Current research topics
Dynamic Reciprocity in Biomaterials
Dynamic reciprocity, the spatio-temporal bi-directional process between partners in a functional system is not only found in nature, but also applies to supramolecularly assembled materials. The hierarchy, specificity and precision displayed by materials and interactions in biological systems is the result of uniform directionality between the individual components. It is this uniform control over the assembly of building blocks that defines the functional properties of the final architecture. Understanding the interactions between non-covalently bonded molecules is crucial to the successful design and synthesis of self-assembling programmable materials.
The perfect biomaterial or cell-interacting nanoparticle should mimic the cellular environment in structural properties and present the ligands to interact with its biological sparring partner in the optimal spatial arrangement and valency to enable strong and specific binding. Only then, dynamic reciprocity, the instructive and dynamic signaling and adaptation between cell and environment, is ensured. Without the appropriate instructive material environment, cells will not receive the necessary cues to proliferate and differentiate and undergo anoikis. Many examples of self-assembling synthetic extracellular matrices (ECMs) exist, but lack control over spatial positioning of the self-assembling building blocks. The main challenge in biomaterial engineering is to provide an assembly manual to achieve a controlled self-assembly of the material building blocks, to ensure perfect control over spatial positioning of the individual components that construct the biomaterial architecture. Using DNA as programmable biopolymer, our lab aims to demonstrate a novel approach in controlled self-assembly of materials for targeting, labeling, diagnostics and tissue engineering.