This project aims to functionalise β-peptides with organic conductors to create novel biocompatible conducting nanowires.
Organic bioelectronics studies the development of devices that translate an electrical signal into a physiological response from cells, tissues or organs. Almost all work in the field of organic bioelectronics has used organic polymers and conjugated aromatic molecules where π-orbitals within the molecules are delocalized, giving rise to electronic mobility both along the chain and between adjacent chains through interaction between their π-orbitals. Adding or removing electrons to these material systems usually results in high electronic conductivity. However, although there have been numerous studies to increase the biocompatibility and stability of such materials, there are issues surrounding the toxicity and biological integration of these systems. A potential alternative is to use a peptide-assembled system. The vast majority of peptides are insulating by nature and require significant design and synthetic strategies to introduce any bioelectronic activity. Therefore, the aim of this project is to generate conducting peptide hydrogels that are biocompatible and able to distribute an electrical signal to cells. In order to achieve this, a conducting polymer will be used to decorate β-peptide fibres. Typically, organic conducting polymers are usually insoluble in aqueous systems, however, incorporation of a self-assembly motif into the organic monomer prior to polymerization causes the compound to be soluble in water without perturbing conductivity. Therefore, utilizing modified polymers and our peptide scaffolds, we envisage the assembly of hybrid fibres that are conductive and still allow for the incorporation of bioactive signals. We believe this project will lead to the creation of bioelectronic gels and fibres.