NICe- Nanointercell

Research Activities


Selected Publications


The Nano-Inter-Cell group performs cutting edge research at the interface of particles and cellular systems. Our ultimate goal is to provide the scientific understanding to steer the particles – cell interactions for a safe and efficient use.

Our motivation is to establish the knowledge of how engineered (nano)particles interact with human cells and tissue to identify opportunities and risks in early stage of development.

The interests of the group are situated at the interface of nanomaterials, biology, toxicology, in vitro technologies, bioanalytics and measurement science. We address fundamental and applied questions on nanoparticles uptake, accumulation and their biological response using human in vitro models. Furthermore we develop reliable and robust methods which enable a proper correlation of the physical-chemical properties of the nanomaterials with biological responses. Finally the scientific outcome of our research is made accessible for the society stimulating a fact-based and transparent safety debate.

CTI-Project: GoNanoBioMat


The aging population represents an enormous financial burden for society, unless ways can be found to maintain independence and quality-of-life (QoL) as long as possible for each individual. To achieve this, novel concepts and technologies for new solutions and products are needed. For example, the use of polymeric nanobiomaterials in medicine might be a solution for answering to this need.

Currently, the number of health applications on the market remains small due to the unclear situation of the future regulatory assessment of efficacy and safety. In this context, the GoBioNanoMat project aims to enable SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) and their suppliers, and Research Institutes to work on the development and production of polymeric nanobiomaterials for drug delivery implementing Safer-by-Design (SbD) approach. The major expected outcomes of this project are:

  1. A verified knowledge base (built on peer-reviewed scientific publications on polymeric nanobiomaterials, their environmental and human health risks and the regulatory aspects.),
  2. and guidelines to implement SbD approach for polymeric nanobiomaterial drug delivery systems
  3. as well as in depth investigation of three selected materials like Chitosan, Polylactic acid and Polyhydroxyalkanoates regarding drug delivery applications.

The GoNanoBioMat consortium combines expertise in the area of nanobiomaterial science and technology, life science, pharmaceutical science, as well as nanosafety and life cycle thinking. A strong regulatory background and knowledge base building, dissemination and training belong as well to the core competences of this consortium.


Biological impact of nanomaterials


Due to their novel properties, engineered nanoparticles hold many promises for technical as well as medical applications. However, exactly these novel properties raise concerns for the safe use and have led to a novel science field, the nanosafety research.

In the CCMX Materials Challenge NanoScreen, FP 7 Flagship Graphene and previous projects we investigated in the correlation of specific physico-chemical particle properties with the evoked biological effect(s), focusing on the understanding of protein adsorption patterns on nanoparticles as well as the detection of cellular responses. In strong cooperation with our research partners we investigated in different types of nanomaterials, with well-defined properties such as metal and metal oxides, graphene related materials, carbon nanotubes and different polymer particles.

Release of nanoparticles after mechanical treatments


Nanomaterials are used e.g. as additives in paints, wood preservatives or to reinforce polymers. Despite the obvious benefits (e.g. obtaining a better protection of facades, reduced wood decay or improved mechanical properties of polymers) the potential hazard of these new products has to be assessed early in development.

In particular the release of nanoparticles either at the end of life or during mechanical abrasion needs to be explored in order to avoid social or economic drawbacks. Within the frame of the National Research Program 64 ‘Chances and Risk of nanomaterials’ and FP7 project NanoHouse we estimated the potential release of nanomaterials during mechanical treatments of nanoparticles-containing paints, copper carbonate containing wood preservatives or carbon nanotubes reinforced polymers and assessed potential adverse effects of these processed materials. The addition of nanomaterials into paints or polymers did not lead to an additional ‘nano-risk’ due to a low amount of released particles and the absence of an acute cytotoxic response. However, the long term consequences are still part of the ongoing research.

Reliable and robust characterization methods


An important consideration in developing standards and regulations that govern the production and use of commercial nanoscale materials is the development of robust and reliable measurements to estimate with high confidence the physical-chemical properties as well as the potential adverse biological effects.

In the CCMX Materials Challenge Nanoscreen and H2020 EU-NCL project we developed protocols for nanoparticles size distribution, zeta potential measurement and in vitro assay (e.g. cell viability) within a global network (NIST, JRC, KRISS and Nanotech Thailand).

These concepts and protocols are published see below.

Dissemination: DaNa 2.0

We are part of an interdisciplinary team of experts from different research areas covering all aspects of nanosafety research (human and environmental toxicology, biology, physics, chemistry and pharmacy) working together to provide a web-based, non-biased, quality-approved and up-to-date knowledge base for more transparency.

For further information visit the DaNa homepage.




Dr. Peter Wick, Head of Laboratory, Group Leader NICe

, +41 (0)58 765 76 84

Alma Mater: Uni Fribourg

Keywords: Nanoparticles, Nanomaterial characterization,  NanoSafety, Safe-by-Design, human in vitro models, assay reliability, nanomedicine 


Dr. Cordula Hirsch, Deputy Group Leader NICe

Alma Mater: Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Keywords: Cell biology, Primary cell culture, Nanosafety, In vitro assays


Dr.  Niusha Nikravesh, Postdoc

Alma Mater: University of Birmingham

Keywords: Cell culture, Hydrogel delivery systems, Confocal microscopy, In vitro assays 


Dr. Ana Milosevic, Postdoc

Alma Mater: Uni Fribourg



Liliane Diener, Technical Expert (biomedical scientist)

Keywords: Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM), biological sample preparation


Alexandra Rippl, Technical Expert

Keywords: Cell culture, Flow Cytometry, Confocal Microscopy, In vitro assays


Neda Iranpour Anaraki, shared PhD Student with lab 499 (xray facilities)

Keywords: Nanoparticles, Nano-bio Interactions, Nanoparticle Synthesis, Nanomaterials Characterization, Small Angle X-ray Scattering





Pauline Franz, MSc Student

Alma Mater: University of Constance


Dr. Juan Carlos Cassano, Postdoc

Alma Mater: University of Sydney

Keywords: Cell culture and Biology, Genotoxicity, Development of cancer diagnostic assays


Dr. Jean-Pierre Kaiser, Senior Scientist

Alma Mater: University of Zurich

Keywords: Nanotoxicology, Metallic nanoparticles, Microbiology, Cell biology, Endotoxin


Sarah May, PhD Student

Alma Mater: University of Constance

Keywords: Nanotoxicology, DNA damage, DNA repair pathways, In vitro assays


Saranya Muthusamy, MSc student

Alma Mater: TU Dresden

Keywords: Nanotechnology, Nanobiology


Dr. Nils Bohmer, Postdoc

Alma Mater: Freie Universität Berlin

Keywords: Cell culture, Nanomedicine, Endocytosis, Flow Cytometry


Biological impact of nanomaterials


Kaiser JP, Roesslein M, Diener L, Nowack B, Wick P, (2017) Cytotoxic effects of nanosilver are highly dependent from the chloride concentration and the carbon content (FCS) in the culture media J Nanobiotechnology 6:15(1):5

Schöneberger A, Schipanski A, Malheiro V, Kucki M, Snedeker JG, Wick P, Maniura-Weber K, (2016) Macrophage polarization by titanium dioxide (TiO2) particles: size matters, ACS Biomater Sci Eng 2:908-919

Kucki M, Rupper P, Wichser A, Sarrieu C, Treossi E, Melucci M, Schwarz A, León V, Kraegeloh A, Flauhaut E, Vazquez E, Palermo V, Wick P, (2016) Interaction of graphene-related materials with human intestinal cells: an in vitro approach, Nanoscale (8) 8749-8760

Obarzanek-Fojt M, Curdy C, Loggia N, Di Lena F, Grieder K, Bitar M, Wick P (2016) Tracking immune-related cell responses to drug delivery microparticles in 3D dense collagen matrix, Europ J Pharma Biopharma 107:180-190

Wick P, Chortarea S, Guenat O, Roesslein M, Petri-Fink A, Rothen-Rutishauser B, (2015) In vitro – ex vivo model systems for nanosafety assessment Eur J Nanomed 7(3)169-179

Bruinink A, Wang J, Wick P, (2015) Effect of particle agglomeration in nanotoxicology Arch Toxicol 89:659-675

Chortarea S, Clift MJD, Endes C, Wick P, Petri-Fink A, Rothen-Rutishauser B, (2015) Repeated exposure to carbon nanotubes-based aerosols does not affect the functional properties of a 3D human epithelial airway model, Nanotoxicol, 9(8):983-993


Release of nanoparticles after mechanical treatments

Civardi C, Schlagenhauf L, Kaiser JP, Hirsch C, Mucchino C, Wichser A, Wick P, Schwarze FWMR, (2016) Release of copper-amended particles from Micronized copper-treated wood during mechanical abrasion (2016), J Nanobiotechnology 28;14(1):77

Civardi C, Van den Bulcke J, Schubert M, Michel E, Butron EM, Van Aacker J, Wick P, Schwarze FWMR (2016) Penetration and effectiveness of micronized copper in easily treatable and refractory wood species Plos One 11(9)e0163124

Schlagenhauf L, Kianfar B, Buerki-Thurnherr T, Kuo YK, Wichser A, Nüesch F, Wick P, Wang J (2015) Weathering of a carbon nanotube / epoxy nanocomposite under UV light and in water bath: impact on abraded particles Nanoscale 7 18524-18536

Civardi C, Schubert M, Fey A, Wick P, Schwarze FWMR (2015) Micronized copper wood preservatives: efficacy of ion, nano and bulk copper against the brown rot fungus Rhodonia placenta Plos One 10(11): e0142578

Schlagenauf L, Buerki-Thurnherr T, Losert S, Ott N, Wichser A, Nüesch F, Wick P, Wang J (2015) Released carbon nanotubes from an epoxy-based nanocomposite: quantification and toxicity Environ Sci Technol (49)10616-10623

Civardi C, Schwarze FWMR, Wick P (2015) Environmental, health and safety perspective of copper nanoparticle-based wood preservatives: a critical comment Environ Pollu 200:126-132


Reliable and robust characterization methods


Sillence K, Maguuire CM, Roesslein M,Hannell C, Suarez G, Sauvain JJ, Capracotta S, Contal S, Cambier S, Yamani NE, Dusinska M, Mano S, Horev-Azaria L, Dybowska A, Vennemann A, Cooke L, Haase A, Luch A,, Wiemann M, Gutleb A, Korenstein R, Riediker M, Wick P, Hole P, Prina-Mello A, (2017) Addressing the reproducibility of nanoparticle sizing and concentration measurements by NTA through the introductions of methodologies, standards and interlaboratory comparisons (accepted Particle and Particle System Characterization)

Elliott JT, Roesslein M, Song NW, Toman B, Kinsner-Ovaskainen A, Maniratanachote R, Salit ML, Sequeira F, Lee J, Kim SJ, Rossi F, Hirsch C, Krug HF, Suchaoin W, Wick P, (2017) Toward achieving harmonization in a nano-cytotoxicity assay measurement by interlaboratory comparisons study (accepted in ALTEX)

Rösslein M, Elliott JT, Salit M, Petersen EJ, Hirsch C, Krug HF, Wick P, (2015) Assessing sources of variability in nano-cyto-toxicology measurements with cause-and-effect analysis Chem Res Toxicol 28(1)21-30 (Highlighted by Editorial Advisory Board Members Favorit CRT Articles 2016)

Studer C, Aicher L, Gasic B, von Götz N, Hoet P, Huwyler J, Kägi R, Kase R, Kobe A, Nowack B, Rothen-Rutishauser B, Schirmer K, Schneider G, Kase R, Vermeissen E, Wick P, Walser T, (2015) Scientific basis for regulatory decision-making of nanomaterials CHIMIA doi:10.2533/chimia.2015.1



Best Poster Award Clinam/ Cordula Hirsch

Cordula Hirsch, Scientist at the Laboratory for Particles-Biology Interactions and collaborators from Korean Research Institute for Science and Standards (KRISS) as well as EPFL received the Best Poster Award for the Poster 'Interference of Engineered Nanomaterials in Flow Cytometry: A Case Study' at the International Conference of Nanotoxicology 2018 in Neuss (Germany) September 18 to 21, 2018. Congratulations! (September 2018)