BIANCO Alberto

Controlled covalent functionalisation of graphene oxide : towards the development of a novel platform for assembly and conjugation of biomolecules

 

Graphene nanomaterials are currently extensively explored for applications in the field of nanotechnology. The unique intrinsic properties treasured in their simple molecular design and their combinations with other existing nanomaterials make graphene the most promising candidates for different types of applications, including those in the field of nanomedicine.

For some biological applications, graphene oxide (GO) is often used because it is more easily water dispersible due to the presence of different types of oxygen-containing functions (e.g. epoxides, hydroxyls, carboxylic acids, ketones). Although many structural models of GO have been reported, the structure of this complex nanomaterial remains to be fully elucidated.

In this context, we propose to investigate the reactivity of GO towards orthogonal reactions to selectively functionalise one individual oxygenated group over another. This study should help to assess the structure of GO in terms of chemical reactivity, to elucidate its structure and to control its derivatisation. Indeed, the possibility to modify the different oxygenated functions of GO, transforming selectively some of them into ammonium groups, will allow to further conjugate or assembly this platform with bioactive molecules (e.g. protein and/or peptide antigens) via covalent bonding or non-covalent interactions to prepare advanced graphene-based hybrids for therapeutic purposes.

The study of the influence and type of functionalisation on the interactions of GO with cells, and eventually its fate in vivo will be also evaluated. As a potential new graphene-based therapeutic application, we will derivatise GO with targeting ligands to modulate or deplete cells involved in autoimmune diseases by exploiting the mask effect of the graphene sheets that we recently observed.