Whether a cell adheres to the extracellular matrix, or biological signals propagate within and between cells, highly selective interactions occur between the molecular ‘partners’ that materialize the process. Supramolecular chemistry studies the basic features of these interactions (knowledge) and their implementation for the design of non-natural systems (technology). This field bridges molecular chemistry and physics with biology, providing a interdisciplinary platform to understand biological structure (self-assembly) and function (recognition, reactivity and transport).
Peptides that self-assemble in ordered nanostructures are a particular case of supramolecular chemistry. Peptides possess the biocompatibility and chemical diversity found in proteins, being particularly interesting for regenerative medicine and nanomedicine. Until now, peptide self-assembly systems have been studied individually. However, biological structures form in highly dense and heterogeneous molecular environments, such as the cytosol and extracellular matrix. The main scientific objective of this project is to recreate part of this complexity, by creating multi-component peptide self-assembly systems that form independent nano-assemblies in the same physical space. These systems will be used to provide technological solutions for the regeneration of ischemic neuronal tissues (artificial extracellular matrix) and the refined release of growth factors (capsules).
These systems are also designed to be intermediate steps towards much more challenging future career objectives, namely cell-like bioreactors with the ability of protein production, self-maintenance or, even, self-replication. The beauty of this endeavor is that in the way towards such challenging scientific objectives, quite promising technological solutions can be derived, benefiting mankind health and welfare in ways that at the moment can just be painted with the faint colors of our imagination.
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