Precision nanofibers for biomedical applications via living crystallization-driven self-assembly




Garcia Hernandez, Juan Diego

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Nature provides fascinating examples of functional materials with hierarchical structures. Nano and microscale materials have been prepared by synthetic approaches via the self-assembly of discrete building blocks with the aim to mimic nature’s materials in complexity and size. The solution-state self-assembly of block copolymers (BCPs) with crystallizable core-forming blocks has enabled access to low curvature morphologies such as 1D and 2D micelles via a spontaneous nucleation method termed crystallization-driven self-assembly (CDSA). Via a seeded growth method known as living CDSA, 1D and 2D micelles of controlled dimensions and low dispersity can easily be prepared. However, due to the challenges associated with the synthesis of high aspect ratio nanoparticles and the low number of noncytotoxic polymers known to undergo CDSA, their use for biomedical applications has been limited. The aim of the work described in this thesis is to develop nanofibers of precise dimensions, with nontoxic materials, for potential biomedical applications such as drug delivery, tissue engineering and materials reinforcement. Chapter 1 describes how nature makes superb functional hierarchical materials that serve as inspiration for the development of synthetic methods for the preparation of nano and microstructures. The principles regarding the solution-state self-assembly of BCPs with amorphous or crystalline core-forming blocks are discussed. The preparation of length-controlled nanostructures, segmented micelles, and supermicelles via living CDSA and micelle self-assembly are presented. An introduction to nanoparticle drug delivery, materials reinforcement, and tissue engineering with emphasis on the development and advantages of high aspect ratio nanofibers is given. Finally, a brief perspective on the development of nanofiber-based therapeutics is provided. Chapter 2 discusses the preparation of coaxial-core core nanofibers from the self-assembly of triBCPs. The nanofiber structure is comprised of a crystalline inner core, an amorphous hydrophobic outer core, and a water-soluble corona-forming block. Encapsulation of a model hydrophobic molecule was achieved by the outer amorphous core. This represents the first example of water-soluble, length-controlled, and low length-dispersity (Ð) nanofibers loaded via non-covalent interactions. In Chapter 2, preliminary studies suggested cargo uptake by diBCP nanofibers may be possible. Chapter 3 focusses on investigating the non-covalent loading of length controlled diBCP nanofibers with a hydrophobic cargo. The effect of the chemical identity and the length of the corona-forming blocks was also studied. Chapter 4 describes the self-assembly of B-A-B triBCPs with crystallizable hydrophobic ‘B’ terminal segments to yield fiber-like micelle networks and their potential applications. Conditions for the preparation of discrete crystalline core flower-like micelles and intermicellar fiber-like networks of crystalline core nanofibers were investigated. For the first time, crystalline core nanofiber networks are reported. Chapter 5 focuses on the proof-of-concept development of water-soluble length-controlled nanofibers with corona-forming blocks capable of targeting specific cancer tissue. Additionally, segmented nanofibers for drug delivery applications were prepared. Finally, the association of curcumin with the nanofiber corona-forming block was briefly investigated. Chapter 6 summarizes the work presented in this thesis which contributes towards the development of length-tunable nanofibers for biomedical applications and outlines future research directions of the work presented.



Self-Assembly, Crystallization-Driven, Crystallization, Nanofibers, Drug delivery, Nanoparticles, Biomedical