Modular and orthogonal synthesis of hybrid polymers and networks
Biomaterials scientists strive to develop polymeric materials with distinct chemical make-up, complex molecular architectures, robust mechanical properties and defined biological functions by drawing inspirations from biological systems. Salient features of biological designs include (1) repetitive presentation of basic motifs; and (2) efficient integration of diverse building blocks. Thus, an appealing approach to biomaterials synthesis is to combine synthetic and natural building blocks in a modular fashion employing novel chemical methods. Over the past decade, orthogonal chemistries have become powerful enabling tools for the modular synthesis of advanced biomaterials. These reactions require building blocks with complementary functionalities, occur under mild conditions in the presence of biological molecules and living cells and proceed with high yield and exceptional selectivity. These chemistries have facilitated the construction of complex polymers and networks in a step-growth fashion, allowing facile modulation of materials properties by simple variations of the building blocks. In this review, we first summarize features of several types of orthogonal chemistries. We then discuss recent progress in the synthesis of step growth linear polymers, dendrimers and networks that find application in drug delivery, 3D cell culture and tissue engineering. Overall, orthogonal reactions and modulular synthesis have not only minimized the steps needed for the desired chemical transformations but also maximized the diversity and functionality of the final products. The modular nature of the design, combined with the potential synergistic effect of the hybrid system, will likely result in novel hydrogel matrices with robust structures and defined functions.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2015 Emerging Investigators