Protein Cage Biohybrid Materials
The self-assembly of biomolecules such as the coat proteins (CP) of virus capsids and other protein cages offer great opportunities in nanotechnology and nanomedicine, leading to monodisperse platforms where different chemical species can be organized through covalent or non-covalent bonding. Yet, because the covalent approach for the modification of virus capsids is still a demanding task, efficient and straightforward supramolecular strategies are highly desirable. In this direction, we search for hierarchical and cooperative processes in which self-assembled organic functional materials serve as templates for the assembly of different viral CP around them. In such processes, the structure of the self-assembled templates determines the size and geometry of the resulting virus-like particles (VLP), while confinement within the VLP also determines the structure of the functional self-assemblies.
People currently involved: Verónica Almeida (PhD, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Phthalocyanine-Based Biohybrid Materials
Phthalocyanines (Pc) are an important class of non-natural organic pigments that have received considerable attention in the last decades. Due to their extended conjugation, these macrocyclic aromatic systems absorb intensely in the 700 nm spectral region. As a consequence, the energy of the resulting photoinduced excited states can be utilized for different applications, e.g., PDT and organic photovoltaics. Yet, for their use, the incorporation of Pc into different nanostructures is highly desirable, because it will provide them with new optoelectronic properties, as well as with the capacity to travel and be delivered within biological tissues.
In this respect, one of our main goals (with Prof. Tomás Torres) is to develop novel methodologies to prepare Pc with adequate solubility features and functional groups for their attachment to different nanostructures. The goal is to obtain a set of powerful and versatile synthons for the organization of Pc in protein cages, micelles, dendrimers, carbon nanotubes and inorganic nanoparticles, traditionally used as drug carriers. With this strategy, the transport of the photosensitizer to the diseased tissue, in PDT treatments, benefits from the biocompatibility imparted by the mentioned nanocarriers and their specific interaction with target cells.
People currently involved: Eveline van de Winckel (PhD, email@example.com)
Former Researchers: Eduardo Anaya Plaza (PhD, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The study of complex molecular networks is a clear objective of the field so-called Systems Chemistry, which is expected to have a great impact in the area of origins-of-life research as well as in materials science. We are starting to explore this field from both a theoretical and an experimental point of view. Concerning the origins of life, we have developed various theoretical contributions about prebiotic systems chemistry, pointing out the potential of this systems perspective at every level of the biogenesis process. Experimentally, a pertinent question is whether artificial cells could be constructed from non-natural components. In order to provide clues about this question, we have started research lines on nucleic acid analogues, metabolic networks based on chemistries different from the current biochemistry, and protein compartments instead of lipid membranes. The study and combination of these components is an interesting approach because it allows exploring some properties of life without the restrictions of the historical pathway that Darwinian evolution took.
People involved: Sara Morales Reina (Postdoc, email@example.com)
Isabel de la Torre (Master, firstname.lastname@example.org)