Design of Bio-active Supramolecular Polymers


Self-assembly is emerging as a powerful tool to create chemical structures with broad
applications in material science, molecular electronics and medicine. Nature makes a
extensive use of this non-covalent approach and represents a source of inspiration for
the creation of synthetic assemblies for biomedical applications. However, the application
of synthetic supramolecular materials in the biological environment is still challenging: a
general principle for the design of supramolecular structures able to perform a specific
function in living cells is lacking. A relevant hurdle towards this goal is the lack of
techniques able to provide information at the molecular level about the behavior of
supramolecular structures in the complex biological environment.
Within this proposal I'll prepare synthetic 1-dimensional self-assembled structures, i.e.
supramolecular polymers, and study their behavior in the biological setting with
advanced microscopy techniques. Recent in vitro studies showed that supramolecular
polymers are endowed with desirable properties such as modularity, multivalency,
dynamics and adaptivity. I aim at the design of structures able to exert these properties
to interact in a controlled and specific fashion with living cells to achieve a therapeutic
effect. Three main biological applications are envisioned in this proposal: i) adaptive
binding and inhibition of virues; ii) drug and gene delivery and iii) membrane binding and
manipulation. These medically relevant issues are the setting in which the behavior and
the performances of supramolecular polymers will be studied. To obtain a full picture of
structure-activity relationship, super-resolution microscopy will be employed. This
technique, initially designed to study biological assemblies, will be tailored to study the
structure and the functionality of synthetic architectures in vitro and in living cells.
The output will be a deep understanding of the behavior of self-assembled architectures
in the biological environment, leading to novel principles towards the design of materials
for relevant biomedical applications.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. L. Albertazzi

Affiliated with

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Faculteit Biomedische Technologie, Institute for Complex Molecular Systems (ICMS)

Team members

Dr. L. Albertazzi


01/12/2014 to 31/12/2015