Joint paper between Armes and Whitesides Groups

People are forever measuring the relative worth of different people in the same area of expertise. For example, an entire branch of statistics, called sabermetrics, is devoted to calculating the relative worth of baseball players in the major leagues in the USA. Within the sciences, one such metric is called the h-index (or Hirsh-index). For example, if you have published (say) at least 50 papers that have received at least 50 citations then your h-index is 50. According to this measure (which does have its detractors and problems), the most influential chemist in the world is Prof. George Whitesides of Harvard University (h-index = 193) and the most influential UK polymer chemist is Prof. Steve Armes of our department (h-index = 93).

SPA WhitesidesSo, what do you get when two such influential chemists collaborate? The answer is a paper just published in Biomacromolecules describing the use of new hydrogels designed by Prof. Armes to create a biocompatible 3D cell culture medium within mesh constructs previously pioneered by the Whitesides group.

Dr. Nick Warren, a post-doc working in the Armes group, prepared block copolymers that self-assemble in water to form highly anisotropic worm-like nanoparticles. These block copolymer worms form soft gels at room temperature, but transform into spheres on cooling to 4 °C. This morphological transformation leads to in situ degelation. Moreover, it is fully reversible: worm gels are reformed from the spheres on warming from 4 °C to 37 °C. This enables recycling and re-use of such gels. When combined with the mesh approach developed by the Harvard group, these worm gels can be used to create a convenient 3D matrix for studying cell cultures that offers fine control over the cellular environment.

For more details, please see the paper here.