University of Granada scientists patent a new biocompatible hydrogel

Breakthrough provides new opportunities to develop more efficient medicines

Scientists from the University of Granada, the CSIC Laboratory of Crystallographic Studies, GENYO and the University of Edinburgh have patented a new supramolecular hydrogel with numerous biotechnological applications.

After 18 months of multidisciplinary research, scientists have developed supramolecular hydrogels comprising small (cysteine) peptides, which contain 99.9% water and 0.1% gel. This means that each dipeptide molecule is surrounded by 24,777 water molecules, which makes these gels totally biocompatible and biodegradable.

According to one of the researchers, Juan J. Díaz Mochón, one of the great advantages of this new hydrogel is that it allows for the crystallisation of proteins in 3D environments. ‘Protein crystallisation is essential to decipher key molecular interactions in physiological and pathological processes, and it is also an essential tool for the development of new medicines,’ he said.

This new material ‘has allowed for the crystallisation of proteins — stereochemically pure species — in our gels, which are also, in turn, not just stereochemically pure, but which can now be prepared in pairs of specular images'.

‘Our work has demonstrated that this difference in composition is enough to provoke the formation of new polymorphs,' he added. 'Having different polymorphs at our disposal, with different crystalline arrangements of the same protein, facilitates the discovery of new molecular interactions, and this is of great interest for the pharmaceutical industry.’

Professor Mochón points out that the new hydrogels ‘have proved to be not just an excellent way to obtain high quality protein crystals — which are necessary for the accurate determination of the 3D structure of a protein — but they have also facilitated the production of a polymorph from the glucose isomerase enzyme, which is a significant achievement.’