Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cellular Construction Methods Emulated

Versatile compartmentalized nanostructures by orthogonal aggregation of surfactants and gelators

Not only is our body made of individual organs, our cells themselves are made of tiny organelles, a variety of separate compartments that fulfill different tasks. Such functional, nanostructured systems would also be useful for technical applications, such as biosensors, self-repairing materials, optoelectronic components, or nanocapsules.

However, it has not been possible to recreate structures with sufficient complexity in the lab. Researchers in the Netherlands, led by Jan van Esch at the Universities of Delft and Groningen as well as the BioMaDe Technology Foundation, are now pursuing a new angle. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they allow surfactants and gelators to form aggregates. These aggregates coexist without interfering with each other and thus make versatile, highly complex structures with separate compartments.

Cells contain various components, such as channels, “motors”, structural frameworks (cytoskeleton), and “power plants” (mitochondria). In order for these to form, their building blocks, mainly proteins and lipids, must “recognize” each other and form the correct assembly by self-aggregation. In addition, it is critical that compatible components do not separate into different phases: when proteins fold, the water-loving (hydrophilic) and water-repellent (hydrophobic) parts of the molecule stay far away from each other and aggregate with “like-minded” components. Biomembranes are formed when many small lipid molecules aggregate such that their hydrophobic “tails” face inward together and their hydrophilic “heads” point outward toward the aqueous medium.

The Dutch team imitated this concept by using two types of self-aggregating compounds: surfactants and gelators. Like the lipids in natural membranes, surfactants have a hydrophilic segment and a hydrophobic segment and aggregate into structures such as membrane-like double layers or vesicles (bubbles). To imitate the forces involved in protein folding—hydrogen-bridge bonds and hydrophobic interactions—the team used a disk-shaped gelator, in which hydrophobic and hydrophilic molecular components alternate in concentric rings. Just as for proteins, like attracts like. This causes the disks to stack together into columns, which forms long fibers, generating a three-dimensional network in the solution to make a gel.

The researchers allow their surfactants and gelators to aggregate together. In this process, the different components take no notice of each other. This independent formation of different supramolecular structures within a single system is called orthogonal self-aggregation. This results in the formation of novel, complex, compartmentalized architectures, for example, interpenetrating but independent networks or vesicle configurations that coexist with gel fibers.

Author: Jan van Esch, University of Delft (The Netherlands),

Title: Preparation of Nanostructures by Orthogonal Self-Assembly of Hydrogelators and Surfactants

Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2008, 47, No. 11, 2063–2066, doi: 10.1002/anie.200704609

Jan van Esch | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:

Further reports about: Components Gelator Lipid hydrophilic hydrophobic surfactants

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>