Forum 08/31/2006


Timothy Deming, Professor – Bioengineering Department, UCLA

Similar to small molecule surfactants and lipids, synthetic block copolymers are able to self-assemble into ordered nanostructures via microphase separation of the polymeric components.  However, the ability of block copolymers to assemble into hierarchically structured materials or distinct tertiary structures, similar to those found in biological systems (e.g. proteins) has been limited by the random coiled nature of most common polymers as well as the limited functionality of the polymer domains. For these reasons, we have been studying the self-assembly of block copolypeptides as synthetic materials that possess the ability to aggregate and/or “fold” into specifically defined, functional nanostructures. We have used transition metal initiator technology developed in our group to synthesize the block copolypeptides, and have focused our efforts on the self-assembly of block copolypeptides in solution, primarily employing water as the solvent.  The controlled aggregation of block copolypeptides into discrete ordered structures can yield materials valuable for biomedical applications. Examples would be drug and gene delivery, where the shape of the complexes would favor selective interactions with different biological surfaces.  The synthesis, self-assembly, and properties of different classes of amphiphilic block copolypeptide systems will be presented.  Prospects for the use of these materials in biomedical applications will also be discussed.

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