Initiators for Block-Copolypeptide Synthesis
BACKGROUND: Amino acid-N-carboxyanhydride (NCA) polymerizations employing conventional initiators (e.g. hexylamine or sodium methoxide) are plagued by chain-breaking transfer and termination reactions which prevent the formation of block copolymers. The mechanisms of NCA polymerization have been under intensive study to find a method for enhancing control over chain growth in these reactions. These investigations have been severely hindered by the complexity of the polymerizations, which can proceed through multiple pathways.
DESCRIPTION: A scientist at the University of California has developed a series of initiators for the polymerization of NCAs into block copolypeptides. These initiators eliminate chain-transfer and chain-termination side reactions from the polymerization so that block copolymers of amino acids can be prepared.
APPLICATIONS: The features of these initiators allow the preparation of complex biomaterials which have potential applications in biology, chemistry, physics and materials engineering. More specifically, these biomaterials can be used in areas such as:
* Drug delivery;
* Tissue engineering;
* "Smart" hydrogels (environmentally responsive organic materials);
* Organic or inorganic biomimetic composites such as artificial bone or high performance coatings;
* Models for protein folding or assembly.
ADVANTAGES: These initiators:
* Eliminate chain-transfer and chain-termination side reactions from these polymerizations resulting in narrow molecular-weight distributions, molecular-weight control, and the ability to prepare copolymers of defined sequence and composition;
* Are readily prepared in a single step from commercially-available materials;
* Enable the preparation of large quantities of high molecular-weight polypeptides (molar masses up to 500,000 g/mol) with well-defined architectures;
* Are complementary to solid-phase peptide-synthesis techniques routinely used by scientists for the preparation of small oligopeptide sequences (generally less than 30 amino acid residues).
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