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In our research group at KIT, we focus on the design, development, and application of biologically functional, dynamic, and responsive materials, interfaces, and material systems. Our work is at the intersection of biology, biotechnology, regenerative and personalized medicine, cell biology, stem cell research, drug delivery, microfluidics, and tissue engineering. By advancing the understanding of basic mechanisms and developing functional material systems, we aim to improve healthcare outcomes and increase life expectancy.

Research Areas

Our research encompasses a variety of materials systems and methods, including:

(1) Porous Polymers: We develop polymers with controlled surface topography, porosity, and wettability.

(2) Hydrogels and Organogels: We create gels with various biologically relevant and responsive properties.

(3) Nanostructured Interfaces and 3D Printed Materials: We innovate in the field of nanostructured interfaces and advanced manufacturing.

(4) Surface Functionalization: We employ techniques such as photoclick reactions, polydopamine, and polyphenolic coatings.

(5) Miniaturization and Parallelization: We develop methods for combining organic synthesis with biological experiments on a miniaturized scale.

(6) Special Wettability Materials: We engineer materials and surfaces with unique wettability properties.

Dynamic and Responsive Interfaces

One of the key distinctions between biological and artificial materials is their dynamic and responsive nature. Biological interfaces can self-heal, self-clean, and adapt in response to stimuli. Traditional photochemical methods result in irreversible surface functionalization, limiting their use in systems where dynamic properties are crucial. We have pioneered a reversible UV-induced surface functionalization method using photo-induced disulfide homolysis, which allows for dynamic exchange, attachment, or detachment of surface functional groups.

Bioinspired Surfaces with Special Wettabilities

Our lab has developed novel superhydrophobic (SH) and superhydrophilic (SL) coatings, as well as bioinspired omniphobic liquid-infused interfaces. These technologies are used to create micropatterns of special wettability, which demonstrate important biological functionalities such as eukaryotic cell repellency, inhibition of stem cell differentiation, biofilm repellency, and marine antibiofouling properties.

Photochemistry for Multifunctional Surfaces

We utilize photochemistry to combine diverse functional properties on a single surface. For instance, combining SH and SL surfaces into micropatterns enables the formation of high-density arrays of nanoliter-sized droplets. This effect is used to develop platforms for miniaturized ultra high-throughput screenings of live cells, cell patterning, and the creation of hydrogel or metal-organic framework (MOF) microparticles.

Miniaturization and Parallelization of Biological Experiments

One of our research goals is to develop novel materials and surfaces for the miniaturization and parallelization of biological and microbiological experiments. This is vital for biological research, the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, and diagnostics. Miniaturization enhances throughput and reduces costs. We are advancing methods to accelerate drug discovery and enable affordable personalized medicine solutions.

Personalized Medicine Application (Dr. Anna Popova) - click to read more

Dr. Anna Popova's research focuses on developing novel in vitro systems for high-throughput screenings and personalized medicine. At the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), she leads a sub-group within the Multifunctional Materials Systems research laboratory. Her work emphasizes personalized oncology, creating highly miniaturized protocols and workflows for personalized drug sensitivity and resistance testing using patient-derived cancer cells. This approach aims to optimize cancer treatment by tailoring therapies to individual patient profiles.

In collaboration with the University Hospital in Heidelberg, Dr. Popova's projects include the development of prognostic tests on-a-chip, combining Droplet Microarray technology with mass spectrometry for high-throughput screenings. These initiatives are crucial for advancing precision oncology, enabling the simultaneous analysis of numerous drug candidates and biological responses on a miniaturized scale.

Contact

Prof. Dr. Pavel Levkin   
Build.: 319 / Office: 444 
E-Mail: levkin@kit.edu
Tel:  +49-721-608-29175

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