Contrary to the macroscopic world, the engineering of integrated systems at molecular level imposes a complex scenario of requirements, especially for assembling biotic and abiotic components with the dual aim; to preserve the specific functionality of each entity, and to induce new functionalities and properties serving a final desired application.
A variety of molecular entities such as membranes, self-adapting vesicles, and biological molecules (enzymes, proteins, mimics) can be combined to design hybrid supramolecular assemblies with multifunctionality and emerging properties. Our aim is to organize nanometer sized assemblies, such as polymer vesicles, into clusters/networks with controllable size and tunable biological properties.
We rely on molecular recognition interactions, as for example on DNA hybridization to interconnect vesicles. In addition, we use the non-hybridized single strand-DNA as a molecular anchor to bind the clusters selectively to the cell surface. Each polymer vesicle can be tailored to include biologically relevant enzymes, substrates, active molecules and membrane pores to allow communication between the compartments and cascade reactions inside. Such clusters/networks will be evaluated in vitro and in vivo to establish their interactions with cells, their stability and functionality for desired bio-applications.
Collaborations within NCCR with other research groups with competences in polymer chemistry, inorganic chemistry, molecular biology, metabolic engineering and characterization methods for complex systems/reactions will be essential for a complete design and characterization of such hybrid systems. Our platform represents an important step for development of molecular factories because it has a high potential for biological applications, such as protein therapy or active templates for regenerative medicine.