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Creators/Authors contains: "Letteri, Rachel A."

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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  2. In this work, we designed and fabricated a nanoscopic sugar-based magnetic hybrid material that is capable of tackling environmental pollution posed by marine oil spills, while minimizing potential secondary problems that may occur from microplastic contamination. These readily-defined magnetic nanocomposites were constructed through co-assembly of magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (MIONs) and a degradable amphiphilic polymer, poly(ethylene glycol)- b -dopamine-functionalized poly(ethyl propargyl glucose carbonate)- b -poly(ethyl glucose carbonate), PEG- b -PGC[(EPC-MPA)- co -(EPC-DOPA)]- b -PGC(EC), driven by supramolecular co-assembly in water with enhanced interactions provided via complexation between dopamine and MIONs. The composite nanoscopic assemblies possessed a pseudo -micellar structure, with MIONs trapped within the polymer framework. The triblock terpolymer was synthesized by sequential ring-opening polymerizations (ROPs) of two glucose-derived carbonate monomers, initiated by a PEG macroinitiator. Dopamine anchoring groups were subsequently installed by first introducing carboxylic acid groups using a thiol–yne click reaction, followed by amidation with dopamine. The resulting amphiphilic triblock terpolymers and MIONs were co-assembled to afford hybrid nanocomposites using solvent exchange processes from organic solvent to water. In combination with hydrophobic interactions, the linkage between dopamine and iron oxide stabilized the overall nanoscopic structure to allow for the establishment of a uniform globular morphology, whereas attempts atmore »co-assembly with the triblock terpolymer precursor, lacking dopamine side chains, failed to afford well-defined nanostructures. The magnetic hybrid nanoparticles demonstrated high oil sorption capacities, ca. 8 times their initial dry weight, attributed, in part, to large surface areas leading to effective contact between the nanomaterials and hydrocarbon pollutants. Moreover, the naturally-derived polymer framework undergoes hydrolytic degradation to break down into byproducts that include glucose, ethanol and dopamine if not recovered after deployment, alleviating concerns of potential microplastic generation and persistence.« less
  3. A polypeptide-based hydrogel system, when prepared from a diblock polymer with a ternary copolypeptide as one block, exhibited thermo-, mechano- and enzyme-responsive properties, which enabled the encapsulation of naproxen (Npx) during the sol–gel transition and its release in the gel state. Statistical terpolymerizations of l -alanine (Ala), glycine (Gly) and l -isoleucine (Ile) NCAs at a 1 : 1 : 1 feed ratio initiated by monomethoxy monoamino-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) afforded a series of methoxy poly(ethylene glycol)- block -poly( l -alanine- co -glycine- co - l -isoleucine) (mPEG- b -P(A-G-I)) block polymers. β-Sheets were the dominant secondary structures within the polypeptide segments, which facilitated a heat-induced sol-to-gel transition, resulting from the supramolecular assembly of β-sheets into nanofibrils. Deconstruction of the three-dimensional networks by mechanical force (sonication) triggered the reverse gel-to-sol transition. Certain enzymes could accelerate the breakdown of the hydrogel, as determined by in vitro gel weight loss profiles. The hydrogels were able to encapsulate and release Npx over 6 days, demonstrating the potential application of these polypeptide hydrogels as an injectable local delivery system for small molecule drugs.
  4. Complex coacervation is a widely utilized technique for effecting phase separation, though predictive understanding of molecular-level details remains underdeveloped. Here, we couple coarse-grained Monte Carlo simulations with experimental efforts using a polypeptide-based model system to investigate how a comb-like architecture affects complex coacervation and coacervate stability. Specifically, the phase separation behavior of linear polycation-linear polyanion pairs was compared to that of comb polycation-linear polyanion and comb polycation-comb polyanion pairs. The comb architecture was found to mitigate cooperative interactions between oppositely charged polymers, as no discernible phase separation was observed for comb-comb pairs and complex coacervation of linear-linear pairs yielded stable coacervates at higher salt concentration than linear-comb pairs. This behavior was attributed to differences in counterion release by linear vs. comb polymers during polyeletrolyte complexation. Additionally, the comb polycation formed coacervates with both stereoregular poly( l -glutamate) and racemic poly( d , l -glutamate), whereas the linear polycation formed coacervates only with the racemic polyanion. In contrast, solid precipitates were obtained from mixtures of stereoregular poly( l -lysine) and poly( l -glutamate). Moreover, the formation of coacervates from cationic comb polymers incorporating up to ∼90% pendant zwitterionic groups demonstrated the potential for inclusion of comonomers to modulate the hydrophilicity and/ormore »other properties of a coacervate-forming polymer. These results provide the first detailed investigation into the role of polymer architecture on complex coacervation using a chemically and architecturally well-defined model system, and highlight the need for additional research on this topic.« less