Supramolecular chemistry in biodevices


*Corresponding authors
1 Eindhoven University of Technology, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Laboratory of Chemical Biology and Institute of Complex Molecular Systems, Den Dolech 2, 5612AZ Eindhoven, The Netherlands
2 University of Twente, Department of Science and Technology, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, Laboratory of Bioinspired Molecular Engineering, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE, Enschede, The Netherlands


Supramolecular chemistry offers diverse opportunities for fabrication and improvement of biodevices. Applications in this field can be pursued both on surfaces and in solution, for example via the functionalization of biomolecules (peptides, proteins, DNA, etc) with supramolecular tags for selective and reversible binding, immobilization and orientation. The targeted fields of application range from diagnostics for the detection and quantification of biomarkers to biomaterials that mediate controlled interactions with eukaryotic cells or bacteria, hence, promoting their subsequent development towards biosensors or implants. Thus, supramolecular concepts like host-guest interactions offer dynamic platforms and a high versatility and will be the focus of this review. Such supramolecular cyclic host molecules create great opportunities for drug delivery, while the dynamicity and reversibility of these assemblies open the door to acquire self-healing materials.


Ever since the discovery of crown ethers in the 1960s, and the subsequent Nobel Prize awarded to Cram, Lehn and Pedersen in 1987 for their work on cryptands and crown ethers, a lot of effort has been invested in designing and capitalizing on supramolecular systems. While at first this effort was more from the viewpoint of material sciences (1), nowadays, the focus has shifted towards biomedical applications (2). When combined, the fields of materials and biomedical sciences feature a high potential for developing biodevices based on supramolecular functionality.
Supramolecular chemistry comprises chemical systems made up of a certain number of assembled molecules, interacting reversibly and non-covalently (3, 4). Molecules can for example interact via hydrophobic interactions, be stabilized by charge interactions or self-assemble via e.g. π-π stacking, resulting in dynamic assemblies. These molecular characteristics are often found in nature: dynamic, modular, complex and large systems such as the organization of a cell or complex DNA-protein assemblies like the ribosome. Importantly, all these biological supramolecular systems fun ...