Bioinspired polymer vesicles and membranes for biological and medical applications
Biological membranes play an essential role in living organisms by providing stable and functional compartments, preserving cell architecture, whilst supporting signalling and selective transport that are mediated by a variety of proteins embedded in the membrane. However, mimicking cell membranes – to be applied in artificial systems – is very challenging because of the vast complexity of biological structures. In this respect a highly promising strategy to designing multifunctional hybrid materials/systems is to combine biological molecules with polymer membranes or to design membranes with intrinsic stimuli-responsive properties. Here we present supramolecular polymer assemblies resulting from self-assembly of mostly amphiphilic copolymers either as 3D compartments (polymersomes, PICsomes, peptosomes), or as planar membranes (free-standing films, solid-supported membranes, membrane-mimetic brushes). In a bioinspired strategy, such synthetic assemblies decorated with biomolecules by insertion/encapsulation/attachment, serve for development of multifunctional systems. In addition, when the assemblies are stimuli-responsive, their architecture and properties change in the presence of stimuli, and release a cargo or allow “on demand” a specific in situ reaction. Relevant examples are included for an overview of bioinspired polymer compartments with nanometre sizes and membranes as candidates in applications ranging from drug delivery systems, up to artificial organelles, or active surfaces. Both the advantages of using polymer supramolecular assemblies and their present limitations are included to serve as a basis for future improvements.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Bioinspired Surfaces and Materials