CO2_2016 - page 14

Chimica Oggi - Chemistry Today
- vol. 34(2) March/April 2016
KEYWORDS: Biodegradable polymers, PHA, mass spectrometry, sequencing.
Biodegradable polymers have become materials of hope for the future and knowledge on the
relationships between their structure, properties and function is essential for prospective safe applications
of such materials in the areas of human health and the environment. Examples are given of the uses of mass spectrometry (MS) for
structural studies of biodegradable (co)polymers along with the use of multi-stage electrospray mass spectrometry (ESI-MS
Specifically they concern applications of MS forthe characterization of natural biodegradable polymers and their derivatives, ESI-MS
in the synthesis of biodegradable copolyesters, MS for forensic engineering of advanced biodegradable polymeric materials as well
for identification of selected biodegradable polymers on the way of molecular labelling.
New vistas in mass spectrometry
for sequence analysis of natural and synthetic
biodegradable macromolecules
Biodegradable polymers play an important role in human
life, increasingly becoming having an irreplaceable role.
This concerns in particular medicaeproducts, including for
example bioresorbable sutures or implants. It also concerns
environmental issues in the area of compostable polymeric
packaging materials of food, which could reduce the
amount of currently generated cumbersome packaging
waste from conventional plastics. When the development
of biodegradable (co)polymers was in its infancy research
focussed upon the effect of macromolecular architecture,
new monomer systems, polymerization mechanisms, and
different polymerization techniques on final biodegradable
properties. Significant efforts have been directed towards
specific areas, such as mechanisms of biodegradation,
biocompatibility, processing conditions and potential
applications in medicine, protection of environment and
agro chemistry. However, such aspects like bio-safety of
biodegradable polymers or nano-safety of their composites
were, and still are, frequently neglected.iIn recent years there
has been a rapid increase in the number of publications
on biodegradable polymers with some reports indicating
limitations and complications in their applications (particularly
in the area of biomaterials). Consequently there is a urgent
need to examine and minimize any potential setbacks
related to their future importance for civilization and social
function (1). In the future it is extremely important to design
such biodegradable polymers that would be safe for human
health and the environment, and to indicate responsibly and
sustainably new areas where their unique properties could bn
In the endeavour to safeguard biodegradable (co)polymers
their identification at the molecular level should be explored.
For this purpose mass spectrometry methods are of particular
importance in (co)polymer analyses due to their high
sensitivity, selectivity, specificity and speed. Polymer scientists
have been unfamiliar with the advances made in the field
of modern mass spectrometry for a long time. However,
thanks to pioneering works, including amongst others the
Professor Giorgio Montaudo Italian school of polymer mass
spectrometry, today mass spectrometry complements in
many ways the structural data provided by NMR, IR and other
polymer characterization methodologies (2).
Development of soft ionization techniques in mass
spectrometry have helped to solve the difficult question
regarding the molecular structure of (co)polymerse. Taking
part in the “Electrospray Revolution”, we have concentrated
on multistage MS in polymer chemistry evaluating ring
opening polymerization (ROP) mechanisms of selected
oxacyclic monomers, on molecular level characterization
of aliphatic biopolyesters by multistage MS, and recently
on application of MS in forensic engineering of advanced
polymer materials (3). In this mini review MS sequence analysis
of natural and synthetic biodegradable macromolecules
will be discussed with the special emphasis on the specific
area of applied research on aliphatic biopolyesters and their
synthetic analogues.
School of Biology, Chemistry and Forensic Science, Faculty of Science and Engineering,
University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, WV1 1SB, United Kingdom
Marek Kowalczuk
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