Protein Hydrogel for Cancer Theranostics

Funded by the Science Fund of the Republic of Serbia –PROMIS program 2020-2022
Implemented by the University of Belgrade –
Faculty of Physical Chemistry

Grant no: 6062285
Duration: July 2020 – December 2022


  • Bringing molecular imaging to the forefront in cancer research
  • Advancing biomedical applications of electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) imaging


  • Design and development of novel methodologies using EPR spectroscopy and imaging for the measurement of albumin hydrogel drug release kinetics and water content, and visualization of albumin hydrogel degradation
  • Design and development of an anticancer drug depot-anchoring albumin hydrogel prototype intended for molecular imaging of treatment response which can enter preclinical trials


Why EPR imaging?

  • Nanomolar detection limit
  • Variable sample volume
  • Experiment time and cost efficiency
  • EPR “active” compounds (spin labels & spin probes) are non-toxic and applicable in vivo
  • Real-time visualization of the hydrogel position, size and shape
  • The image contains information on the redox environment and oxygen concentration


Ana Popović Bijelić, PhD (PI), Miloš Mojović, PhD, Đura Nakarada, PhD, Ana Vesković, MSc, Đorđe Cvjetinović, MSc, Aleksandra Pavićević, PhD, Maja Milojević-Rakić, PhD. 
We are the only EPR team in Serbia which performs in vivo spectroscopy and imaging, and measurements at T = 4K.
Our main lines of research include: Effects of lipophilicity and terminal groups on anticancer drug activities; Liposomes as drug carriers and model membranes; PLGA nanoparticles for drug delivery; In vivo spectroscopy and imaging of oxidative status in Alzheimer’s disease and ALS; Metal content of brain tissue.


1. A. Vesković, D. Bajuk-Bogdanović, V. B. Arion, A. Popović Bijelić, Spectroscopic characterization of the binding and release of hydrophilic, hydrophobic and amphiphilic molecules from ovalbumin supramolecular hydrogels, Gels 2023, 9, 14,

2. A. Vesković, Đ. Nakarada, O. Vasiljević, A. Dobrov, G. Spengler, É. A. Enyedy, V. B. Arion, A. Popović Bijelić, The release of a highly cytotoxic paullone bearing a TEMPO free radical from the HSA hydrogel: an EPR spectroscopic characterization, Pharmaceutics 2022, 14, 1174,

3. A. Vesković, Đ. Nakarada, A. Popović Bijelić, A novel methodology for hydrogel water content determination by EPR: the basis for real-time monitoring of controlled drug release and hydrogel swelling and degradation, Polymer Testing 2021, 98, 107187,

4. A. Vesković, Đ. Nakarada, A. Popović Bijelić, Fatty acid binding to ovalbumin studied by EPR, Regional Biophysics Conference RBC 2022, 22-26 August 2022, Pécs, Hungary, abstract.

5. A. Vesković, Đ. Nakarada, A. Popović Bijelić, Spin-labeled hydrogels for cell viability assessment by EPR, Free Radical Biology and Medicine 2021, Volume 177, Supplement 1, S76, Part of Special issue: Free Radical Research Europe (SFRR-E) Annual Meeting Abstracts “Redox biology in the 21st century: a new scientific discipline” 15-18 June 2021, Belgrade, Serbia.

6. Đ. Nakarada, A. Vesković, A. Dobrov, V. B. Arion, A. Popović Bijelić, BSA hydrogels for EPR spin-labeled anticancer drug delivery, 31st Conference of the European Society for Biomaterials (ESB2021), Porto, Portugal, 5-9 September, 2021, abstract #1170.

7. Đ. Nakarada, V. Trajković, M. Mojović, Antiradical activity of graphene quantum dots enriched albumin hydrogel: An EPR study, 19th Young Researchers` Conference – Materials Science and Engineering, Belgrade, Serbia, 1-3 December 2021, 1-2, abstract #1-2.


Malvern Zetasizer Nano ZS ZEN 3600, for the measurement of particle size and zeta potential.


Ana Popović Bijelić, PhD, associate professor


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