Cells and the machinery they encase are soft matter – shape-shifting multicomponent systems with an overwhelming richness of forms. But, these squishy packages are hard targets for potential therapeutic and diagnostic applications that exploit nanomaterials, from quantum dots that light up specific tissues to nanocages carrying drug payloads.
The problem, according to a team of 12 experts from five countries, stems from a “mismatch” between the structural complexity that nature selected over billions of years of evolution and the minimalist designs of synthetic nanomaterials, optimized for lab conditions.
Advances in nanotechnology have made it possible to control the size, shape, composition, elasticity and chemical properties of laboratory-made nanomaterials. Yet many of these materials do not to function as expected in the body. In a recent issue of Biointerphases, from AIP Publishing, the team homes in on biomembranes – the gatekeeping bilipid-layers and proteins surrounding cells. They explore the barriers a synthetic nanomaterial must breach to enter a cell and achieve its intended purpose.