Synthesizing Versatile Nanomaterials

Scientists in China have developed a method to develop nanomaterials whose shape and properties can be adjusted to mimic biological macromolecules.

AsianScientist (Jan. 10, 2018) – In a study published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a team of scientists in China have devised a method to produce nanomaterials with tunable properties that could be used in biomedical applications.

DNA, RNA, proteins and many polysaccharide-protein conjugates are charged biological macromolecules. They have complex structures with unique functions, making cellular life possible. Not surprisingly, synthetic polyionic assemblies that mimic the properties of the biological macromolecules are expected to serve as ideal platforms for interaction with biology.

With their controllable shape and charge state, polyion complexes (PICs) could serve as active carriers for nucleic acids in gene therapy and for the targeted delivery of drugs. However, the rational design of PICs is still challenging because their structure, final morphology and charge state depend on thousands of thermodynamic and kinetic parameters. Often, shape, reactivity and stability are not reproducible.

In the present study, a team of researchers led by Professor Cai Yuanli of Soochow University in China has developed a versatile, commercially applicable preparation strategy for the production of PIC nanomaterials of various shapes and sizes with tunable morphology.

Building on a method known as polymerization-induced self-assembly which allows the rational synthesis of block copolymer nanoparticles in an aqueous medium, the authors expanded the protocol by introducing a positively charged monomer during the synthesis process. This monomer was polymerized in the presence of a presynthesized polyion of opposite charge and another macromolecule serving as an uncharged copolymer block. The final nanomaterial consisted of defined complexes of the charged polymers and copolymers.

The researchers also observed structural transitions of the synthesized PICs, from vesicles to compartmented vesicles to large-area ultrathin flexible films. These changes in morphology were dependent on the concentration of solids used in the synthesis process.

Moreover, depending on the solvent used, either pore-dense films or extremely long nanowires could be produced. The researchers pointed out that their polymerization-induced electrostatic self-assembly protocol yields high structure reproducibility on a commercially viable scale under eco-friendly aqueous conditions at 25°C. This enables complex nanomaterials with tunable morphology and charge state to be conveniently prepared.

The article can be found at: Ding et al. (2017) Synthesis of Low-Dimensional Polyion Complex Nanomaterials via Polymerization-Induced Electrostatic Self-Assembly.


Source: Wiley; Photo: Shutterstock.
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