IBEC junior group leader Lorenzo Albertazzi is a contributor to the 2017 edition of ChemComm Emerging Investigators, which is published annually by the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry.
Now in its seventh year, the special issue showcases research carried out by internationally recognised, up-and-coming scientists in the early stages of their independent careers, and who are making outstanding contributions to their respective fields.
The Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine group’s paper in the issue describes a new way to study the structure and dynamics of nanostructures obtained by the self-assembly of short peptides, which play a pivotal role in nanotechnology and materials chemistry due to their interesting properties and the ease with which they can be synthesized.
Self-assembled fibers from a small peptide generating from a specific point. They form stiff big tubes and thinner flexible fibers.
The short peptides act as building blocks to make a plethora of materials – including nanoparticles, nanofibers and nanotubes – that vary in size, shape and makeup.
“It’s important to understand the formation and properties of these self-assembled nanostructures to be able to direct their synthesis and self-organization with specific applications in mind, such as drug delivery,” says Silvia Pujals, a postdoc in the Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine group and first author on the paper. “But they’re difficult to study because of their size and dynamic nature, and the methods used thus have fallen short.”
As experts in super resolution microscopy, otherwise known as nanoscopy, IBEC’s Nanoscopy for Nanomedicine group combined their knowledge with that of Ehud Gazit of Tel Aviv University (TAU), who is also interested in molecular structure and self-assembly at the nanoscale. Together, they came up with a method to visualize the nanostructures from the millimeter scale to the nanometric level using fluorescence microscopy and nanoscopy. “This allowed us to reveal interesting phenomena that couldn’t be seen before,” explains Lorenzo. “We were able to observe the co-existence of different assembly topologies and the properties of monomer exchange, which is crucial information to understand the mechanism underlying bioinspired self-assembly.”
Prof. Gazit, one of the world’s leading researchers in nanotechnology and Chief Scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology until 2014, was one of the visitors to IBEC in May 2015 for the TAU/IBEC joint symposium, where this project was first conceived. “After my talk we were sitting next to each other and discussing a possible collaboration, and he asked me: which fluorescent marker do you want?” remembers Lorenzo. “He sent an email to his postdoc, and before the end of the following talk, the synthesis of the molecule we used was already in the pipeline.”
Silvia Pujals, Kai Tao, Adrià Terradellas, Ehud Gazit and Lorenzo Albertazzib (2017). Studying structure and dynamics of self-assembled peptide nanostructures using fluorescence and super resolution microscopy. Chemical Communications, 2017, 53, 7294-7297
This work was supported through the MINECO/FEDER project SAF2016-75241-R and the AXA Research Fund.