Tanja Weil

Supramolecular Biomaterials – From Molecular Design to Biomedical Applications 

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Ackermannweg 10, 55128 Mainz, Germany, weil@mpip-mainz.mpg.de

The extracellular matrix (EM) forms a complex, supportive environment for cells providing mechanical and biochemical cues, and enabling cells to communicate.(1) Evolution has created these unique heterogeneous matrices with inner structure and various functional entities that control e.g. pathogen binding and stimulate cell growth and division. We focus on the synthesis of peptide-polymer biomaterials that can serve as synthetic EM-mimicking environments by forming 3D fibril networks (2) or soft polymers with inner fibril structure (3). Rational optimization of monomer sequences and fibril morphologies facilitated dynamic supramolecular networks supporting neuronal cells growth in vitro and vivo (4) as well as pathogen binding (5). Responsiveness towards various stimuli such as pH changes, light and reactive oxygen species was implemented at the molecular level into the biopolymer sequences. In this way, materials properties were optimized towards enhanced bioactivity and customized for their respective microenvironments for e.g. local drug delivery (5), which offers new avenues for cancer therapy, cell and tissue engineering.