Environmentally Sensitive Foldable Oligomers
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Craig Forney
Commercialization Manager, Chemistry and Materials Sciences
Web Published:
Conformation represents different shapes of a molecule as rotation occurs around single bonds. The conformation of a molecule directly affects its chemical and physical properties. The functions (i.e., binding, catalysis, or transport) of biomolecules such as proteins are frequently regulated by conformational transitions triggered by changes in environmental conditions. Development of synthetic molecules that mimic these types of changes is desirable for a variety of applications. ISU researchers have developed a novel class of responsive molecules that may be useful in “smart” materials applications, such as coatings or drug delivery.

Development Stage:
Samples of molecules that have been demonstrated to respond to chemical and physical signals, such as solvents, metal ions, pH and temperature, are available for testing.

Controlled conformational changes in proteins and other biomolecules in response to environmental stimuli are well recognized in many biological processes. However, similar conformational control has been difficult in synthetic molecules. Most previously designed responsive molecules have been polymers whose conformations are often ill defined. Thus, rational design of “smart” materials through conformational control has been a major challenge in polymer chemistry. In addition, traditional responsive polymers typically have high molecular weights, making them unsuitable in applications in nanometer-sized space. To overcome these difficulties, chemists have focused on developing “foldamers”: synthetic molecules with biomolecule-like, compact, ordered conformations. ISU researchers have recently developed a novel class of foldamers derived from bile acids. These foldamers can fold and unfold as their environmental conditions are varied. Conformational changes in these molecules have been shown to be triggered by temperature, pH, metal ions, small molecules, and solvent polarity. These foldamers have been demonstrated to be useful as highly tunable sensors. Other applications, such as drug delivery devices or “smart” materials (coatings or modulation of surface properties) are also possible

• Sensitive (oligomers can be designed to respond to very specific stimuli) 
• Predictable (enables precise control of conformational changes in response to environmental changes)
• Nanoscale (nanometer dimensions enable rapid response and uses in applications requiring sub-micrometer size)
• Versatile (response to a broad variety of environmental signals has been demonstrated)
Drug delivery, molecular sensors, other “smart” materials applications (e.g., coatings)

Patent Information:
*To see the full version of the patent(s), follow the link below, then click on "Images" button.
Country Serial No. Patent No. Issued Date
United States 11/811,905 7,960,439* 6/14/2011

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