Disperse Systems Laboratory

The research activity is devoted to the study of the structural and dynamical properties of colloids by spectroscopic approaches such as elastic, quasi-elastic and inelastic scattering, time-resolved fluorescence, non-linear optics, circular and linear dichroism and laser Doppler electrophoresis. Colloids represent a good model for soft matter physics and chemistry and find interesting applications as drug carriers and, if properly functionalized, as sensors at nanoscopic scale.
The main research topics concerns:

New methodologies for nanomedicine
Today medical diagnostics make use of accurate instrumentations for early identification of serious pathologies, but for some degenerative diseases (like, for instance, Alzheimer’s disease, type II diabetes, age-related macular degeneration), whose causes are still unclear, an early diagnosis is not available yet. Slowing down the disease course is one of the current strategies. Concerning those degenerative disease related to uncontrolled self-assembly of proteins (i.e. amyloid- or amylin-based proteins), methodologies that exploit scattering techniques are developed in order to check in vitro the extent of aggregation phenomenon and the effectiveness of synthetic peptides in hindering coalescence. For ocular pathologies new instrumentation based on Resonant Raman scattering is designed and realized to investigate the effectiveness of pharmaceutical formulations in reaching the retina. For corneal tissue a method exploiting fluorescence and diffuse reflectance is realized for controlling and quantifying the concentration of an active principle absorbed in the stroma.
Mathematical-physical models of mechanics and electrodynamics of fluids are also developed for the study of biological tissues.

Molecular recognition
Occurrence of specific  non-covalent interact ions between different molecules (host/guest) has become one of the most urgent topics in chemistry, environmental sciences, life sciences, and medical sciences with a great attention to biological receptors. In this context the research activity is addressed to the study of the formation of supramolecular host/guest adducts by exploiting the changes of the spectroscopic response (for example time-resolved emission properties, induced optical activity, surface charge) of the constituents in consequence of binding. The investigation of the binding stability of the adduct, also under different environmental conditions of the solution medium, is a valid tool for wide applications in the sensor field.

Drug delivery
The integration of composite functions in one material is a great promise towards personalized nanomedicine,  aiming at enhancing the therapeutic efficacy of drugs and avoiding under- or over-treatment of specific diseases. Multi-tasked molecules, as well as self-assembled systems and functionalized nanosized particles are promising candidate for delivering drugs to biological target. Particular interest is devoted to the study of the physico-chemical properties, structural features and colloidal stability of multi-functionalized vesicles spontaneously formed by amphiphilic macromolecules or of multi-functionalized nanoparticles. Their validation in terms of cell uptake or photodynamic properties (for those species possessing specific chromophores) is also performed by exploiting fluorescence microscopy or the spectroscopic response under light irradiation (oxygen radicals production).

Supramolecular chirality

The capability to imprint the chiral information by external physical fields on the supramolecular level is a fascinating property for self-assembled systems. Among various truly chiral physical fields, special attention is devoted to hydrodynamic vortexes, convective flows and thermal gradients. Finding the correlation of the chiroptical response to the asymmetric physical perturbations with the structural features of different systems can help the rational interpretation of the symmetry breaking phenomenon occurring in the natural chiral selection.