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Nanoscale Technologies

UCD boasts a complete and often unique suite of nanoscale technologies. This allows our PIs to specialize in all parts of the process from modelling to synthesizing molecules and developing new compounds, to characterising them using imaging and screening techniques. Our technologies include:

Theoretical underpinning:

  • Modelling
  • Simulation

In vitro biological imaging

  • High Content Screening
  • High Content Analysis
  • Transfection and gene knockdown
  • Multiplexed assays
  • Cellular uptake studies (for trafficking, toxicology and drug delivery)


In vivo biological imaging


Biosensing for point-of-care diagnostics

  • Antibody and protein arrays
  • Development of novel magnetic nanoparticles
  • Non-linear magnetophoresis
  • Nanopore-based detection
  • Flow cytometry
  • Micro- and nano-fabrication
  • Microfluidics
  • Single molecule spectroscopy



High Content Screening for Drug Delivery

Lead PI: Prof. Jeremy Simpson

In recent years, research in the life sciences has been energised through major advances in microscopy instrumentation, novel fluorescent probes, and a more comprehensive understanding of various genomes. Together with the availability of vast libraries of genomic and chemical tools, the systematic probing of gene and cell function has now become a possibility. This experimental strategy, when based on fluorescence imaging, is termed high content screening (HCS) and analysis (HCA). Its power lies in the fact that cellular perturbations can be observed and captured by automated microscopes, and single cells analysed and quantified at subcellular resolution. The result is that vast data sets can be easily produced, and new molecular links rapidly established. Drawing up lists of genes associated with the movement of toxins and nanoparticles in cells could help in the design of targeted delivery systems for such agents so they can avoid the lysosome, explains Professor Simpson. “And ultimately, the potential long-term advantage is that you could deliver much lower doses of therapeutic agents and they would be effective.”




Piezoelectric Force Microscopy of collagen

Lead PI: Dr Brian Rodriguez

Piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM), a technique developed initially to image domains in ferroelectric materials by measuring bias-induced surface deformations, has recently been employed by Dr Brian Rodriguez to study electro-mechanical coupling in biological systems. PFM is capable of investigating the in-plane and out-of-plane piezoelectric response of biosystems on the nanoscale, including collagen. With PFM not only can fibril alignment be investigated through normal AFM surface topography and deflection images, but the amplitude of the piezoelectric signal and the polarity of the fibrils can be imaged. This technique has implications for exploiting piezoelectric biopolymers in tissue engineering applications, which may further our understanding of the role of collagen structure and function on intercellular and cell–matrix communication when mimicking, improving, and replacing biological functions.