Research in this IRTG is focused on the interaction of polyelectrolytes with biosystems. Thematically, the individual projects can be ordered according to the complexity of polyelectrolyte architectures and the complexity of the studied biological system. Starting from the well-studied problem of the interaction of linear polyelectrolytes such as DNA with proteins, the complexity on both axes can be increased step by step to ultimately arrive at the treatment of complex therapeutic questions with large polyelectrolyte architectures.
The polyelectrolytes to be investigated within the IRTG are ordered according to their chemical complexity in the three project areas A, B, and C. This starts with defined oligomeric electrolytes and linear polyelectrolytes in area A. Here, in particular glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) that present an important class of highly charged linear polyelectrolytes will be investigated. Polyelectrolytes based on the poly(glycerol) backbone constitute the next step of complexity that is addressed in area B. The highest level of complexity is reached by micellar systems and microgels containing polyelectrolytes studied in area C. All systems will be synthesized and carefully characterized within the IRTG. On the biological complexity axis, we start at the level of single proteins and establish a firm basis of quantitative understanding. This knowledge in turn is applied in the next higher level focusing on the interaction of cells with polyelectrolyte systems. Entire biological systems such as blood finally constitute the highest level of complexity to be investigated.
The topic and work program of this IRTG initiative can only be addressed by combining the orthogonal expertise and strengths present at three locations in Germany and Canada. Research at Freie Universität Berlin is predominantly addressing fundamental questions in Biophysics and Chemistry. Work at the University of British Columbia and McGill University is directed towards biomedical applications of immediate pharmaceutical importance.