Cyclodextrins are cyclic oligosaccharides consisting of alpha (1,4)-linked D-glucopyranosyl units.
As organic materials they haveimportant advantages: a hydrophobic cavity which can encapsulate molecules such as drugs; relative ease of selective chemical modification compared with other oligosaccharides; availability on an industrial scale. In work by the UCD group, arange of novel amphiphilic and dendrimeric cyclodextrins have been synthesised which form both lyotropic and thermotropic liquid crystals. These cyclodextrins are therefore the first molecules to show the full range of mesogennic properties. The most interesting possibility raised by self assembling host molecules, is that of bridging two chemistries, host-guest and supra molecular, by formation of host-guest complexes within the molecular assemblies.
In addition to these fundamental possibilities, the supramolecular arrays of host-guest molecules have important implications for drug delivery, chiral separations and chiral synthesis. The laboratory's main interest is in the first of these and in the development of host molecular assemblies such as liposomes, which would act as carriers and vectors for the larger and more labile drugs such as peptides and oligonucleotides.