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Protein polymer nanoreactors to preserve food quality

English title Protein polymer nanoreactors to preserve food quality
Applicant Palivan Cornelia
Number 145160
Funding scheme NRP 69 Healthy Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production
Research institution Physikalische Chemie Departement Chemie Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Physical Chemistry
Start/End 01.11.2013 - 31.05.2017
Approved amount 339'142.00
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Keywords (6)

channel proteins; food quality; enzymes; reactive oxygen species; amphiphilic copolymers; nanoreactors

Lay Summary (French)

La nanotechnologie a très récemment commencé à être appliquée dans le domaine de la production sécurisée des aliments à grande valeur ajoutée. Par exemple, l’utilisation des nano-réacteurs qui sont des réacteurs avec des dimensions nanométriques pourra offrir des nouvelles solutions de détection de l’état des produits alimentaires, ou d’en préserver une haute qualité par l’intermédiaire des réactions spécifiques qui ont lieu dans l’espace minuscule des nanoréacteurs.
Lay summary
Le projet a comme but de développer un ensemble de nanoréacteurs immobilisés sur des surfaces pour offrir des nouvelles solutions pour des produits alimentaires de haute qualité en utilisant la nanotechnologie. Les nanoréacteurs sont générés par encapsulation des molécules anti oxydantes, comme la vitamine C dans des vésicules avec des dimensions nanométriques  et insertion des protéines membranaires dans leurs parois. Ces protéines servent comme des « portes » nanométriques qui s’ouvrent seulement quand le milieu qui entoure les vésicules continent des radicaux libres ou présente un changement de pH, les deux étant impliqués dans la dégradation de l’aliment. L’ouverture des « portes » à commande (la présence de signes précoces de dégradation de l’aliment) permet la libération de vitamine C dans le milieu et donc de rétablir la qualité du produit. Les nanoréacteurs seront immobilisés sur des surfaces afin de les utiliser sur des emballages pour les produits alimentaires. Ils vont servir comme « surfaces actives » permettant de détecter rapidement et avec grande sensibilité des signes précoces de dégradation et d’intervenir pour préserver une haute qualité des produits alimentaires.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 17.12.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Bio-nanoreactors: From confined reaction spaces up to artificial organelles
Postupalenko Viktoriia, Einfalt Tomaz, Lomora Mihai, Dinu Adrian, Palivan Cornelia G. (2016), Bio-nanoreactors: From confined reaction spaces up to artificial organelles, in S. Sadjadi (ed.), 341.
New concepts to fight oxidative stress: antioxidant compounds inside 3-D nano-assemblies
Richard Pascal, Duskey Jason, Stolarov Svetlana, Spulber Mariana (2015), New concepts to fight oxidative stress: antioxidant compounds inside 3-D nano-assemblies, in Expert Opinion Drug Delivery, 12(9), 1-19.
“Active Surfaces” formed by immobilization of enzymes on solid supported polymer membranes
Draghici Camelia, Koval Justyna, Darjan Andreea, Meier Wolfgang, Palivan Cornelia G. (2014), “Active Surfaces” formed by immobilization of enzymes on solid supported polymer membranes, in Langmuir, 30(39), 11660-11669.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
IPROMEDAI Workshop Talk given at a conference Nanoscience-based active surfaces with antibacterial activity 20.04.2017 Valletta, Malta Palivan Cornelia;
World congress on public health and nutrition Talk given at a conference Safeguarding of food-quality using nanoscalled containers immobilized on active packaging 10.12.2016 Madrid, Spain Stolarov Svetlana;
Swiss Food Research: Innovative packaging technology workshop Talk given at a conference Active surfaces engineered by immobilization of protein-polymer assemblies 02.11.2016 Wädenswil, Switzerland Palivan Cornelia; Stolarov Svetlana; Craciun Ioana;
International Conference in Physics of Advanced Materials Talk given at a conference “Smart” self-assembled functional nanosystems based on polymer membranes decorated with proteins 07.09.2016 Cluj, Romania Palivan Cornelia;
80Th Prague Meeting of macromolecules Talk given at a conference Polymer membranes decorated with proteins: Smart self-assembled functional nanosystems 10.07.2016 Prague, Czech Republic Palivan Cornelia;
SMART2015, 7Th ECCOMAS tematic Conference on Smart Structures and Materials Talk given at a conference Smart functional nanosystems: Polymer membranes decorated with proteins 03.06.2015 Ponta Delgarda, Portugal Palivan Cornelia;
Frontiers in polymer science Talk given at a conference Development of pH-Triggered Delivery System based on Poly(oxazoline)s 20.05.2015 Riva del Garda, Italy Stolarov Svetlana; Palivan Cornelia;
BIONAER Workshop Talk given at a conference Protein-polymer supramolecular nano-assemblies to preserve food quality 20.04.2015 Oslo, Norway Palivan Cornelia;
1stiPROMEDAI Workshop, COST Meeting Talk given at a conference A general strategy for creating self-defending surfaces for controlled continuous drugs production 29.10.2014 Porto, Portugal Palivan Cornelia;
SSSTC Workshop Talk given at a conference Polymer membranes decorated with proteins as functional bio-nanosystems 10.10.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Palivan Cornelia;
NanosMat International Conference Talk given at a conference Polymer membranes decorated with proteins: Towards functional bio-nanosystems 08.09.2014 Dublin, Ireland Palivan Cornelia;
Swiss Soft Days Poster Long-term stable immobilization of nano-particles on the surfaces 06.06.2014 Bale, Switzerland Stolarov Svetlana;

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
163996 Interactions, Dynamics, and Functionality at Nanoscale Characterised by Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy and Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy 01.12.2015 R'EQUIP


The target of this project is to develop a platform of polymer nanoreactors immobilised on surfaces that will provide new solutions that maintain food quality and safety through nanotechnology, an emerging technology in food manufacturing. Nanoreactors are generated by encapsulating enzymes and inserting pH-sensitive channel proteins in polymer vesicles with sizes in the nanometer range. They are planned for application as highly sensitive, long-life biosensors to detect early changes in pH or for the release of antioxidant compounds “on demand” when reactive oxidative species (ROS) affect food quality. Polymer vesicles provided with pH-sensitive channel proteins that act as “triggered gates” serve to encapsulate enzymes, the roles of which are to support the functionality of nanoreactors: they serve as biosensors or to trigger the release of compounds necessary to preserve food quality. The sensitive detection of pH changes in the surroundings of nanoreactors via an enzymatic reaction that takes place inside represents the core of our biosensor. This has the advantages- over biosensors already in use- of the subsequent amplification of a chemical signal, and long-life due to the shield provided by the polymer vesicles. The triggered release as a response to the presence of ROS in the environment of the nanoreactors is based on an encapsulated enzyme, which acts as a “key” to unblock the protein gate, and allows the release of antioxidant compounds. Right from the start, combining polymers that are EFSA and FDA approved together with biomolecules constitutes a safe input to the project, which will be completed by systematic cell assays relating to the safety of nanoreactors. In addition, the immobilisation of nanoreactors on surfaces will support their applications as materials in contact with food matrices, as they will act as “detection surfaces” or as “active surfaces”. The concept of antioxidant nanoreactors and the strategy of modulating the properties of channel proteins, which have already been introduced by us for medical applications, will serve in the present project for rapid implementation of new chemical approaches for triggered-functionality nanoreactors. Our food contact systems will address consumer concerns regarding food quality, because they act only when required or “on-demand” (pH change or presence of ROS). This represents an elegant solution in a response-oriented manner as compared to the continual activity that results from the non-discriminate addition of synthetic or natural antioxidant molecules.