Knowledge Based Bio-Economy


Tackling cancer using nanoprobes

Project Acronym: DINAMO

Title of project: Development of diamond intracellular nanoprobes for oncogen transformation dynamics monitoring in living cells

Research area: Biotechnologies (Nanobiotechnology: smart devices to study biomolecule dynamics in real time)

Contract No: 245122

EU Contribution: 2790 000 EURO

Start date: May 2010

Duration: 36 Months


Dynamic information about biomolecular processes in living cells is important in order to develop a fundamental understanding of cellular functions, which is one of the primary targets of molecular cell-biology with important applications to pharmacology. However, in order to generate further progress in this field there is a need to develop sensing and detection techniques that can operate with sufficient submicroscopic resolution inside living cells. Such techniques, which would be capable of bringing real-time information about local biomolecular interactions, may be used specifically for monitoring genomic processes.

This project aims to make a further, large step towards integration of forefront nanotechnology, chemistry and molecular biology expertise with a common goal of studying intracellular processes during the evolution steps of several types of frequently occurring cancers.

Expected Impact

This project is expected to impact on human health through expanding the ability to generate information about biomolecular processes inside living cells with an emphasis on cell growth. This is regulated through signal transduction mechanisms where alterations away from the normal regulatory processes can lead to cancer. Such abnormal behaviour can often be traced to alterations in this cell signalling mechanisms, for instance those involving cytoplasmic tyrosine kinases, specific growth factors, the transcription apparatus and/or genes involved in the cell cycle and regulation of DNA replication etc. Previous research in this field was limited mainly to indirect investigations of individual biomolecular components or in vitro studies based on optical techniques of analysis or assays.

This project should have a significant impact on these limitations overcoming the lack of suitable label-free sensing techniques that can operate at the nanoscale without disrupting normal cellular function through the development of novel sensing and detection techniques operating at submicroscopic resolution inside living cells. These will yield real-time information about local biomolecular interactions that are of primary importance for health cancer-prevention and therapy applications. Utilisation of the results should improve, prevention, detection and treatment of some, if not all, forms of cancer.

Expected Results

This project will create a novel tool capable of studying the molecular processes in cells at a nanoscale. It aims to produce a non-invasive label-free nanotechnology platform for real-time monitoring of living cells. This will be used to investigate the kinetics of gene-assisted processes in cells modified by oncogenic impact. The work will include application of luminescent and single spin detection techniques for real-time dynamic monitoring of biomolecular processes. To achieve this the project will develop a so-called nanodiamond particle based on DNA grafting and surface chemistry applied to thin diamond films and nanodiamond particles. Combined with physical characterisation techniques it will provide information on aspects of cellular function and signal transduction mechanism that contribute to the development of cancers when they go wrong.

Website of


Coordinator: Christine VAN HOUTVEN,

Organisation Interuniversity Micro-electronics Centre, Belgium,


General Biotech Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic ,

Northwestern University Evanston, United States,

Griffith University, Australia,

Institute of Microbiology, Czech Republic,

Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry, Czech Republic,

University of Stuttgart, Germany,

University of Wuerzburg, Germany,