This is a clear example of informed discovery, said Stupp, director of the Institute for BioNanotechnology in Medicine. We knew there was something interesting about the interaction between peptide amphiphiles and biopolymers from our previous work on nanostructures that can cause blood vessels to grow. And we were particularly interested in hyaluronic acid because of its role in cartilage, a tissue that adults cannot regenerate and, when damaged in joints, causes grief to humans.
Using just these two molecules, Stupp and his team can make many different structures, the two most important being sacs, which have a solid membrane on the outside and liquid inside, and flat membranes of any shape. The researchers can make the structures large or small, pick up the material with tweezers, stretch it and even easily repair the sacs through self-assembly should the material tear or have some other defect. The sacs also are robust enough to be sutured by surgeons to biological tissues.
The large (hyaluronic acid) and small (peptide amphiphile) molecules come together through supramolecular interactions, not by chemical reaction, in which covalent bonds are formed.
In the case of the flat membrane, the researchers put the peptide amphiphile solution at the bottom of a shallow mold and added on top the hyaluronic acid solution. The two interacted on contact, creating a solid. By varying the mold, the researchers produced a variety of shapes, including stars, triangles and hexagons, each having two chemically different surfaces. When dry, the materials are stiff and strong, like plastic.
In creating a sac, the researchers took advantage of the fact that hyaluronic acid (HA) molecules are larger and heavier than the smaller peptide amphiphile (PA) molecules. In a deep vial, they pou
|Contact: Megan Fellman|