Mimicking living cells boosts medicine accuracy and helps the industry

Artificial cell membranes make it possible to, among other things, develop increasingly accurate diagnostic tools and reduce the body’s rejection responses. According to Professor of Analytical Chemistry Susanne Wiedmer, such research requires specialists in chemistry, biology, medicine and technology.

What are your research topics?

I study biomimetic, or artificial, membranes that mimic the properties and functioning of natural cell membranes. Artificial cell membranes allow us to focus on the key characteristics of living cell membranes, such as permeability. Thanks to their stability and durability, artificial membranes are also suited to the development of medical devices and industrial applications.

The use of living cells can be ethically difficult, especially when it comes to medical applications. By using artificial materials resembling living cells, we can develop technical solutions without ethical challenges related to living organisms.

Living cells also require cultivation and maintenance, while artificial membranes are usually easier to produce in large quantities. This is why they are better suited to scalable applications, typically needed in industrial processes.

Artificial cell membranes can be very simple in composition and contain only a small amount of synthetic lipid molecules. They can also be very complex and contain lipid molecules extracted from cell membranes or extracellular vesicles.

In research, we employ, for example, chromatographic and spectroscopic methods. Our goal is to investigate interactions between various compounds and artificial membranes. We are also investigating the composition of vesicles and developing new coating techniques for the study of complex extracellular vesicles.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Artificial cell membranes have long been used in the form of, among other things, liposomes and nanolipid vesicles to transport pharmaceutical drugs in the body.

Furthermore, membranes resembling living cells can be integrated into a range of sensors, imitating biological identification processes. This enables the detection of certain molecules or ions.

The creation of biomimetic membranes can improve the biological compatibility of medical devices and reduce the associated risk of rejection when such devices are implanted in the body. In addition, artificial membranes can be used to create sensors that react to certain biological markers, enabling the development of extremely sensitive diagnostic tools.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Collaboration between different disciplines is particularly important in my field of research. To be able to build effective systems for investigating artificial cell membranes, we need specialists in chemistry, biology, medicine and technology.

It is also inspiring to see the emergence of artificial intelligence in research and society, and its potential in all fields of research.

I consider cooperation between universities and industry extremely important, and the government must support it. Research cannot be conducted without funding, nor can industry solve complex research-related problems without academic research.