EXCELL is a European project within the FP7-NMP (Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials & new production technologies program). The goal of the project is to develop innovative approaches to explore interaction mechanisms between biological materials and inorganic nano-structures, leading to an integrated biologically inspired technological platform of high complexity able to monitor cell dynamics at nano-scale.
The project started in September 2008 and will run for three years. The project has 10 partners (8 academic and 2 SMEs) and an EU contribution of € 3780750. It involves expertise in cellular and molecular biology, nanosciences, electronics, biophysics, biotechnology, modeling, and analytical chemistry, combined to address the targeted goals which go beyond the state of the art methods used in traditional biotechnology and systems biology.
EXCELL will provide a biocompatible platform that ensures a sustainable cellular environment with a complete set of sensors and actuators capable of: (1) studying single cells in their natural environment surrounded by other cells; (2) studying a complex mixture of different cells/tissue; (3) following the dynamics and/or interdependence of single cell processes from gene, protein, metabolite to compound secretion, exocytosis and cell-to-cell communication; (4) testing how and where various stimuli affect the different levels of the molecular machinery, and finally (5) programming cells to be able to differentiate into a particular phenotype.
EXCELL provides a unique opportunity for driving innovative discoveries in the field of stem cell research, offering the possibility to induce developmental programs of stem cells to differentiate into specific adult neuronal cells, and of molecular engineering in general, opening new possibilities in the sensor development, diagnostics, therapeutics and biotechnology. Not to mention the opportunity of creating new high-tech spin-off industry in the field of smart materials, medical diagnostics or pharmaceutics.
The research activity of the Department of Electronics of Politecnico di Milano focuses on the design and fabrication of the high sensitivity electronic components necessary for sensing the tiny voltage and current signals produced by the biological matter on the Lab-In-Cell platform. In particular it will deliver silicon chips (Instrument-on-chip) for jointly performing cyclic voltammetry, impedance spectroscopy, capacitance tracking and amperometric sensing at the nanoscale with precisions at the state of art.