Improving wound healing with a nanoglue

Tino Matter received the prize for the best master’s thesis in nanosciences at the University of Basel.

Whereas wounds heal naturally in healthy patients, the process can stagnate in older people and those suffering from pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. Internal wounds can also cause problems in some circumstances because they are hard to close. Open wounds affect patients’ quality of life, exacerbate the risk of infection, and result in huge costs for the healthcare system. There is therefore an urgent need for new treatment approaches that enable rapid wound closure and healing.

Bioactive nanoparticles are one solution
One possible approach to improve wound healing is to use bioactive nanoparticles. In his prizewinning master’s project, Tino Matter investigated the viability of various nanoparticles as wound glues. With the help of a technique known as flame synthesis, he first prepared a range of nanoparticles and investigated their adhesive effect and ability to stop bleeding. He then combined the particles with other materials and tested additional properties, such as their antimicrobial activity, stimulant effect on blood vessel formation, and effectiveness as antioxidants.

“Nanoparticles in combination with bioactive glas (bioglass) turned out to be particularly promising candidates,” he says. “Thanks to their large surface area, they adhere excellently to tissue and therefore act as a glue. They also have a significant stimulatory effect on clotting.” In combination with tiny quantities of silver, the bioglass nanoparticles exhibit antimicrobial properties. If strontium is added as a dopant, new blood vessels develop more rapidly, aiding the wound-healing process. In all these approaches, testing the absolute safety of the various material combinations is critical for the research team working under Empa’s Dr. Inge Herrmann, who supervised Tino during his master’s thesis.

Fascinated by the topic
Tino had already studied the topic of wound glues in one of the projects he completed during his nanosciences degree. After a placement at the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona, the committed young nanoscientist was keen to get to know Switzerland’s research landscape better and applied for a role in Inge Herrmann’s team at Empa via the Sirop platform for academic positions. He has been hooked on the topic of wound healing ever since. After successfully finishing his master’s degree, he stayed on at Empa to complete his doctoral dissertation and continue working on the project. “As part of this research, we believe it’s essential to work closely with surgeons. After all, we want to develop something that actually goes on to benefit patients,” Tino explains.

He studied bioactive nanoparticles that ensure rapid wound healing. (Image: Tino Matter)

An attractive combination of physics, mathematics and the natural sciences
When Tino Matter came to Basel to study nanosciences in 2012, he hadn’t given any thought to projects, master’s theses or doctoral dissertations. It was at an information day in Fribourg that he first heard about the nanosciences degree in Basel, which he felt was “a program that opened many doors by bringing together mathematics and all the natural sciences.” In other words, it was just what he’d been looking for.

He has never regretted studying nanosciences and would choose this demanding interdisciplinary degree program again in a heartbeat. “The first couple of years especially were very time-consuming, but the subject matter was fascinating and it’s incredible what I learned in that time,” he recalls. Like so many of his colleagues, he particularly remembers the block courses. Here, students gain an insight into various fields and “learn about the mentality of the various disciplines”, he says.

Interdisciplinarity and high quality
There’s no doubt that Tino Matter adapts to these different mentalities and vernaculars with ease and enjoys taking on a wide range of commitments. During his studies, for example, he sat on the organizing committee for the International Nanoscience Student Conference (INASCON) as well as attending the latest Annual Event, where he received the prize for the best master’s thesis, mingled with the SNI PhD students like a natural, took part in all the activities, and presented his fascinating research during the poster session. The highly interdisciplinary nature of this research was one of the reasons why the project was chosen as the winner from a number of outstanding master’s theses. Another key factor was that Professor Ernst Meyer, who supervised the thesis at the University of Basel, felt it was “one of the best he’d ever had the pleasure of grading”.

We congratulate Tino Matter and wish him every success for the future!

Further articles about Tino’s work can be found at: https://mtmatter.github.io