Archive for the ‘Paper of the Month’ Category

Paper of the month: Poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(vinyl acetate) block copolymer particles with various morphologies via RAFT/MADIX aqueous emulsion PISA

D’Agosto, Lansalot and co-workers report the synthesis of nanoparticles with various shapes through the RAFT/MADIX PISA polymerization of vinyl acetate.

 

 

Polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA) is a widely used technique that allows access to the formation of a range of polymeric nanoparticles including spheres, worms and vesicles. Although this methodology has been very successful with dispersion polymerizations, emulsion polymerization systems are mostly limited to the preparation of spherical particles. Poly(vinyl acetate) latexes are obtained by emulsion polymerization and find use in many industrial applications but yet, the preparation of higher ordered morphologies remains challenging. D’Agosto, Lansalot and co-workers were able to circumvent this by conducting the emulsion polymerization of vinyl acetate at higher temperatures anticipating that this would not only lead to much faster reaction kinetics but also to the softening of the polymeric nanoparticles allowing for increased flexibility and rearrangements. Indeed, the aqueous macromolecular design via interchange of xanthate (MADIX)-mediated emulsion polymerization of vinyl acetate from a poly(ethylene glycol) with a xanthate chain-end macro-CTA led to well-controlled polymerizations with high blocking efficiency accompanied with the formation of stable latexes. By judiciously adjusting the targeted degree of polymerization, the authors triggered for the first time the morphological transformation from spherical to higher ordered morphologies and observed the formation of vesicles (with different sizes) as well as worm-like nanoparticles. In particular, the worm-like morphology could alternatively be observed by increasing the solid content from 10 to 15 wt%. The data was supported by very nice cryo-TEM images which depicted all the discussed morphologies. The range of obtained shapes were attributed to the high water solubility of vinyl acetate combined with the low Tg of PVAc. The presented elegant findings enhance our fundamental understanding on emulsion PISA systems where polymerization temperature and solid content significantly affect the resulting morphology.

 

 

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

 

  1. The polymerization takes place above the Tg of the forming PVAc block, which seems to be key for accessing non spherical morphologies in VAc PISA.
  2. PEG-b-PVAc block copolymers are obtained in very short times.
  3. This system provides an interesting medium for investigating the impact of several parameters on the morphologies obtained through PISA processes.
  4. Extension of this strategy to other non-activated monomers, for instance in the copolymerization of vinyl acetate and ethylene, seems accessible.

 

 

Citation to the paper: Poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(vinyl acetate) block copolymer particles with various morphologies via RAFT/MADIX aqueous emulsion PISA, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 3922-3930, DOI: 10.1039/d0py00467g

 

Link to the paper:

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2020/py/d0py00467g

 

Read more papers on PISA in our Polymerisation-Induced Self Assembly themed collection here!

 

About the web writer:

Professor Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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Paper of the month: A general method to greatly enhance ultrasound-responsiveness for common polymeric assemblies

Dou and co-workers report a new way to improve ultrasound responsiveness in polymeric self-assemblies.

Image describing the work presented

Polymer assemblies or nanoparticles hold great potential to improve diagnosis and treatment of diseases by encapsulating chemotherapeutic or imaging agents with masked toxicity and triggerring release at target sites. To release encapsulated agents, polymer assemblies are often composed of specific stimuli-responsive polymers that can change their properties upon response to external stimuli such as pH, temperature, light, redox, magnetic, and ultrasound. However, this approach limits the components of polymer nanoparticles to stimuli-responsive polymers. In this work, Chen and co-workers elegantly crosslink a common non-responsive diblock copolymer using an ultrasound-responsive crosslinker, followed by the preparation of polymer assemblies that can dissociate under gentle ultrasound treatment. In particular, the photodimerization of coumarin groups under UV irradiation (365 nm) triggered the crosslinking, and a subsequent ultrasound treatment (5 min treatment by the ultrasound of 20-25 kHz at 32.5 W) dissociated the resultant polymer nanoparticles. Interestingly, this strategy could be successfully applied to not only spherical micelles but also worms and vesicles. The use of ultrasound-responsive crosslinker reported in this work paves the way for synthesizing ultrasound-responsive polymer nanoparticles from any block copolymer (not limited to a few ultrasound-responsive copolymers), thus representing a major step forward in the synthesis of smart polymer nanoparticles for biological science and technology.

Read this article for FREE until 15th July!

Citation to the paper: A general method to greatly enhance ultrasound-responsiveness for common polymeric assemblies, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 3296-3304, DOI: 10.1039/d0py00254b

You can read the paper here.

About the web writer

Professor Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

 

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Paper of the month: A polymerization-induced self-assembly process for all-styrenic nano-objects using the living anionic polymerization mechanism

Wang and co-workers report an anionic polymerization combined with polymerization-induced self-assembly.

Schematic of LAP PISA process based on these all styrenic diblock copolymers and example TEM images on nano-objects

Polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA) is arguably one of the most versatile and robust self-assembly methodologies and has been extensively evolved over the last decade to produce nanomaterials of various shapes. However, the vast majority of reported PISA methods employ a controlled radical polymerization strategy such as reversible addition–fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization while low activated monomers such as styrenics are not frequently utilized. In this work, Wang and co-workers elegantly combine living anionic polymerization (LAP) with PISA to afford the facile and quantitative synthesis of spherical and worm-like nanoparticles. In particular, poly(p-tert-butylstyrene)-b-polystyrene was used as a model diblock copolymer and the polymerization was performed in heptane, a good solvent for the first block and a poorer solvent for the polystyrene segment. This formulation allowed the first monomer to polymerize in a homogenous system while the formation of the second block was performed under heterogeneous conditions. Importantly, all diblock copolymers synthesized exhibited narrow molecular weight distributions thus demonstrating excellent control over the polymerization. By adjusting the solid content and the molecular weight of each block, the authors were able to attain spheres, vesicles and worms at relatively high purity. To increase reproducibility, the authors also constructed a detailed phase diagram, where the exact location of each morphology was shown. Overall, it was demonstrated that LAP can be successfully combined with PISA therefore expanding PISA formulations beyond controlled radical polymerization.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

  1. All-styrenic monomers with relatively low activity were firstly introduced into the PISA system and can be completely converted in the LAP PISA system with a rapid polymerization rate.
  2. The typical self-assembled morphologies, such as the spherical, worm-like and vesicular micelles, can also be captured in the LAP PISA system.
  3. Due to the excellent control on the molecular weight and structure of polymers in the LAP process, the nano-objects formed in the LAP PISA process were featuring with uniform sizes and morphologies.
  4. The molecular weights of each block and solids content have important influence on the LAP PISA process.
  5. The LAP PISA process can be performed in a large scale, and the potential industrial application is hoped to be explored for some novel nanomaterials in the future.

Read this article for FREE until 11th June!

Citation to the paper: A polymerization-induced self-assembly process for all-styrenic nano-objects using the living anionic polymerization mechanism, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 2635-2639, DOI: 10.1039/d0py00296h

Link to the paper:

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2020/py/d0py00296h

About the web writer

Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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Paper of the month: Organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) using triarylsulfonium hexafluorophosphate salt (THS) as a photocatalyst

Lei and co-workers report an inexpensive organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization.

Organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP), also referred to as metal-free ATRP, has emerged over the last few years as an alternative to copper mediated ATRP in order to address the issue of metal contamination on the final polymers. In their current contribution, Lei and co-workers introduce triarylsulfonium hexafluorophosphate salt (THS) as an organic and inexpensive photocatalyst for ATRP of methacrylic monomers. The authors demonstrate exceptional temporal control with the polymerization completely stopping during the dark periods. Importantly, by adding sodium hydroxide, a significant acceleration over the polymerization rate was observed reaching relatively high conversions and narrow molecular weight distributions (Đ = 1.26–1.32). Block-copolymers were also possible, thus demonstrating high end-group fidelity. Last but not least, polymer brushes could also be prepared in an efficient manner on silicon wafer by utilizing surface-initiated ATRP in the presence of THS as a photocatalyst. Overall, the presented strategy is particularly attractive owing to the use of inexpensive compounds, the absence of metals and the mild temperatures employed. As the authors remark in the conclusions, such metal-free polymers may find interesting applications in the pharmaceutical, biomedical and food industries.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

  1. This organocatalyzed-ATRP system is easy to operate. It does not need to undergo freeze-pump-thaw cycles.
  2. Temperature is an important factor for this organocatalyzed-ATRP system. Polymerization rate will be higher in summer and lower in winter unless you use an oil bath to have the temperature fixed.
  3. Due to the poor solubility of THS in water, aqueous media cannot be used as a solvent for this organocatalyzed-ATRP.
  4. When polymers with high molecular weights were synthesized by this system, the molecular weights were often lower than the theoretic values.
  5. In order to more effectively neutralize the free H+ generated by the rearrangement of triarylsulfonium hexafluorophosphate salt (THS), the use of powdered sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is a good choice.

Read this article for FREE until 12th May!

Citation to the paper: Organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) using triarylsulfonium hexafluorophosphate salt (THS) as a photocatalyst, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 2222-2229, DOI: 10.1039/c9py01742a

Link to the paper:

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2020/py/c9py01742a

About the web writer

Professor Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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Paper of the month: Synthesis of lipase–polymer conjugates by Cu(0)-mediated reversible deactivation radical polymerization: polymerization vs. degradation

Graphic imageZhang and co-workers report aqueous polymerization-induced self-assembly by atom transfer radical polymerization to generate protein-based nanoassemblies.

Polymerization-induced self-assembly (PISA) has opened the way for the in-situ formation of a wide range of nanoparticles with applications ranging from the material to the biomedical field. However, the vast majority of reports focus on utilizing reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer polymerization as the main methodology while atom transfer radical polymerization (ATRP) is very rarely combined with PISA, mostly due to the limitations of ATRP in water. Zhang and co-workers utilized Cu(0) reversible deactivation radical polymerization by exploiting the disproportionation of CuBr/ligand in aqueous media generating both Cu(0) particles and Cu(II) deactivator. Upon modifying Candida Antarctica lipase B (CALB), it was used as a macroinitiator for both hydrophilic and hydrophobic monomers generating well-defined protein-based nanoassemblies. A range of acrylamide and acrylate based monomers were successfully polymerized under mild reaction conditions (e.g. room temperature) via he “grafting from” strategy. When hydrophilic monomers were selected, water-soluble conjugates could be obtained in a facile manner while by polymerizing more hydrophobic monomers yields spherical nanoparticles, consistent to a traditional PISA formulation. Importantly, it was also found that they hydrolysis of the ester bonds can be very significant in the presence of lipase-based macroinitiators, which will catalyze the hydrolysis of poly(acrylate) to poly(acrylic acid). The versatility of the reported methodology combined with the use of mild reaction conditions may find applications in enzyme immobilization and nanoreactors.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

  1. It is necessary to purify the commercial CuBr as it could be partially oxidized during storage and routine use.
  2. Typical Cu(0)-RDRP in water is fast enough to reach full conversion in minutes; however, the polymerizations would be slower when grafting from proteins, possibly due to the low concentration of macroinitiators.
  3. Although copper ions were known to be able to denature proteins, CALB still maintained its function after polymerization. The mild reaction conditions such as aqueous system, low reaction temperature (0-25 ℃) and fast polymerization rate (minutes to hours) could be suitable for more sensitive proteins.
  4. The degradation of lipase-poly(acrylate) conjugates was fast and gradual disappearance of precipitates could even be visually observed during the dialysis in water. So it is better to quickly purify the conjugates via centrifugation. From another point of view, such conjugates could be potentially used for drug delivery and controlled release.

Citation to the paper: Synthesis of lipase–polymer conjugates by Cu(0)-mediated reversible deactivation radical polymerization: polymerization vs. degradation, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 1386-1392, DOI: 10.1039/c9py01462d

Link to the paper:

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2020/py/c9py01462d#!divAbstract

This paper is free to read until 10th April 2020!

About the Web Writer

Dr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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Paper of the month: Pulsed-addition ring-opening metathesis polymerization with functional enyne reagents

Zhang and Gutekunst utilize functional enyne molecules in pulsed-addition ring-opening metathesis polymerization to generate multiple functional polymer chains from a single 3rd generation Grubbs initiator.

Ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) has gained popularity within the polymer chemistry community thanks to the invention of functional group-tolerant ruthenium-based initiators. However, remaining challenges in the area include the use of stoichiometric amounts of metal and the difficulty to satisfactory control the end-group functionality. To address these challenges, Gutekunst and Zhang have elegantly employed functional enyne molecules in pulsed-addition ring-opening metathesis polymerization. This led to the generation of multiple functional polymer chains from a single 3rd generation Grubbs initiator. Importantly, all polymers synthesized displayed monomodal molecular weight distributions and very low dispersity values, as characterized by size exclusion chromatography, thus supporting the high efficiency of enyne chain-transfer. Detailed analysis of the molecular weights obtained from each pulse demonstrate that 50% of the ruthenium initiator remains active even after 10 cycles which corresponds to 4% of catalyst death per cycle. This is improved over previous established protocols where 8.5% of catalyst death per cycle was reported. The materials synthesized were further characterized by mass-spectrometry. In particular, matrix assisted laser desorption ionization showed extremely high end-group fidelity obtained using the enyne chemistry with a single polymer distribution and no observable side reactions. Different monomer structures were tested, the vast majority of which were compatible with the developed protocol. Bifunctional enyne molecules can also be used to give heterotelechelic polymers. Last but not least, the possibility of diblock copolymer formation was also examined yielding well-defined block copolymers with low final dispersity values. It is the author’s belief that their user-friendly and catalyst economical method will yield to the facile synthesis of materials with reduced metal contamination thus paving the way for further biomedical and electronic applications.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

1. An inert atmosphere is important to this protocol, though a glovebox is not needed. All experiments were performed with a standard Schlenk line, and solutions were degassed by simply bubbling with nitrogen gas.
2. Three equivalents of the enyne CTA are used to ensure complete conversion of the Grubbs 3rd generation initiator, but only 1.2 eq is needed for full transfer after a given polymerization cycle of an exo-norbornene imide monomer. This reflects the differences in reactivity between ruthenium alkylidenes and benzylidenes with the enyne CTAs.
3. The exo-Oxanorbornene imide examined in this protocol was also effective but required 2.4 eq of the enyne CTA to recycle the system. This implies that different monomers may have variable reactivities. 1H NMR is very useful to monitor this process, as each of the ruthenium alkylidene/benzylidene species have diagnostic chemical shifts.
4. Small molecule byproducts are formed in each cycle but are inert under the reaction conditions and do not interfere with the polymerization.
5. If any readers are interested in using this approach, feel free to reach out to willgute@gatech.edu with any questions.

Citation to the paper: Pulsed-addition ring-opening metathesis polymerization with functional enyne reagents, Polym. Chem., 2020, 11, 259-264, DOI: 10.1039/c9py00965e

Link to the paper:
https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlepdf/2020/py/c9py00965e

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Paper of the month: Synthesis of block copolymers using poly(methyl methacrylate) with unsaturated chain end through kinetic studies

Graphical abstract for the article c9py01367a

The use of a polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) containing an unsaturated chain end as a macroinitiator during reversible complexation mediated polymerization has been previously reported by Goto and coworkers. Typically, such macroinitiators can also be used as macromonomers to generate branched polymers via propagation. In this work, Goto and co-workers elegantly demonstrate that the occurrence of addition-fragmentation chain transfer and propagation strongly depends on the temperature during the polymerization of styrene. Through carefully monitoring the kinetics of the polymerization of styrene, the authors discovered that propagation is predominant below 60 ̊C, consistent with previous reports. However, upon elevating the temperature (e.g. 120 ̊C), addition-fragmentation chain transfer dominates instead. This discovery then allowed access to the efficient synthesis of block copolymers with PMMA and polystyrene at high temperatures. Importantly, addition-fragmentation chain transfer was also predominant over propagation during the polymerizations of acrylonitrile and acrylates yielding well-defined block copolymers. PMMAs with different molecular weights were also investigated and the polymerization was controlled utilizing iodine transfer polymerization for styrene and reversible complexation mediated polymerization for the other monomers. Such an approach is highly advantageous due to the ease of the operation and it is expected to be a practical alternative for efficient block copolymer synthesis.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

  1. The proper purification of polymers and the careful NMR analysis were important for obtaining the accurate kinetic data. The kinetic study provided a useful idea enabling the synthesis of block copolymers of PMMA with polystyrene (PSt).
  2. Block copolymers of PMMA with PSt, polyacrylonitrile, and polyacrylates are accessible. Relatively high monomer conversions are achievable.
  3. Not only the isolated alkyl iodide but also the alkyl iodide in situ generated from iodine (I2) and azo compound can effectively be used as the initiating dormant species. The in situ method is less expensive and robust and hence can be a practically attractive

Read the full article now for FREE until 10th January!

Synthesis of block copolymers using poly(methyl methacrylate) with unsaturated chain end through kinetic studies, Polym. Chem., 2019, 10, 5617-5625, DOI: 10.1039/c9py01367a

 

About the web writer

Professor Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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Paper of the month: Ab initio RAFT emulsion polymerization mediated by small cationic RAFT agents to form polymers with low molar mass dispersity

Graphical abstract

 

Reversible addition fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization has revolutionized the field of polymer chemistry providing access to a wide range of materials with controlled molecular weight, functionality, end-group fidelity and dispersity. In their current contribution, the groups of Moad, Keddie and Fellows joined forces to report a range of low molar mass cationic RAFT agents that allow for predictable molecular weight and dispersity in ab initio emulsion polymerization. In particular, upon utilizing the protonated RAFT agent ((((cyanomethyl)thio)carbonothioyl)(methyl)amino)pyridin1-ium toluenesulfonate and the analogous methyl-quaternized RAFT agents, 4-((((cyanomethyl)thio) carbonothioyl)(methyl)amino)-1-methylpyridin-1-ium dodecyl sulfate, styrene could be efficiently polymerized yielding polystyrene with narrow molecular weight distributions (Đm 1.2–1.4). The authors attribute the success of ab initio emulsion polymerization with the former RAFT agent to the hydrophilicity of the pyridinium group which allows for the predominant partition of the water-soluble RAFT agent into the aqueous phase.  The RAFT agent also gives minimal retardation. In addition, by employing 4-((((cyanomethyl)thio) carbonothioyl)(methyl)amino)-1-methylpyridin-1-ium dodecyl sulfate, a “surfactant-free” RAFT emulsion can be achieved producing a low Đm  polystyrene although the RAFT end-group was lost upon isolating the polymer. Additional preliminary experiments were also performed demonstrating that this class of RAFT agents can be broadly applicable in ab initio emulsion polymerization of a range of other more-activated monomers including acrylates and methacrylates producing low dispersity polymers while the polymerization of less activated monomers such as vinyl acetate showed good control over the molecular weight, albeit broader molecular weight distributions. The authors are currently investigating such systems to establish their full utility in emulsion polymerization and develop robust and scalable conditions for the formation of block copolymers.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

There are two significant challenges in implementing successful ab initio emulsion polymerization in a high throughput platform such as the Chemspeed®

  1. Devising a protocol for vortexing/agitating so as to form, and then maintain, a stable latex. The protocol reported was the end-result of many experiments.
  2. Degassing the reaction medium. RAFT polymerization can be successfully carried out in non-degassed media.  However, for good reproducibility, optimal dispersity, high end group fidelity and acceptable polymerization rates, degassing remains important.  In conducting experiments on the Chemspeed®, it is important to make sure the media to be dispensed by the robot are degassed, and that all of the solvent lines, and the solvent used to prime and wash the syringe needles are degassed.

Read the full article for FREE until 6th December!

Ab initio RAFT emulsion polymerization mediated by small cationic RAFT agents to form polymers with low molar mass dispersity, Polym. Chem., 2019, 10, 5044-5051, DOI: 10.1039/C9PY00893D

 

About the Web Writer

Professor Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

 

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Paper of the month: Benchtop flow-NMR for rapid online monitoring of RAFT and free radical polymerisation in batch and continuous reactors

Graphical abstract

To precisely engineer macromolecular materials, close monitoring of the polymerization progress is required. Therefore, real-time online monitoring provides polymer chemists the opportunity to accurately observe and optimize their reactions. To this end, Warren and co-workers utilized benchtop flow-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) as a very convenient and powerful tool for real-time monitoring of polymers synthesized either by controlled radical polymerization or free radical polymerization protocols. In particular, reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization was employed to polymerize acrylamides giving very high conversions in less than 10 minutes and the kinetic profile of this reaction was efficiently captured. In a second example where RAFT dispersion polymerization was monitored. In spite of the rapid polymerization rates, high temporal resolution enabled the previse determination of the onset of rate acceleration usually observed for polymerization induced self-assembly (PISA) systems. In addition to the monitoring of the aforementioned complex systems, the free radical polymerization of methyl methacrylate was also studied. In this case, the linear semi-logarithmic plot indicated the expected pseudo-first order kinetics. The results discussed here demonstrate the power of using benchtop NMR spectrometers for online flow applications where both controlled and free radical polymerizations can be employed. It is the author’s opinion that the lower price of these instruments will improve access to NMR spectroscopy while the reduced sample preparation/time taken for analysis will increase research output.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

  1. Despite the reduced field strength, detailed polymerization kinetics comparable to traditional ‘high field’ NMR can be obtained since the vinyl protons are easily resolved.
  2. Flow-NMR is a powerful tool to improve time-resolution and reduce lab workload but must be used with care – e.g. flow rate and sample cell geometry must be optimized.
  3. Hydrogenated solvents can be used with lower-field instruments, but solvent selection is important: minimising any potential solvent overlap is key to reliable data.
  4. Spectral corrections such as to the phase and baseline are crucial for reliable data – especially if using an automated system.

 

Read the full article now for FREE until 8th November!

Benchtop flow-NMR for rapid online monitoring of RAFT and free radical polymerisation in batch and continuous reactorsPolym. Chem., 2019, 10, 4774-4778, DOI: 10.1039/C9PY00982E

 

About the web writer

Professor Athina AnastasakiDr. Athina Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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Paper of the month: Engineering mannosylated nanogels with membrane-disrupting properties

Graphical image 10.1039/C9PY00492K

Engineering mannosylated nanomaterials with various functionalities can significantly contribute to the development of more effective vaccines or cancer immunotherapeutics that target immune cell subsets that express the mannose receptor. With this in mind, De Geest’s group aimed at equipping mannosylated nanogels with membrane-destabilizing properties that are responsive to the acidic pH found in intracellular vesicles, such as endosomes, but are shielded when the nanogels are intact in neutral pH. In particular, membrane destabilizing tertiary amine moieties were successfully introduced in the core of the nanogels. Subsequently and via using a pH-sensitive ketal-based crosslinker, the membrane-destabilizing properties only become activated upon pH-triggered disassembly of the nanogels into soluble unimers. In order to achieve this, the effect of tertiary amine modification of mannosylated block copolymers with N,N-dimethylamine (DMAEA) and N,N-diisopropylamine (DiPAEA) was initially evaluated. Both block copolymers showed strong haemolytic activity and the DiPAE block copolymers demonstrated an activity only at acidic endosomal pH values. To silence the membrane destabilizing activity and render the nanogels non-cytotoxic at high concentration, cross-linking of the block copolymers into nanogels was conducted. Interestingly, when a pH degradable ketal cross-linker was used, the nanogels could regain their activity by exposing them to mild acidic pH. As the authors nicely conclude, such synthetic mannosylated materials may hold promise for cytoplasmic delivery of non-membrane permeable therapeutic macromolecules.

Tips/comments directly from the authors:

 

  1. Dendritic cells and macrophages reside in peripheral tissue, lymphoid organs and sites of inflammation and tumor tissue. They are a primary therapeutic target.
  2. The use of tetraacetylated carbohydrate monomers allows for straightforward polymerization and work-up in organic media. Deacetylation is easily performed in a final step and yields hydrophilic glyconanogels.
  3. The use of a pentafluorophenyl activated ester hydrophobic polymer bock allows for self-assembly in aprotic polar solvents. This is ideal for successive post-modification steps without facing hydrolysis as a side reaction.
  4. Diisopropylamine motifs are highly efficient in destabilizing lipid membranes at acidic pH, presumably through hydrophobic interaction with phospholipid membranes.

 

Read this article for FREE until the 15th October!

Engineering mannosylated nanogels with membrane-disrupting properties Polym. Chem., 2019, 10, 4297-4307, DOI: 10.1039/C9PY00492K

About the Web Writer

Dr. AthinProfessor Athina Anastasakia Anastasaki is an Editorial Board Member and a Web Writer for Polymer Chemistry. Since January 2019, she joined the Materials Department of ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor to establish her independent research group.

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