Synthetic Self-Assembled Materials in Biological Environments

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Synthetic self-assembly has long been recognized as an excellent approach for the formation of ordered structures on the nanoscale. Although the development of synthetic self-assembling materials has often been inspired by principles observed in nature (e.g., the assembly of lipids, DNA, proteins), until recently the self-assembly of synthetic molecules has mainly been investigated ex vivo. The past few years however, have witnessed the emergence of a research field in which synthetic, self-assembling systems are used that are capable of operating as bioactive materials in biological environments. Here, this up-and-coming field, which has the potential of becoming a key area in chemical biology and medicine, is reviewed. Two main categories of applications of self-assembly in biological environments are identified and discussed, namely therapeutic and imaging agents. Within these categories key concepts, such as triggers and molecular constraints for in vitro/in vivo self-assembly and the mode of interaction between the assemblies and the biological materials will be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4576–4592
Number of pages17
JournalAdvanced Materials
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Biomaterials
  • Cellular imaging
  • Enzymes
  • Self-assembly
  • Therapeutics

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