AAT Bioquest

A Library of Well-Defined and Water-Soluble Poly(alkyl phosphonate)s with Adjustable Hydrolysis

One of the often overlooked components of biomedical and pharmaceutical research is the materials used. Modern medicine has advanced to such a state where the treatment of diseases previously considered incurable is now within reach. However, many of these therapies, and the research that goes into their development, are dependent on the use of high-quality materials that can facilitate the appropriate biological reaction without causing more damage than the condition they are intended to treat. One such material that has been critical to the advancement of biomedicine is Polyethylene Glycol (PEG). It boasts high solubility in water, low toxicity, and low immunogenicity. Because of this, PEG has been used for a wide range of applications, such as the modification of surfaces, drug development, and nanocarriers. It is also highly stable in aqueous environments. But PEG is far from perfect; accumulation of PEG has been reported, and is known to degrade through oxidation into toxic byproducts. Because of this, some researchers have found it necessary to search for an alternative to PEG that can be equally as effective but that do not have these negative side effects.

The focus of the study conducted by Wolf et al. from the Max Plank Institute in Germany had this concern at its center. Specifically, researchers were interested in looking at how successful Poly phosphonates could be in replacing PEG in certain applications. This is in line with current research trends, but to date, issues with polymerization and the backbiting of potentially cleavable side chains has stunted progress in the field. Because of this, Wolf and his team set out to determine which phosphonate acids could be used to successfully polymerize these substances so that they can be used in different biomedical applications. To perform this study, the team needed to look at not only the effectiveness of polymerization, but also the effects these substances would have on biological processes. As an example, the Amplite Colorimetric Acetylcholinesterase Assay Kit was used to measure acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity, as AChE substance is linked to a wide variety of biological functions. The use of this kit allows for clear and accurate readings through its use of DTNB to quantify thiolcholine produced from the hydrolysis of acetylthiolcholine by AChE. This process creates a proportional reading that makes it easy to determine the effect of phosphonates on the body.

The results of the study demonstrated that there are, in fact, effective ways to polymerize phosphonates so that they can be used in similar applications as PEG, potentially with fewer side effects. This presents a fantastic opportunity for the medical and biological community to improve their devices and treatment used so that therapies can be more effective and less dangerous. To be able to confidently report their results, the team needed to be sure the readings they were obtaining were entirely accurate. One way they did this was to use the Amplite Colorimetric Acetylcholinesterase Assay Kit, which is known to produce robust and reliable readings on which researchers can depend. Studies like this need to be reliable, and when they are, they often prove to push the field into new areas, allowing it to better address some of the more pressing issues of the time.



  1. Wolf, Thomas, Tobias Steinbach, and Frederik R. Wurm. "A library of well-defined and water-soluble poly (alkyl phosphonate) s with adjustable hydrolysis." Macromolecules 48.12 (2015): 3853-3863.

Original created on December 2, 2019, last updated on December 2, 2019
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