Daniela A. Wilson

Molecular Engineering of Autonomous, Dynamic, Interactive and Adaptive Materials with Biomimetic Design

Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands


Cellular structures, as the fundamental constituents of life, represent extensively researched complex systems. The intricate architectures inherent in these structures have served as inspiration for the development of synthetic analogues capable of replicating both their form and function. One of the great challenges of complex life-like molecular systems is to understand and design autonomous systems that not only can move directionally by harvesting different sources of energy but also can sense, communicate, interact and respond to cues from their environment and adapt to its changes.1,2 Here I will show how spontaneous self-assembly of smart building blocks and their interaction with the environment leads to vesicle assembly and activation for generation of autonomous and locomotive systems with controlled shape, motion and directionality.3-5 Autonomous nano and microscale life-like motile systems that can communicate and exert specific tasks on demand have the potential to construct the next generation of biomedical devices. The response and collective work of such systems in the presence of different stimuli will lead to more accurate, precise and selective treatments, while at the same time allowing for a better understanding of the communication mechanisms already existing in nature (e.g., cell-to-cell communication, quorum sensing (communication between bacteria)). These biomimetic motile systems are ultimately able to control their motion, directionality, speed and behavior in response to cues from their complex biological environment. Such properties could be potentially a game changer in the biomedical field, which only rely on passive high dose drug delivery systems. Further strategies to activate vesicles6 for programmed shapes7 and functionalities8 for the design of motile systems harnessing different sources of energy will be presented.

1. Tu, Y. Peng, F. Adawy,A. Men, Y.; Abdelmohsen, L.K.E.A.; Wilson, D. A. Chem. Rev. 2016, doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.5b00344

2. a) Wilson, D.A., Nolte, R, J. M., van Hest, J.C.M. Nature Chem. 2012, 4, 268-274. b) Wilson, D.A., Nolte, R, J. M., van Hest, J.C.M. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 134, 9894, (2012). c) Abdelmohsen, L. K. E. A., Nijemeisland, M, Pawar, G. M. Janssen, G.-J. A. Nolte, R. J. M., van Hest, J. C. M. & Wilson, D.A., ACS Nano, 2016, 10 (2), pp 2652–2660.

3. a) Peng, F. Tu, Y. Pierson, L., van Hest, J. C. M., Wilson, D. A, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54 (40) 11662-11665 b) Fei Peng, Yingfeng Tu, Jan C.M. van Hest, Wilson, D. A., Adv. Mater., 2016, DOI: 10.1002/adma.201604996.

4. a) Yingfeng Tu, Fei Peng, Xiaofeng Sui, Paul White, Jan C.M. van Hest, Wilson, D. A. Nature. Chem. 2017 DOI: 10.1038/nchem.2674. b) Yingfeng Tu, Fei Peng, Alain Andre, Yongjun Men, Daniela A. Wilson, ACS Nano 2017, DOI:10.1021/acsnano.6b08079. c) Fei Peng, Yingfeng Tu, Ashish Adhikari, Jordi J.C.J Hintzen, Dennis Lowik, Daniela A. Wilson Chem Commun 2017, 53, 1088-1091. d) Fei Peng, Yongjun Men, Yingfeng Tu, Daniela A. Wilson, Adv. Funct. Mater. 2018, 10.1002/adfm.201706117. e) Yingfeng Tu, Fei Peng, Paul B. White, Daniela A. Wilson, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, doi: 10.1002/anie.201703276, 56 (26), 7620–7624

5. B. Jelle Toebes, Feng Cao, & Daniela A Wilson, Spadal control over catalyst positioning on biodegradable polymeric nanomotors. Nat Commun 10, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-13288-x

6. Jiabin Luan, Danni Wang, Shaohua Zhang, Yusuke Miyazaki, Wataru Shinoda, and Daniela A. Wilson. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2023, 145, 28, 15496–15506DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c04285

7. Jiawei Sun, Sjoerd J. Rijpkema, Jiabin Luan, Shaohua Zhang, Daniela A. Wilson. Generating Biomembrane-like Local Curvature in Polymersomes via Dynamic Polymer Insertion. Nat Commun (2021), DOI : 10.1038/s41467-021-22563-9

8. Zhang, S., Li, W., Luan, J., Srivastava, A., Carnevale V., Klein, M. L., Sun. J., Wang. D., Teora, S.P., Rijpkema, S. J., Meeldijk, J. D. and Daniela A. Wilson. Adaptive insertion of a hydrophobic anchor into a poly(ethylene glycol) host for programmable surface
functionalization. Nat. Chem. 15, 240–247 (2023) DOI: 10.1038/s41557-022-01090-0


Short Bio:

Prof. Dr. Daniela A. Wilson received her Ph.D. degree in 2007 with “summa cum laude” distinction from “Gh. Asachi” Technical University of Iasi, Romania in the field of liquid crystalline materials. During her PhD research, she obtained two fellowships to continue her studies abroad in Japan at the Hyogo University in Himeji and in UK at the University of Hull. She then moved to the US at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia in the group of prof. V. Percec for her postdoctoral studies where she worked on several topics in the field of supramolecular chemistry (dendrimers, Janus dendrimers, dendrons and dendronized polymers), polymer chemistry and catalysis. In Philadelphia she contributed to the discovery of dendrimersomes, self-assembling vesicles formed from amphiphilic dendrimers. In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious ERC StG to start her independent academic career on self-assembled stomatocyte nanomotors at Radboud Unibersity Nijmegen in the Netherlands. She developed further synthetic motile systems for biomedical applications for which she received an ERc-CoG and ERc-POC grant. She is currently full professor holding the chair of Systems Chemistry Department at the Institute for Molecules and Materials, Nijmegen the Netherlands and theme leader of Nanomedicine in the Radboud Institute for Life Science (RIMLS) Nijmegen, The Netherlands, a university-wide role spanning from chemistry through translation research into the hospital. Her research interests focus on the molecular design of intelligent, self-propelled, and self- guided supramolecular assemblies and their communication and interaction as next generation nanoengineered delivery systems.

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