Hailong Che received his MSc in Polymer Chemistry from Tsinghua University, in 2015. During his master’s research, he focused on stimuli-responsive polymeric materials. Currently he is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry at TU/e. He is working on bioinspired functional compartments under the supervision of Prof. Jan van Hest
Stimuli-responsive compartments: towards biomimetic structures and function
There is a fundamental difference between synthetic and natural self-assembly processes. Normally, stimuli-responsive systems always need an outside trigger to induce a one-way transition between thermodynamically stable states (e.g. morphological transitions, volume contraction/expansion and membrane permeability enhancement). The resulting state will be infinitely stable, and a counter-trigger is needed to revert the system. That means an energetically downhill occurs during the process of synthetic self-assembly, and stable structures in time resulted from free energy on reaching the global or a local minimum in the free energy landscape. In contrast, many natural self-assembly are out-of-equilibrium process which requires a continuous consumption of energy and self-regulating behavior, orchestrated dynamics in the time domain as well as catalytic feedback mechanisms are involved in these systems. These kinds of temporal control over self-assembly processes are sometimes referred to as dissipative self-assembly.
In this project, various stimuli-responsive building blocks will be prepared and used for the construction of artificial cells/organelles. Under internal or external bio-signal, enzyme substrate for example, the compartments undergo a catalytically temporal state, which is unstable and could automatically return back to the original state. The recovering process demonstrates autonomously self-regulating behavior which is highly time programmed.