Exposing stress in cells with the help of light


LightForce research project to develop light-controlled polymers successful in Leibniz competition. Over the next three years, a European team of chemists and biophysicists in Aachen, Saarbrücken and Strasbourg will develop molecular tools and machines to control mechanical interactions at the cellular level using light.

How can light-guided polymers be developed to study the effects of mechanical stress on cells in a targeted manner and in real time? How can such techniques enable the answer of numerous fundamental questions ranging from biology to drug research? A team of chemists and biophysicists will receive a total of nearly one million euros from the Leibniz Association over a three-year period to investigate these questions. This was decided by the Senate of the Leibniz Association as part of the Leibniz Competition with the Leibniz Cooperative Excellence program at its meeting on November 24, 2020.

In the LightForce project, scientists from various disciplines will work together and thus contribute different competencies: Experts from chemistry, cell biology and biophysics are among those involved. "In the project, we need experts from a wide variety of fields: We as chemists, for example, will deal with the synthesis of polymers and their linkage with light-driven nanomachines. Biologists will then investigate the interaction of these components with cells and thus better understand the mechanobiology of cells. Such an ambitious research project can therefore only be carried out with the knowledge of many experienced colleagues. We chemists would never get this far on our own, so I am very much looking forward to the exciting work that now lies ahead of us," says Stefan Hecht, scientific partner of the consortium and chemist at the DWI.

The project is led by the INM - Leibniz Institute for New Materials from Saarbrücken, which contributes biological and biophysical expertise with Prof. Aránzazu del Campo Bécares and Prof. Roland Bennewitz. The DWI - Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials with Prof. Stefan Hecht and the ICS - Institut Charles Sadron of the Université de Strasbourg with Prof. Nicolas Giuseppone cover the field of chemical synthesis of polymers and light-driven machines. The external reviewers have attested the joint project of the internationally renowned consortium its highly innovative and current relevance. The proof-of-principle results and the clearly structured objectives are highly convincing, they said.

The Leibniz Association supports various programs in the competitive process. These are intended to ensure the achievement of the strategic goals within the framework of the Pact for Research and Innovation. The LightForce project is funded in the Leibniz Cooperative Excellence program. This year, 100 applications were submitted for funding in the Leibniz competition, of which 28 projects received a funding recommendation.

Further information
Associated Scientist, Humboldt University Berlin

Prof. Stefan Hecht, Ph.D.

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