Take a Deep Breath: Breathing Polymersomes

  CO2-sensitive polymer is a new kind of stimuli-responsive materials that behaves as tunable self-assembling, phase transition manipulated by CO2 level. In their previous studies, Prof. Jinying Yuan et al. have successfully synthesized a type of CO2-responsive polymeric vesicles, which can reversibly self-expand and self-contract under CO2 stimulation. This process is reminiscent in many minds of cellular "breathing" behavior. Recently, on the basis of the above work, Dr. Qiang Yan and Prof. Yuan's group exploited a novel polymer bionanoreactor. When the polymer vesicles breathe, the natural nanopores in their membrane can enlarge as well. In view of this, tuning CO2 concentration in polymer solution, the vesicular membrane permeability can be precisely modulated in a broad range. Based on this feature, we realized that the vesicles act as nanoseparator in order to sieve different sized nanoparticles or guest molecules; Furthermore, they can be applied in nanoreactors to compartmentalize different enzymatic catalytic reactions, biomimicking cell compartmentalization in spatiotemporal dimension. This work has been published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52(19), 5070-5073, and selected as Inside Back Cover. CO2-responsive polymeric self-assemblies are anticipated to open up a way to construct smart biomimetic nanomaterials.