Inaugural Lecture: Nako Nakatsuka - Chemical Nanotechnologies for Human Health


Event details

Date 20.09.2024
Hour 17:0018:00
Speaker  Nako Nakatsuka
Location Online
Category Inaugural lectures - Honorary Lecture
Event Language English
Nature designed small molecules to regulate a vast array of physiological processes, underscoring the need to monitor such molecules to both understand biological mechanisms and to tackle diseases. For instance, the monitoring of the neurotransmitter dopamine holds significant implications in Parkinson’s disease. However, traditional biosensors often fail in biofluids due to challenges such as distinguishing structurally similar chemicals amid a sea of nonspecific molecules. To overcome these hurdles, we employ aptamers, artificial DNA-based recognition elements capable of selectively capturing diverse small molecules. Our research investigates aptamer-target interactions at the nanoscale, offering insights into the mechanisms of our biosensors and enabling broad applicability. Our mission is to pioneer translational technologies that impact human health, focusing on neuroscience, where the chemical landscape of the human brain remains largely unexplored. Our innovation lies in aptamer-based biosensors capable of tracking chemicals such as neurotransmitters in the brain. We envision contributing to advancements in patient care and therapeutic strategies for patients suffering from brain disorders.

Nako Nakatsuka heads the Laboratory of Chemical Nanotechnology (CHEMINA) at the Neuro-X Institute at EPFL since January 2024. Her team works at the intersection of chemistry, engineering, and neuroscience to create translational technologies for improving human health. She was raised in Tokyo, Japan and moved to the U.S.A. for her bachelor’s in chemistry at Fordham University (Bronx, NY) and pursued her Ph.D. at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA). Upon receiving the ETH Zürich postdoctoral fellowship, she moved to Switzerland and remained a senior scientist at the Laboratory of Biosensors and Bioelectronics until 2023. She has been named an MIT Under 35 Pioneer (2021), received the iCanX Young Scientist award (2022), the ACS Nano Lectureship Award and Prix Zonta (2023), and the ACS Measurement Science Rising Star Award (2024). She has also illustrated a children’s chemistry book: “A is for Atom: ABCs for Aspiring Chemists” to inspire the next generation of chemists.