“It is amazing to get this chance and I feel deeply honoured. Now, I will carefully consider how to make the best out of this opportunity and the responsibility that comes with this privilege, ”says Fredrik Höök, Professor at the Department of Physics at Chalmers.
Wallenberg Scholars is a program designed to support and encourage some of the most successful researchers at Swedish universities. The aim is for the researchers to be able to adopt a long-term approach to their work, with less time and effort expended on seeking external funding, and with higher ambitions, so that their research has an even greater international impact. The grants also enable researchers to commit to more challenging and longer-term projects.
Studying cell communication
Fredrik Höök is conducting research within biological physics and he is the academic leader of the industrial research centre Formulaex. The project focuses on encapsulating biological pharmaceuticals into nanoscale carriers in order to reach the body’s cells and treat severe diseases.
In his research, Fredrik Höök is studying how biological cells communicate with each other. Cell membranes play a key role in many biological processes and diseases. The membrane is essential for the cell’s ability to communicate with its surroundings. Sometimes particles of membrane can detach to form “communication capsules”, (microvesicles), which transport substances to other cells. Fredrik Höök and his colleagues intend to develop new methods for studying the microvesicles, and to try to make copies of them.
In recent years studies of cell membranes have yielded a wealth of new knowledge about various biological processes. Those studies have been made possible by increasingly sensitive measuring instruments.
“Now, we want to develop new methods for microscoping and handling small quantities of liquid. One of their main aims is to analyze the microvesicles – exosomes – used by cells to communicate with each other,” says Fredrik Höök.
To make maximum use of the sensitive measuring methods, the researchers have designed structures that behave in the same way as cell membranes. This enables them to biophysically study how cell membranes interact with nanoparticles of various kinds, such as viruses and exosomes.
Fredrik Höök’s research group uses artificial cell membranes to carry out in-depth studies of individual nanoparticles that have been attached to the membrane. The researchers also intend to develop a bioanalytical tool capable of measuring the size, structure, and optical properties of individual particles. This will enable the research team to make detailed analyses of complex biological samples, and they also hope to be able to sort nanoparticles according to their properties.
Inspiring new ways of developing and administering medication
The aim is to better understand how the nanoparticles work, and what enables them to penetrate the cell. Höök wants to use that knowledge to design artificial exosomes.
“Hopefully, this could lead to improved disease diagnostics and inspire new ways of developing and administering medication. Findings from the research may also answer fundamental questions about the properties of nanoparticles. This may be of benefit in the field of nanosafety, and in many other areas,” says Fredrik Höök.
Photo: Henrik Sandsjö
Illustration: Yen Strandqvist
Press releases and articles about Fredrik Höök and his research
Wallenberg Scholars and granted researchers at Chalmers
The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation awards grants to Wallenberg Scholars in the fields of medicine, science and technology. Following this year’s grant awards, there are 63 active Wallenberg Scholars. The next cohort of Wallenberg Scholars will be chosen in 2021.
There are already three active Wallenberg Scholars at Chalmers:
Professor Mikael Käll at the Department of Physics,
Professor Jens Nielsen at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering
Professor Pernilla Wittung-Stafshede at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering
Earlier years, Professor Per Delsing, Professor Peter Andrekson and Professor Owe Orwar have been choosen to be Wallenberg Scholars.