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Double innovation prize to NanoLund

Using nanotechnology, researchers can insert biomolecules into the blood stem cells from the umbilical cord, without damaging the cells.

NanoLund researchers Martin Hjort, Yang Chen, and Martin Borgström have been awarded the Lund University and Sparbanken Skåne’s prize for future innovations. Their projects are named “Overcoming the shortage of blood stem cell donations with the help of nanotechnology” and “Transparent solar cells: solar cell windows”.

What innovations will we see in the future? Eight of the most innovative ideas and projects currently available at Lund University received a total of SEK 400,000 when Lund University and Sparbanken Skåne’s prize for future innovations was awarded. 

Researchers Ludwig Schmiderer, Martin Hjort, and Jonas Larsson won the grand prize in the employee category. They have addressed the problem of lack of blood stem cell donations in an interdisciplinary way. By combining leading nanotechnology with stem cell biology, they have developed a method that can give more people access to a blood stem cell donation – which is the difference between life and death for many patients with blood diseases.

Making use of the umbilical cord

A blood stem cell transplant is the only cure for a range of blood diseases. But it does require a suitable donor – and not many do. In an interdisciplinary collaboration, researchers Ludwig Schmiderer, Martin Hjort and Jonas Larsson (Professor at Division of Molecular Medicine and Gene Therapy) have combined leading nanotechnology with stem cell biology to develop a method that can solve the problem.

To produce blood stem cells, they use umbilical cord blood. Instead of being thrown away as waste after a birth, the umbilical cord is made use of. But blood stem cells are sensitive and in order to be able to get enough useful cells out of an umbilical cord, new technology is required. Using nanotechnology, researchers can insert biomolecules into the blood stem cells from the umbilical cord, without damaging the cells. These biomolecules in turn allow many more blood stem cells to be used from each umbilical cord. With this method, there is great potential to offer more patients vital transplants, and to make access to transplants more equal.
“It feels deeply rewarding to turn basic research results into something that can eventually benefit patients,” says Ludwig Schmiderer.

For their project, “Overcoming the shortage of blood stem cell donations with the help of nanotechnology”, Ludwig Schmiderer, Martin Hjort and Jonas Larsson are awarded SEK 100,000.

Solar cells – not only on roofs

In addition to this, researcher Yang Chen and professor Magnus Borgström got an honorary award for their project “Transparent solar cells: solar cell windows”. Since the need for sustainable energy solutions is enormous, we could solve our big problem of finding alternatives to oil, coal, and gas if we could capture the sun's rays in a smarter way.

Yang Chen wants to create transparent solar cells that can be used on windows. By attaching semiconductors of nanowires to a transparent foil, it becomes possible to use solar cells not only on roofs but also on windows. It is even possible to produce solar cells in different colors, such as changing curtains.