Prof. Beppe Battaglia (University College London) - Joint seminar of MRI and IoB
Date: 15 January 2014 Time: 15:00 - 16:00
How to makes things as simple as possible but not simpler in Biomaterial design
Biological systems, including our body, are intrinsically complex and comprise a hierarchy of chemical and physical interaction that join together atoms, molecules, macromolecules and supramolecular structures into functional units far from the thermodynamic equilibrium. Such a complexity is still very much far from our understanding and yet, our self-preservation instinct drives us into interfering with it as much as we can. Whether we need to cure diseases or generate new ways to produce foods, for many years scientists and engineers have been meddling with biological systems and proposed new ways to “control” them.
Paraphrasing the famous physicist Nobel laureate Richard Feymann “ if you cannot make it you cannot understanding it!” and indeed one approach to control biological systems is to use the same biological complexity as inspiration to propose new devices, approaches and techniques to control biomolecules, cells, tissues. However, what components we can recreate and which one are critical for the effective functions are still very much an open question. Furthermore, Nature is not just a mixture of chemicals is the way that these chemicals holistically and topologically interact that makes the final function possible. Within my labs in the last years we have engaged fully with this vision and we now identify the appropriate biological system/function to copy and try to de-construct some of its components using fully synthetic materials. We design these using the necessary components, we combine them supra-molecularly and finally we studied the relation their chemical and physical structure with their biological function borrowing tools from cellular and molecular biology as well as physiology. I will show how we use this approach to deliver drugs to right site to maximise therapy taking inspiration from viruses, to control cells and tissues to favour healing processes taking inspiration from natural scaffolds and finally I will propose a new way to recreate some of the biological complexity to engineer surrogates that one day can help with our biotechnological effort to create food and/or energy.
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