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New DFG Project Approved: Study of Ultra-small Bimetallic Silver-Platinum Nanoparticles

27 May 2021

A new DFG project involving the Ernst Ruska-Centre for Microscopy and Spectroscopy with Electrons (ER-C) was approved this month and will commence work in May: “Synthesis, structure and biological effects of ultra-small (1-2 nm) bimetallic silver-platinum nanoparticles”. The subject of the joint project with the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) and the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS) in Dortmund is the detailed study of ultra-small bimetallic AgPt nanoparticles of a defined size of about 2 nm, both alloyed as well as monometallic (Ag, Pt). 

“Ultra-small particles are particularly mobile in cells, and are of the same dimensions as biological macromolecules such as proteins, and are biologically active in ways that are currently not yet easily predictable or understood,” explains Dr. Marc Heggen, principle investigator at the ER-C. The research project therefore aims to answer the following questions: 

  • Which synthetic routes lead to uniform ultra-small AgPt nanoparticles in terms of size (2nm) and internal domain structure?
  • Which pathways (e.g. endocytosis or passive transport) are used by ultra-small AgPt nanoparticles when taken up by cells and how does intracellular transport and intracellular localization occur? Of particular interest is the ability to penetrate the cell nucleus if suitably functionalized, which is especially important in the case of silver (e.g. genotoxicity).
  • What cell biological effects do the bimetallic AgPt nanoparticles elicit? Here, the focus is on mechanistic analysis and cell activation through to cell death.
  • What antimicrobial effects do ultra-small AgPt nanoparticles elicit? Here the main focus is on the analysis of cell membrane fluidity and activity to combat biofilms. In terms of an antibacterial effect, the question of whether ultra-small nanoparticles are taken up by bacteria could also be answered. In combination with antibacterially active silver, a silver-platinum system becomes clinically relevant. Key to this is the hypothesis that alloyed ultra-small silver-platinum nanoparticles have a greater antimicrobial efficacy.

The project has been approved for a period of three years and is headed by Prof. Dr. Matthias Epple from UDE. It builds on the successful previous project “Biometallic nanoparticles of platinum metals (Ru, Rh, Pd, Os, Ir, Pt) and silver: synthesis, microstructure and biological activity”, in which comparative studies on the synthesis, microstructural characterization and biological activity of bimetallic nanoparticles (around 10 nm) of silver with different noble metals were carried out. Other project partners are Dr. Christina Sengstock and Prof. Anika Grüneboom, both from ISAS.