DNA as a supramolecular building block

December 11, 2017, Leiden University
Credit: Leiden University

PhD student Willem Noteborn has investigated supramolecular structures. These can be useful for the loading of medicines and signalling molecules regarding, for example, cellular differentiation. In his thesis, he describes the functioning of these structures.

Noteborn: 'The goal of my research is making materials on a nanoscale, that eventually can form structures exceeding this small scale, visible to the naked eye. I've investigated how certain components form structures and the properties of those structures. That is the big theme of my thesis: , intended for medical applications and diagnostics.'

Supramolecular polymers can be seen as chains of blocks that aren't covalently bound with for example hydrogen bonds or Van der Waals forces. Noteborn used individual fibres, as well as larger networks in which he could, for example, grow cells. He has done a lot of research about superabsorbent hydrogels, made of this kind of polymers.

In different experiments Noteborn used DNA. He explains: 'I work with DNA a lot. Everyone knows DNA from its classical role in genetics and biotechnology. But I go many steps further than synthetic biology by seeing DNA as a building block.'

In nature, in double-stranded DNA the combinations of the complementary bases adenine and thymine and cytosine and guanine occur. Noteborn makes use of this property. 'You could attach adenine to a thymine and cytosine to a guanine, resulting in some kind of magnets. With these properties, you can do many cool tricks.'

Figure 1; supramolecular polymer with DNA on which golden particles can be loaded selectively as a model system

In one of his model systems, Willem Noteborn used a supramolecular polymer with DNA-strains for selectively loading and releasing nanometre-size golden particles (figure 1). When these polymers are mixed with DNA-functionalized golden particles, they will bind to a DNA-strain on the polymer. Hereby, golden balls can be seen on the polymer. By adding a free, more complementary DNA-strain, the golden particles with DNA-strains will let go of the polymer because they will bind better to the free DNA than to the supramolecular polymer. Hereby, the golden balls cannot be seen anymore and afterwards, smaller golden balls can be loaded on the polymer.

Noteborn has always been interested in biology and chemistry. His father Mathieu Noteborn is professor in biochemistry at Leiden University. Willem Noteborn says: 'Since I was four years old I've been walking through the lab. The environment wasn't new to me. I had much admiration for Watson and Crick, two of the discoverers of DNA.'

Willem Noteborn obtained a bachelor's and a master's degree in Life Science & Technology. He first followed an internship with his later supervisor, Alexander Kros. After a biotechnological master internship at the research group of Gilles van Wezel about Streptomyces bacteria, he began his graduate research at Roxanne Kieltyka and Alexander Kros.

Social relevance plays a role in Noteborns research. He says: 'My research is fundamental, but it is necessary to eventually come with a social appliance. I think a lot of these kinds of model systems will not be applied directly, but many aspects can be implemented easily. We haven't done medical research yet.' But, he decides, the supramolecular chemistry is a fast-growing discipline. In the future, these systems will certainly be applied in medicines.

Explore further: Controlling the 'length' of supramolecular polymers through self-organization

More information: Willem Noteborn will graduate the 11th of December on his thesis 'Supramolecular polymer materials for biomedical applications and diagnostics'.

Related Stories

Precisely defined polymer chains now a reality

September 21, 2017

Manufactured polymers are ubiquitous in the market. These large molecules are used for synthetic clothing, rubbers and glues, and anything made of plastic. However, the material properties exhibited by man-made polymers rely ...

Fine-tuned supramolecular polymerization

February 5, 2015

In nature, supramolecular complexes—chain-like structures that are composed of many small units linked mainly by weak non-covalent bonds—are assembled and disassembled in a precisely controlled way. Now, in work published ...

Completely new kind of polymer developed

January 28, 2016

Imagine a polymer with removable parts that can deliver something to the environment and then be chemically regenerated to function again. Or a polymer that can lift weights, contracting and expanding the way muscles do.

Code for fine-tuning elastomers to mimic biological materials

September 14, 2017

(Phys.org)—Biological material such as bone and muscle tend to have a wide range of elasticity and rigidity that is different from synthetic materials. In general, with synthetic materials, as stiffness increases, elasticity ...

Recommended for you

Data storage using individual molecules

December 17, 2018

Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules ...

Progress in super-resolution microscopy

December 17, 2018

Going deeper and deeper into cells with the microscope; imaging the nucleus and other structures more and more accurately; getting the most detailed views of cellular multi-protein complexes: All of these are goals pursued ...


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.