Skip to main content

Dr. Kevin Braeckmans - Light-triggered delivery of functional macromolecules in cells and antibacterial agents in biofilms


Kevin Braeckmans

Gent University, Belgium

Light-triggered delivery of functional macromolecules in cells and antibacterial agents in biofilms

Efficient and safe delivery of functional molecules in cells remains a great challenge. This is not only true for  in vivo applications, but as well for the manipulation of cells in vitro or ex vivo, especially when working with hard-to-transfect primary cells. Examples include the production of engineered cells for cell-based immunotherapies and the differentiation of stem cells for tissue engineering applications. Although substantial effort has gone into designing non-viral nanocarriers for intracellular delivery, limited uptake or entrapment in endosomes remains a substantial bottleneck. Physical delivery methods may provide a viable alternative in this case. Originating from the 1980s, electroporation is the best known and most widely used physical cell transfection method today. It is, however, often associated with high cell toxicity, while surviving cells reportedly may suffer from an altered phenotype or reduced cell functioning. Laser-induced photoporation in combination with photothermal nanoparticles, is an alternative physical delivery method that is receiving increasing attention. Especially in combination with pulsed laser light, excellent delivery efficiencies with high cell viability have been obtained for a broad range of molecules and cell types. With pulsed laser irradiation photothermal nanoparticles can be quickly heated so that water vapour nanobubbles can emerge in a hydrated environment. When the nanoparticles are in close contact with cells, these laser-induced vapour nanobubbles can create pores in the cell membrane through which external compounds can diffuse into the cell. Although the concept was demonstrated a little over a decade ago, over the past 7 years my research group has been working intensively to explore the usefulness of this approach for various applications and improve upon its efficiency. In this presentation I will give an overview of this work, which ranges from the production of engineered T-cells, over delivering contrast agents into cells for microscopy and in vivo imaging, to delivery of antimicrobial agents in biofilms and even the destruction of floaters in human eyes. Recent work in which we improve upon safety and efficiency thanks to new material concepts will be highlighted as well.

Selected publications

  • Xiong R. et al. Comparison of gold nanoparticle mediated photoporation: vapor nanobubbles outperform direct heating for delivering macromolecules in live cells. ACS Nano 8, 6288-6296 (2014)
  • Xiong R. et al. Cytosolic delivery of nano-labels prevents their asymmetric inheritance and enables extended quantitative in vivo cell imaging. Nano Letters 16, 5975-5986 (2016)
  • Xiong R. et al. Fast spatial-selective delivery into live cells. J Control Release 266, 198-204 (2017)
  • Liu J. et al. Repeated photoporation with graphene quantum dots enables homogeneous labelling of live cells with extrinsic markers for fluorescence microscopy. Light – Sci Appl 7, 47 (2018)
  • Houthaeve G. et al. Targeted Perturbation of Nuclear Envelope Integrity with Vapor Nanobubble-Mediated Photoporation. ACS Nano 12, 7791–7802 (2018)
  • Teirlinck E. et al Laser-Induced Vapour Nanobubbles Improve Drug Diffusion and Efficiency in Bacterial Biofilms. Nat Commun 9, Article Number 4518 (2018)


Contact: Marie-Pierre Rols (

Note for visitors: Please come with a valid identity card


10 Mar

11:00 - 12:00

Seminar room - IPBS - Campus 205