Polymeric vesicles with topologically controlled functionalities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Materials Science and Engineering


We present here an example of nature-inspired 'bottom-up' design that can offer outstanding advantages for engineering structures at a molecular level based on the same long/studied principles of biological structures. We use synthetic materials know as copolymers that have allowed us the design of very robust structures with sizes of hundreds of nanometers (1000 times smaller than human hair). The simplest among these structures formed by copolymers is the vesicle. This is spherical aggregate made of a water core surrounded by a semi-permeable membrane. These nano-spheres have already been used for encapsulating drugs and other molecules. These are then delivered to specific parts of the body so as to minimize drug side-effects. Here we want to expand further the molecular level control by studying the possibility of generating vesicles with patched surfaces. These patches will allow the localization of specific functionalities. Particularly, we present two different immediate applications: vesicles with controlled porosity and self-motile vesicles. In the former, the patches will allow the controlled degradation and formation of stable pores into the vesicles membranes. In the latter, we will generate vesicles with an asymmetric distribution of functional groups. These will subsequently used for attaching molecular motors. This will be the first attempt for designing self-propelled nano-particles.


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Battaglia G (2011) Wet nanoscale imaging and testing of polymersomes. in Small (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)

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LoPresti C (2009) Polymersomes: nature inspired nanometer sized compartments in Journal of Materials Chemistry

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Massignani M (2009) Controlling cellular uptake by surface chemistry, size, and surface topology at the nanoscale. in Small (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)

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Ruiz-PĂ©rez L (2018) Separating Extreme pH Gradients Using Amphiphilic Copolymer Membranes. in Chemphyschem : a European journal of chemical physics and physical chemistry

Description Outcome were submitted in the Je-s form This grant has set the basis for the follow on studies these include several physicochemical design of new polymersome as well as their translation into clinical applications
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Chemicals,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Biocompatibles UK Ltd 
Organisation BTG
Department Biocompatibles
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have had 1 PDRA and 2 PhD project sponsored by this company as well as to establish a EPSRC Partnership
Collaborator Contribution Commercialisation and technology transfer
Impact Commercial product CeLluminate sold for two years (now due to company restructuring, the product is not longer sold)
Start Year 2007