Supramolecular materials: from biosensors to cell delivery devices

Dr. Roxanne Kieltyka

Our group designs and synthesizes molecules that self-assemble into polymeric materials using specific non-covalent interactions. These substrates can be used for numerous applications in medicine ranging from disease detection to cell delivery depending on the (bio)molecular design of the self-assembling modules.

Biological systems exploit non-covalent interactions amongst biomolecular units to assemble components with hierarchical structure and collective function. For example, modulation of cell shape, motility, signaling and division is enabled by both on-demand protein monomers into fibrils and their subsequent disassembly back into monomers. By analogy, the field of supramolecular polymers uses monomers pre-encoded with specific non-covalent interactions to orchestrate self-assembly into hierarchical materials with emergent function. These polymers, as a consequence of their non-covalent character, can access properties unattainable by traditional covalent polymers, such as self-healing, responsiveness and adaptivity, with applications ranging from electronics to medicine. In the area of regenerative medicine, such supramolecular materials in the form of hydrogels can be viewed as mimics of the natural extracellular matrix (ECM) being akin to soft tissues due to their high water content, structural integrity and mechanic properties. Moreover, the assembly of supramolecular polymers over several length scales allows them to mimic the inherent hierarchical features of ECM to enable cellular interaction from the macro- to the molecular level.

Research in our group involves the design and synthesis of (bio)supramolecular polymers and explores methods unique to biological building blocks (e.g. peptides, nucleic acids, sugars) to tune their interactions over several length scales in hydrogel materials.  Furthermore, we are highly interested in how synthetic supramolecular materials can be flexibly tuned through biomolecule presentation to mimic aspects of specific cellular microenvironments. In these projects, we aim to tackle important questions in the biomaterials field, such as: how to synthesize materials that are stable and biocompatible, yet can provide a range of mechanical properties to easily replicate a variety of cell niches? Moreover, what are the ideal biomolecules and combinations thereof, to be used in these scaffolds to mediate cellular processes or to modulate cell-cell communication? Research projects within the group are highly interdisciplinary, ranging from synthesis of materials to their characterisation and cell-culture.

  1. Saez Talens, V., P. Englebienne, T.T. Trinh, W.E.M. Noteborn, I.K. Voets, R.E. Kieltyka, "Aromatic Gain in a Supramolecular Polymer", Angewandte Chemie International Edition, vol. 54, issue 36, pp. 10502 - 10506, 09/2015. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201503905
  2. Kieltyka, R.E., A.C.H. Pape, L. Albertazzi, Y. Nakano, M.M.C. Bastings, I.K. Voets, P.Y.W. Dankers, E.W. Meijer, "Mesoscale Modulation of Supramolecular Ureidopyrimidinone-Based Poly(ethylene glycol) Transient Networks in Water", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 135, no. 30, pp. 11159-11164, Jul 31, 2013. DOI: 10.1021/Ja403745w
  3. Bastings, M.M.C., S. Koudstaal, R.E. Kieltyka, Y. Nakano, A.C.H. Pape, D.A.M. Feyen, F.J. van Slochteren, P.A. Doevendans, et al., "A Fast pH-Switchable and Self-Healing Supramolecular Hydrogel Carrier for Guided, Local Catheter Injection in the Infarcted Myocardium", Advanced Healthcare Materials, vol. 3, issue 1, pp. 70 - 78, 01/2014, 2013. DOI: 10.1002/adhm.201300076
  4. Kieltyka, R., J. Fakhoury, N. Moitessier, H. F. Sleiman, "Platinum Phenanthroimidazole Complexes as G-Quadruplex DNA Selective Binders", Chemistry - A European Journal, vol. 14, issue 4, pp. 1145 - 1154, 01/2008. DOI: 10.1002/chem.200700783

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