Nanovesicles in predictable shapes

August 25, 2016, Radboud University
Nanovesicles in predictable shapes
Figure 1. Shape transformation of the nanovesicles: disks (left), bowl shaped stomatocytes (middle) and rods (right). The vesicles have a typical size of 500 nanometres. All figures are also available in a large format. Credit: Radboud University

Beads, disks, bowls and rods: scientists at Radboud University have demonstrated the first methodological approach to control the shapes of nanovesicles. This opens doors for the use of nanovesicles in biomedical applications, such as drug delivery in the body. Nature Communications will publish these results on 25 August.

The shape of nanovesicles – called 'polymersomes' in jargon – in a solution varies at different compositions of that solution, scientist Roger Rikken and his colleagues at Radboud University discovered. "Besides the spherical shapes, we can create disks, rods, and bowl shaped stomatocytes by varying the ratio of the solvent. This regulates the and permeability of the vesicles, controlling their deflation and subsequent re-inflation," Rikken explains.

For the first time, the shape of the nanovesicles is now fully controllable and predictable. This offers possibilities to transform and mould the vesicles into nanocontainers or nanorockets, which are highly desirable, e.g. for in the body. The shape of the polymersomes also affects their flow properties, as is also believed to be the case for . It is therefore of great importance to obtain full control over shape transformations to utilise vesicles in drug transport via the blood stream.

By using the magnets of the High Field Magnet Laboratory, Rikken was able to determine the exact shape of the vesicles at every solvent ratio. Subsequently, he studied the variety of shapes with electron microscopy and described them mathematically. In this way, he discovered that the shape transformation follows the path of the lowest energy. "Nature is always trying to stay in balance. The four shapes that we found turn out to be located exactly at the energy minima in an existing model. The basic idea behind our discovery is actually very logical, but it was never described before."

Explore further: Magnetic field opens and closes nanovesicle

More information: R. S. M. Rikken et al. Shaping polymersomes into predictable morphologies via out-of-equilibrium self-assembly, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12606

Related Stories

Magnetic field opens and closes nanovesicle

September 24, 2014

Chemists and physicists of Radboud University managed to open and close nanovesicles using a magnet. This process is repeatable and can be controlled remotely, allowing targeted drug transport in the body, for example.

Cylindrical nanoparticles more deadly to breast cancer

December 3, 2013

( —Cylindrical shaped nanoparticles are seven times more deadly than traditional spherical ones when delivering drugs to breast cancer cells, an international team of researchers has discovered.

For cells, some shapes are easier to swallow than others

May 18, 2016

Scientists have probed the process that allows cells to swallow up particles, finding that some shapes are easier to swallow than others. Cells take in small particles and other objects such as bacteria in a process called ...

Recommended for you

Researchers make coldest quantum gas of molecules

February 21, 2019

JILA researchers have made a long-lived, record-cold gas of molecules that follow the wave patterns of quantum mechanics instead of the strictly particle nature of ordinary classical physics. The creation of this gas boosts ...

Sculpting stable structures in pure liquids

February 21, 2019

Oscillating flow and light pulses can be used to create reconfigurable architecture in liquid crystals. Materials scientists can carefully engineer concerted microfluidic flows and localized optothermal fields to achieve ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.