Prof. Helma Wennemers


Collagen, Lysyl oxidases, Organic synthesis, Peptides, Synthetic materials

What we investigate

Our laboratory uses organic synthesis to tackle questions in the chemistry and biology of collagen. In particular, we are developing collagen peptides to understand the stability of collagen at the molecular level and explore applications in wound healing and the diagnosis of fibrosis.

Our research in more detail

Abbildung Wennemers
Abbildung Wennemers
Left: Example of a synthetic collagen peptide derivatized with a functional group. R could, for example, be an anti-inflammatory agent. Right: Colocalization of a synthetic collagen peptide with collagen III in mouse tissue (picture by Dr. Paul Hiebert & Prof. Sabine Werner).

Collagens are the most abundant proteins in mammals and provide skin, bones, and connective tissue with stability. We have developed synthetic collagen peptides to gain a fundamental understanding of collagen at the molecular level. Over the past years we established collagen peptides that can be derivatized at will with one or more functional moiety. This “toolkit” includes pH-responsive synthetic collagen, hyperstable cross-linked collagen triple helices and programmable heterotrimeric collagen.
Our future studies will focus on using our synthetic tools to influence and monitor tissue repair and maturation. For example, we use our reactive collagen peptides for monitoring and targeting tissue remodeling that is initiated by lysyl oxidases (LOX). These enzymes are responsible for the cross-linking of collagen, a process that increases the strength and stability of the collagen matrix. Abnormal LOX activity is, however, associated with impaired tissue function and repair, and with fibrotic diseases and malignancies. We anticipate that our studies will improve understanding of collagen remodeling and provide technological opportunities for the early diagnosis of fibrotic disorders and their treatment. Collaborations with experts in wound healing, tissue engineering, and histology will help to translate our research results into the clinic.

Selected publications

SKINTEGRITY.CH Principal Investigators are underlined:

  • Hentzen NB, Islami V, Köhler M, Zenobi R, and Wennemers H (2020). A Lateral Salt Bridge for the Specific Assembly of an ABC-Type Collagen Heterotrimer. J Am Chem Soc 142, 2208.
  • Aronoff MR, Egli J, Menichelli M, and Wennemers H (2019). γAzaproline Confers pH-Responsiveness and Functionalizability on Collagen Triple Helices. Angew Chem Int Ed 58, 3143.
  • Egli J, Siebler C, Köhler M, Zenobi R, Wennemers H* (2019). Hydrophobic Moieties Bestow Fast-Folding and Hyperstability on Collagen Triple Helices. J Am Chem Soc 141, 5607.
  • Hentzen NB, Smeenk LEJ, Witek J, Riniker S, and Wennemers H (2017). Cross-Linked Collagen Triple Helices by Oxime Ligation. J Am Chem Soc 139, 12815.
  • Aronoff MR, and Wennemers H (2020). Compounds and Methods for Amine Oxidase Imaging. EP 19213787.5, European patent pending.