Researchers Create Luminescent, Self-Healing Gels with a Suite of Potential Applications

Researchers are creating luminescent, self-healing gels with a suite of potential applications

Trinity College Dublin Researchers have created luminous, self-healing gels with a variety of potential applications, ranging from counterfeit banknotes to next-generation bio-sensing and image processing.

Researchers are creating luminescent, self-healing gels with a suite of potential applications

Image credit: Crochet

Importantly, the researchers were able to incorporate guanosine (a molecule that plays a number of important metabolic roles in human cells) into the gels, as well as other molecules that have exciting applications in materials and biological sciences.

Lanthanide ions, which have unique properties such as magnetism, luminescence and the ability to accelerate specific reactions, are one such addition to these gels. The research was recently published in the journal Cell Press with great effect Chem on June 1st2022

Because guanose gels have chirality (in this case left-handed helicity), the researchers concentrated on transferring that property to the lanthanide elements in the gels when these ions were added.

Although this may seem like another simple step in the chemical prescription, it is a significant step forward as it suggests that these gels can accurately signal different intensities of whatever they are designed to sense.

From a medical point of view, this could mean, for example, accurately detecting the presence – and amount – of a biomarker of interest. However, the potential options are so many that the group now has to decide which way to take their research.

The first author of the study is Oxana Kotova, a researcher at Trinity’s School of Chemistry and AMBER, SFI Center for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research.

We are interested in developing supramolecular hydrogels like this because they open so many doors to new applications in various fields from biological to materials sciences.

Oxana Kotova, Study First Author and Research Fellow, School of Chemistry, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute

“By transferring chirality to the lanthanide elements of this gel, we have been able to modify the chiral luminescence response of the latter, which may help future understanding of newly discovered lanthanide biological functions as well as help the development of future generations of sensors and imaging devices. We find it fascinating that such alternatives arises from a new material that is itself created by drawing inspiration from biology“, adds Dr. Kotova.

The idea that Oxana had here was to use bio-inspired DNA building blocks to generate luminescent sensitive soft material that is not only emitting during light irradiation, but also self-healing, which in itself can lead to various applications, such as in responsive ink printing. In addition, the material presented in this Chem article gives rise to the chiral emission of visible light.

Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson, Senior author and professor study, Chemistry, School of Chemistry, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute

Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson, also a professor at AMBER adds“This means that with a technique called circular polarized luminescence (CPL), we can observe either” right- or left-handed “(eg, the polarized) emission from the material. The use of this spectroscopic technique becomes quickly apparent and its use in chemical and biological research is finding its niche.

This has significant implications for the potential applications of lanthanide-based bioinspired soft materials, such as for monitoring biological processes, in living cellular imaging and in drug delivery, to name just a few. CPL technology is also an important means of developing “responsive” counterfeit inks for use in printing banknotes, labels, etc.

Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson, Senior author and professor study, Chemistry, School of Chemistry, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute

“Therefore, the opportunities here are enormous for future development, and we are pleased to be part of this important discovery, which was only made possible by bringing together leading research groups with strong expertise.“, stated Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson.

This study was made possible by financial support from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI, Principal Investigator Funding) and the SFI-funded AMBER Center, of which both lead authors are members.

The research is the result of a long-standing collaboration between research groups from different disciplines and universities, which began with Dr. Ciaran O’Reilly’s synthesis of organic ligand (Department of Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine, TBSI). Dr. Oxana Kotova then used this ligand to functionalize guanosine hydrogels and bind to lanthanide elements.

The circularly polarized luminescence studies were performed by Dr. Lewis E. Mackenzie and Professor Robert Pal at the Department of Chemistry, Durham University, UK, while the primary luminescent properties were all investigated in Trinity.

Researchers from Professor Thorfinnur Gunnlaugsson’s group at Trinity’s School of Chemistry and Advanced Microscopy Laboratories examined the morphology of the gels. Dr. Sebastian T. Barwich and prof. Matthias E. Möbius from Trinity University’s School of Physics, who is also a member of the SFI-funded AMBER Center, investigated the rheological properties of these luminescent gels.

Journal reference:

Kotova, O., et al. (2022) Lantanide luminescence from supramolecular hydrogels consisting of bioconjugated picolinic acid-based guanosine quadruplexes. Chem.


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