Prof. Alke FINK & Prof. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser
Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg


Cell response to different (nano)particle stiffness


Numerous in vitro and in vivo studies have investigated the role of e.g. particle type, crystallinity, size, surface, or shape on cellular interaction. However, fewer studies have looked into the effect of nanoparticles on cell mechanics, i.e. study on force-cell structure relationship and how it relates to cellular functions. Cell mechanics are critical indicators for cell functionality and health, and these processes drive important biological activities such as cell migration, differentiation, wound healing, and tissue integrity. Here, we will discuss these mechanical aspects in more detail and show how cells deal with different nanoparticles (with regards to stiffness or surface). More specifically, the importance of these properties on cell adherence, clearance activity and migration in dependence on cell type will be shown also indicating the different tissues react differently to a variation in (nano)particle stiffness.


Prof. Alke Fink received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Ulm, Germany in 1999. After a post-doctoral stay at the University of Gainesville, Florida, she joined the Institute of Materials Science at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). In 2011, she was appointed “Head of Bionanomaterials” at the Adolphe Merkle Institute in Fribourg. This position is co-chaired with Prof. Rothen-Rutishauser.
Prof. Fink’s research focus lies on inorganic nanoparticles, their interactions with biological cells and their behaviour in complex environments. She is module leader in the NCCR “Bioinspired Materials” and holds an affiliation in the Chemistry Department at the University of Fribourg.


Prof. Dr. Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser has received her Ph.D. in 1996 in cell biology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. From 1996 to 2000 she held a post-doctoral position in Biopharmacy at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the ETH and in 2000 she joined Prof. Peter Gehr’s research group at the University of Bern, Switzerland as a postdoc. After promotion to group leader in 2006 she completed her habilitation in cell biology in 2009. B. Rothen-Rutishauser is an expert in the field of cell-nanoparticle interactions in the lung, with a special focus on 3D lung cell models and various microscopy techniques such as laser scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Since 2011 she is the new chair in BioNanomaterials at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, the position is shared equally with Prof. Alke Fink. The research group’s activities stretch over many fields from material synthesis and characterization to biological responses and hazard assessment. Prof. Rothen-Rutishauser has published more than 220 peer-reviewed papers and is an associate editor of the journal “Particle and Fibre Toxicology”.