Science - November 24, 2010

Three Vidi grants for Wageningen

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded Vidi grants to three Wageningen researchers. Each of them receives 800,000 euros to form their own research teams.

One of the happy winners is Dr. Jasper van der Gucht of the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Colloid Science. He wants to create a new type of tissue which is super strong and self-regenerative. 
Reinforced concrete
'These tissues can be found naturally, such as bones and tendons. I want to copy these by making a complex network with two polymers.' Van der Gucht will use a stiff and a weaker polymer. The result can be compared to reinforced concrete.
But Van de Gucht will go a step further. The material must be self-regenerative.
'The present materials have strong chemical bonds; once broken, that's the end', he explains. 'We will find out how to combine these with materials having weaker bonds which can give way easier and come together again.'
Contact lens
The research aims to produce artificial tissues for medical applications in five years' time. 'Think of a contact lens which can withstand being damaged over and over again. It can even regenerate itself after each damage.' 
Van de Gucht is very pleased with his Vidi, especially since his application for this grant two years ago was turned down. 'Then, I focused on a area involving biology and chemistry. My choice now is clearly in chemistry research. I think that the judging committee found this more acceptable.'
The other two Wageningen winners:
Phytopathologist Harrold van den Burg wants to unravel the immune responses of plants to infections.
Molecular biologist Kerstin Kaufman will examine how the interaction between proteins and DNA affects the development of a cell.