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Title: Manipulating the structural and mechanical properties of ionic-complementary peptide hydrogels
Author: Gibbons, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5355 9852
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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Hydrogels based on self-assembling peptides are believed to have potential for use in a wide range of biomedical and biodiagnostic applications. For many of these, control over various properties of the gels is essential for tuning the gels to fit certain constraints or requirements in terms physical properties such as diffusive properties and swelling. One important property to control for applications such as cell culture and drug delivery is its mechanical strength, and this study investigates three different strategies by which the individual peptide monomers can be modified in order to effect a change in the macromolecular self-assembled structure and therefore a bulk change in the mechanical stiffness. In chapter 4, two ionic-complementary octapeptides, FEFKFKFK and FEFQFKFK are described, with monomer charges of +2 and +1, respectively at physiological pH. FEFKFKFK was observed to form largely discrete fibrils, characteristic of similar systems, while FEFQFKFK formed fibril bundles – believed to be a limited form of an aggregation effect frequently seen in similar peptides with neutral charge. As a result of this structural change, FEFQFKFK was found to have values for the elastic and viscous moduli (which are often used to measure the ‘strength’ of a gel) between 5 and 10 times larger than those of FEFKFKFK at the same concentration. The same behaviour was seen in FEFKFKFK when the monomer charges were reversed by adjusting pH, suggesting that the monomer charge is indeed responsible for the bundling effect. In chapter 5, two branched peptides were designed and synthesized: KG17, with two arms consisting of self-assembling FKFEFKFK-motifs, and KG28 which had three such arms. Each branched peptide was doped into pure FKFEFKFK and the resulting gels investigated. While no obvious structural changes were observed for either dopant (save for a potential fibril parallelisation effect with KG17 observed in Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS)), both were observed to increase the elastic and viscous moduli of the gels at overall peptide concentrations of 30 and 50 mg mL-1 (gels), but not at 10 mg mL-1 (viscous liquid). The most dramatic change was observed in the 50 mg mL-1 gels, suggesting that higher concentrations could enhance the effect of the dopants. In chapter 6, three thermo-responsive polymers (pTEGMA), of Degrees of polymerisation (DPs) 17, 47 and 142 were conjugated to CGFKFEFKFK and incorporated into a peptide hydrogel. Gels containing the non-conjugated versions of each polymer were also tested. While no changes in morphology were observed at the fibillar level, the polymer Lower Critical Solution Temperature (LCST) behaviour could be observed in SANS in all samples apart from the DP17 conjugate. However, in rheological tests gels doped with this conjugate appeared to show the strongest the elastic and viscous moduli. In general the conjugates appeared to increase the elastic and viscous moduli, particularly at temperatures above ca. 50°C. Rather than this being LCST behaviour, it was suggested that the polymers can act to enhance a natural thermo-response that was observed in the peptide, with the shortest polymer (DP17) experiencing the least steric hindrance and therefore having the strongest effect. It was postulated that this interaction could involve the screening of charge on the peptide fibril. Non-conjugated polymer appeared to have little effect on the mechanical properties, with elastic modulus values correlating strongly to the overall peptide concentration.
Supervisor: Saiani, Aline Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: self-assembling, peptide, hydrogel, ionic-complementary, fibre, fibril, structure, mesh