Symposium 1.4

 POLYMERS AND SOFT MATERIALS FOR LIFE SCIENCES

(3 sessions)

Keywords

Natural and synthetic polymers, soft matter, 3D-printing, supramolecular chemistry, pharmaceutics, medical devices, regenerative medicine, cosmetics, food.

Organisers

  • Julien NICOLAS  (Institut Galien, CNRS, Université Paris-Sud, FR)

  • Brent SUMERLIN (University of Florida, Gainesville, USA)

  • Sebastien PERRIER (U-Warwick, UK, and U-Monash, AU)

Abstract

Polymers are macromolecules composed of many repeated subunits of different nature leading to a broad range of compositions and properties. Both synthetic and natural polymers play a major role in life sciences.

Natural polymers (nucleic acids, proteins, peptides) are the building blocks of biological structures and functions, and the support of genetic and epigenetic events which are essential for the living processes to occur. Subtle modifications in the sequence of these polymers may lead to either improvements of certain biological processes or, in contrast, to their deregulation with the appearance of physiopathological events and diseases.

Polymerization of monomers through various modern synthetic routes (e.g., controlled radical polymerization, ring-opening polymerization, etc;) enables the design of synthetic polymers with unique physico-chemical properties, including robustness, viscoelasticity, and a tendency to form glasses and semicrystalline structures rather than crystals. They may be combined to form tailor made supramolecular architectures such as colloids, gels, etc. The versatility of the polymer structures and the resulting properties offer many applications in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. Additionally, some polymers, either natural or synthetic, may also act as drugs by themselves, or be used in many different bio-related applications such as artificial materials for tissue repair and reconstruction, healing devices, biodegradable vascular substitutes, drug excipients, implants, surgical sutures, etc. « Smart » polymers, designed to undergo reversible physical or chemical changes in response to environmental stimuli (such as temperature, light, magnetic or electric field, pH, ionic strength or enzymes) also hold great promise as drug delivery systems, tissue engineering scaffolds, cell culture supports, bioseparation devices, sensors and even actuators systems.

Polymers also represent an important class of ingredients in cosmetic and food science, as many polymers are employed as film formers, rheology modifiers, emulsifiers, stimuli-responsive agents, or even antimicrobial agents. They can eventually be used for the encapsulation of aromas and flavors or on the contrary, as taste maskers. Data storage using synthetic polymers is another emerging topic to be considered.

The symposium will also focus on some aspects of the synthesis of gels and soft matters for biomedical applications and give perspective on the use of these materials for in vitro and in vivo applications. Gels and hydrogels made by polymers or other soft materials fascinate chemists, material scientists and biomedical researchers since their unique properties will allow also 3D printing of fissues and organs. They can consist of a self-supporting, water/solvent-swollen three-dimensional (3D) viscoelastic network, and can possess self-healing properties, reconfigurable structures and interesting transitions between shapeless to shape persistent structures. Many gels have been designed and used for the diffusion and attachment of molecules and cells since their behavior is reminiscent of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and offers native culture condition that traditional 2D surfaces cannot reproduce.

This symposium will give an overview of the importance of polymers and soft materials in life sciences, from fundamental research to applications.