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SQI: Simpson Querry Institute

Read about amazing dynamic bio-inspired materials

Soft structures in nature such as protein assemblies can organize reversibly into functional and often hierarchical architectures through noncovalent interactions. Molecularly encoding this dynamic capability in synthetic materials has remained an elusive goal. “Reversible Self-Assembly of Superstructured Networks” published in Science, reports on bio-inspired materials with dynamic properties developed in Samuel Stupp’s lab.

The hydrogels of peptide-DNA conjugates or peptides organize into superstructures of intertwined filaments that disassemble upon the addition of molecules or changes in charge density. Experiments and simulations demonstrate that this response requires large-scale spatial redistribution of molecules directed by strong noncovalent interactions among them. Simulations performed by Erik Luijten’s group also suggest that the chemically reversible structures can only occur within a limited range of supramolecular cohesive energies. Mechanical properties of the hydrogels change reversibly as superstructures form and disappear, as does the phenotype of neural cells in contact with these materials.

The experimental work was funded primarily by the US Department of Energy and the computational work by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Additional support for the synthesis and characterization of peptide-DNA conjugates was provided by the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science  (CBES), an Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC) funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science. Biological experiments were funded by the Center for Regenerative Nanomedicine at the Simpson Querrey Institute. View published study.