It is part of the working group Cellular Bioprocessing where future-oriented and automated platforms are developed for the collection, preparation, preservation and distribution of bioreagents and clinical samples for worldwide networks.
© Photo Fraunhofer IBMT, Bernd Müller.