Jasmina Gačanin receives Peretti-Schmucker Fellowship

New research project investigates living biomaterials for future skin treatment

July 13, 2023

Dr. Jasmina Gačanin, postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in the department of Prof. Dr. Tanja Weil, has been appointed as a “Peretti-Schmucker Fellow”. This position is funded by The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation in memory of the German dermatologist Dr. Yvonne Schmucker. The research project will investigate hydrogel-cell formulations as living biomaterials that could be used for the next-generation treatment of skin related conditions, wound healing, or tissue engineering.

Dr. Jasmina Gačanin, postdoctoral researcher in the group of Professor Tanja Weil at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, has been appointed as the first of two “Peretti-Schmucker Fellows” at MPI-P donated by The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation in memory of dermatologist Dr. Yvonne Katharina Schmucker. In her research project, Gačanin and co-workes will address an urgent need in the treatment of skin through newly developed innovative biomaterials.

In the research project, so-called hydrogels will be developed. These soft and tissue-like 3D materials have a network structure and represent effective scaffolds that could be designed to host living cells. In this way, living biomaterials will be created that harness the power of nature by combining biopolymers that can form hydrogels with living cells to positively support for example homeostasis and health of the skin, or facilitate its regeneration and wound healing.

The research in the project breaks completely new ground in materials research as living biomaterials could offer entirely new treatment options for restoration of skin homeostasis and regeneration. New scientific solutions will be explored to restore skin functionality, treat different forms of skin disorders, or support wound healing.

"I am very pleased that I have received the Peretti-Schmucker fellowship. Thanks to the support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, our research will contribute to identify new medical solutions to treat skin in an effective and sustainable way", explains the scientist Dr. Jasmina Gačanin. Skin is the largest organ in the human body and plays a vital role in human health as the first line of defense and a protective barrier between the environment and the inner body. However, serious changes in the composition and function of the skin can occur due to the presence of allergens, toxins and irritants such as preservatives in various products, as well as skin diseases such as acne, chronic diabetic ulcers, skin cancer and more. These require specific or "personalized" treatment to restore the patient's natural intact skin condition, its integrity, homeostasis and functionality - that cannot always be effectively achieved with conventional treatments. Recent advances in medical materials research already point to the great potential of living biomaterials for treating the skin.

The project will be supported for two years starting from January 2023.

About Jasmina Gačanin

Dr. rer. nat. Jasmina Gačanin studied Biochemistry at Ulm University, where she received her Bachelor and Master degrees as a scholarship holder of the “Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes”. She completed her doctorate with summa cum laude in the department of Prof. Dr. Tanja Weil at Ulm University in 2020. Today, Jasmina Gačanin is a senior postdoctoral researcher in the group of Prof. Weil at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz. Gačanin investigates and develops hydrogels as multifunctional 3D biohybrid materials and platform system for medical applications, with focus on regenerative medicine and personal care. She has gained extensive expertise in the customized development, synthesis, and characterization of hydrogels and their components from predominantly biological building blocks like DNA, peptides, proteins, and polysaccharides. Inspired by the complex interplay of molecules in Nature, her research explores the combination of the stability of covalent bonds with the dynamic behavior introduced by supramolecular chemistry. The developed hydrogels achieved outstanding material properties, making these gels highly attractive scaffolds for regenerative medicine.

About The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation

The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, a non-profit foundation based in Vaduz, has provided a prestigious grant to fund two postdoctoral positions at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany. The grant for the research project “Living Biomaterials to Treat Skin Dysbiosis” honors the legacy of a German friend of the founder, dermatologist Dr. Yvonne Schmucker.

The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation was founded by Mrs Elsa Peretti (1940-2021). The Foundation became her universal heir. “The Foundation was established in 2000 and I dedicated it to the memory of my father Nando Peretti (1896 - 1977), a great Italian post-war entrepreneur who founded API (Anonima Petroli Italiana) and led it to become one of Italy's leading oil companies. Putting together a group of motivated people to create this foundation was the most important achievement of my life”, said Mrs Elsa Peretti in one of her last interviews with Ticino Welcome Switzerland in September 2020.

The Foundation commits its resources mostly to small and specific projects for the benefit of local communities that also address issues of global relevance, covering topics such as environmental and biodiversity conservation; social inclusion and social welfare, education, the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law, arts, culture or historical preservation health, as well as medical care and scientific research.

Elsa Peretti (1 May 1940 – 18 March 2021) was an Italian jewelry designer and philanthropist as well as a former fashion model. Her jewelry and design pieces for Tiffany & Co., are not only included in the 20th century collection of the British Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, but are still an important part of Tiffany's commercial offer until today.

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