Smart polymers perform nano-acrobatics

... For four years, [USER:386|profilelink] and researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University have been developing block copolymers from scratch using recombinant DNA and putting them through biochemical hoops.

The group’s work, published recently in the journal ChemBioChem, involves block copolymers comprising elastin alternating with COMPcc. The former is a pentapeptide whose amino-acid constituents can assemble into a beta spiral structure as a function of temperature, pH, or salinity.

COMPcc, which stands for “cartilage oligomeric matrix protein coil coiled,” is a pentamer arranged as five helixes that can contort into an arrangement that produces a hydrophobic core the way one might create a cylindrical cavity by stacking garden hoses on a deck—thus the odd “coiled coil” nomenclature.

COMPcc has the ability to bind small water-insoluble molecules such as Vitamin D within its hydrophobic core. The possibilities are manifold.

“That central pore can potentially bind chemicals that are hard to deliver as drugs because they are normally not water soluble,” says Montclare.


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