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Julian Thiele Group

Active soft matter and biomaterials by multi-scale polymer processing

Portrait Julian Thiele

© IPF, Jörg Simanowski

As interdisciplinary research group, the AG Thiele is interested in mimicking, manipulating and optimizing cellular functions and their environment utilizing multiscale polymer systems. A particular focus is on the tailored buildup of functionality, stimuli-sensitivity and adaptivity on the nanoscale by synthesizing monomers and macromers linked to biomacro- or sensor molecules. Followed by translating this molecule basis via innovative material processing strategies like high-resolution additive manufacturing and microfluidics into micro- and mesoscale materials, multiscale control over physicochemical and mechanical properties comes to live. Polymer structures emerging from this approach serve as reaction volume for cell-inspired drug synthesis, to study protein crowding linked to gene expression or act as force sensors, and multiparametric cell cultures. On this account, the AG Thiele has become part of the European Synthetic Cell community, which is based on the idea to build cells from their basic components.

In the future, by linking life sciences, polymer synthesis and processing as well as physicochemical-mechanical characterization methods, the AG Thiele aims to provide an in-depth understanding of structure-function relations in cellular life, and also push forward the system integration of functional polymer materials. For that, concepts are required that do not merely control material properties on a single length scale. Instead, for a comprehensive discussion of processes and interactions in a synthetic and natural environment, several length scales and the time axis have to be considered. Examples of such materials from the AG Thiele’s research include cell-sized polymer microgels that enable sustained operation of complex enzymatic cascades (e.g., for producing polyketides) and cell-free protein synthesis derived from E. coli.

Julian Thiele Research: Figure 1
Figure 1: Multi-scale material processing as key expertise of the Thiele Group
Julian Thiele Research: Figure 2
Figure 2: Examples of previous research projects of the Thiele Group

Future Projects and Goals

  • Dynamic regulation of protein synthesis in polymer microgels
  • Biocompatible photopolymer formulations for high-resolution 3D printing
  • Sustainable sources for additive manufacturing of adaptive-functional materials
  • Elucidating self-organization and emergence of form in living matter
  • Hierarchical microgel networks and multi-parametric cell culturing
  • Particulate formulations for bioplotting

Methodological and Technical Expertise

  • Microfluidics (device fabrication, integrated functional elements, bioreactors)
  • Polymer hydrogels (microfluidic design of microgels)
  • High-resolution additive manufacturing based on projection-microstereolithography and bioplotting (leading the Leibniz Application Lab Additive Manufacturing/3D printing)
  • 2D/3D Fluorescence microscopy (time-lapse imaging, FRAP)
  • Functional cell lysates for cell-free protein synthesis


Since 2017
TU Dresden Young Investigator

Since 2015
Independent research group leader “Polymer Micro-Bioreactors”, Leibniz IPF Dresden

Senior researcher at the Max Bergmann Center of Biomaterials (AG Cuniberti), TU Dresden

Humboldt fellow at the Institute of Molecules and Materials (AG Huck), Radboud University Nijmegen

PhD in Physical Chemistry, Bayreuth University

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Selected Publications

N. Weigel, M. J. Männel, J. Thiele
Flexible materials for high-resolution 3D printing of microfluidic devices with integrated droplet size regulation
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 13, 31086 (2021)

Y. Li, M. J. Männel, N. Hauck, H. P. Patel, G. K. Auernhammer, S. Chae, A. Fery, J. Li, J. Thiele
Embedment of quantum dots and biomolecules in an in-situ formed dipeptide hydrogel using microfluidics
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 60, 6724 (2021)

T. Köhler, T. Heida, S. Hoefgen, N. Weigel, V. Valiante, J. Thiele
Cell-free protein synthesis and in situ immobilization of deGFP-MatB in polymer microgels for malonate-to-malonyl CoA conversion
RSC Adv. 10, 40588 (2020)

T. Heida, T. Köhler, A. Kaufmann, M. J. Männel, J. Thiele
Cell-free protein synthesis in bifunctional hyaluronan hydrogel particles: A strategy for in situ immobilization and purification of His-tagged proteins
ChemSystemsChem 2, e1900058(2020)

J. W. Neubauer, N. Hauck, M. J. Männel, A. Fery, J. Thiele
Mechanoresponsive hydrogel particles as a platform for 3D-force sensing
ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 11, 26307 (2019)


Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research (IPF)
Hohe Strasse 6
01069 Dresden