To help in the growth of stem cells in the lab, scientist try already for years to create a material that mimics the environment surrounding cells. In her PhD research at the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry, Sandra Schoenmakers searched for the best building blocks for such synthetic biomaterials by looking at the properties of supramolecular polymers.
Supramolecular polymers are large structures that consists of small molecules. These are not held together by tight connections, but are linked by reversible interactions, like vanderwaals forces or hydrogen bonding. This results in dynamic materials similar to the materials found in nature.
However, creating synthetic biomaterials with the same level of functionality as nature is not as simple as mixing a few molecules in a vial. To select the best suitable building blocks and thus stimulating the development of a successful biomaterial, PhD-student Sandra Schoenmakers decided to take a step back. “By taking a closer look at the characteristics of supramolecular polymers we hopefully get a good fundamental understanding before increasing their complexity.”