Schvartzman Lab - Molecular Scale Fabrication and Complex Nanosystems

Equipment/facility: lab


    The group develops novel nanofabrication approaches and exploits them in the following research areas:
    1. Antireflective nanostructures for optical applications.
    Antireflective nanostructures bioinspired by surface relief found in insects, such as moths, have been considered an attractive alternative to traditionally used antireflective thin films due to their efficiency in a broad range of wavelength and incident angles and high mechanical durability. Yet, the lack of scalable and cost-effective methods impeded the implementation of these structures in realistic optical devices and systems. We are developing new approaches for the effective design and fabrication of moth-eye structures, which will bring them to numerous optical applications in the visible and infrared spectrum.
    2. Nanodevices for the immunoreceptor biophysics.
    T cells and natural killer (NK) cells are the sentinels of our immune system. The cells express special receptor molecules that recognize specific markers expressed by other cells and thereby differentiate between pathogens/cancer cells and healthy cells and tissues. The mechanism of receptor recognition is a subject of extensive study. In particular, it is becoming clear that the activation of these cells is regulated not only by the chemical affinity of these receptors to their markers but also by various physical stimuli, such as the size and spatial organization of the receptors, as well as the stiffness and morphology of the surface of the target cell. We engineer nanoscale devices and materials that mimic one or a few abovementioned stimuli and use them as artificial platforms for the activation of T cells and NK cells. This way, we systematically study the effects of these stimuli on the signaling of the immunoreceptors and on the cytotoxic activity of these cells.
    3. Microstructured materials for the immunotherapeutic activation of T cells.
    Adoptive immunotherapy based on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells is revolutionizing cancer treatment. Despite the great promise, CAR T cell immunotherapy faces several challenges today, among them the insufficiently efficient ex vivo activation and proliferation of cytotoxic T cells, which is a critical step in CAR T cell production. Today, T cells are activated by stimulation with antibody-coated magnetic beads, traditionally used for cell separation. Yet, efficient and controlled activation and proliferation of T cells require new antibody-bearing materials, which, in particular, deliver mechanical and topographic cues sensed by T cells. We develop a new approach for the activation and proliferation of human cytotoxic T cells using elastic surfaces with micro-/ nano-engineered topography. We recently demonstrated that both the topography and elasticity of these surfaces could be optimized to yield a robust and controlled activation of T cells. Furthermore, these surfaces induce proliferation of T cells that is more prolonged, and yields much higher cell doubling than that done by the state-of-the-art methods. This study provides an essential insight into the physical mechanism of T cell activation and proliferation and opens the pathway for novel stimulatory materials for T cell-based immunotherapy.


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