Structure-Property Relationships in Peptide Hydrogels

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Chemistry


Hydrogels are of wide technical and scientific interest because they consist mainly of water, often similar to that of bodily tissue. Hydrogels are used for applications including contact lenses, tissue engineering, drug release, and biosensing. Each of these applications requires gels with different materials properties. The network that traps the water is often polymeric, but recent studies have shown that short peptides can be used, offering advantages with regards to biocompatibility and flexibility of design. Whilst the synthesis and characterisation of many of these peptides and hydrogels formed from them is receiving a significant amount of interest, there is limited understanding linking the properties of the gels formed to the chemical nature of the gelator used. As a result, generating hydrogels for specific applications is a hit-and-miss affair, requiring iterative synthesis and testing. This work focuses on the underpinning science of hydrogel formation from oligopeptides and the development of complete design rules for such materials. Such rules will move the field forward dramatically, establishing design criteria for specific applications and allowing the full exploitation of this exciting technology.


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Chambon P (2011) Poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) branched polymer nanoparticles in Polymer Chemistry

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Chen L (2011) Salt-induced hydrogelation of functionalised-dipeptides at high pH. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

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Chen L (2010) Low molecular weight gelator-dextran composites. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

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Chen L (2010) Energy transfer in self-assembled dipeptide hydrogels. in Chemical communications (Cambridge, England)

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Chen L (2010) Self-assembly mechanism for a naphthalene-dipeptide leading to hydrogelation. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

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Chen L (2010) Effect of molecular structure on the properties of naphthalene-dipeptide hydrogelators. in Langmuir : the ACS journal of surfaces and colloids

Description In this project, we prepared a large library of low molecular weight gelators and were able to link the molecular structure to specific properties of the gels. We linked the pKa of the carboxylic acid to the pH of gelation for example. We were also able to generate the first example of self-sorted dipeptide-based gelators through this understanding.
Exploitation Route Many others are now using our methodology to prepare homogeneous gels. Recent work by Smith (York) for example has also used our approach to make self sorted gels. It is likely that this approach will allow gels with high information density.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Healthcare,Other