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Non-specific, light-triggered opening of transmembrane pores.

The design of vectors for targeted delivery is a major challenge in research and medicine. These molecular “cargoes” (e.g. liposomes) allow drugs or other compounds to reach specific cells and to cross their membranes without compromising viability. They enable for instance controlled cellular uptake of molecules and particles for imaging purposes, genetic engineering, and therapeutic treatments.

Targeted delivery at a high resolution in space (e.g. addressed to a single cell) and at a controlled time (or dose) cannot be achieved by conventional cargoes. We designed artificial light-responsive polymers forming transmembrane pores that in turn allow remote control (upon flashing blue light) of the membranes of living cells and liposomes. Upon exposure to light, polymer-containing bilayers become permeable to (macro)molecules.

This actuation tool does NOT need any chemical coupling between the photopolymer and the agent to be delivered: it is accordingly a promising non-specific pathway to deliver molecules. Ongoing research project include in vitro applications aiming at labelling patterns of cells in culture media, spatial targetting delivery of activation agents. New questions are also raised on the mechanisms of pore opening.

Figure 1.Remote control by light of permeation through cell’s membranes hold great potential for in vitro targeting of the uptake of various chemicals. We achieved photo-triggered uptake of a soluble peptide, and photo-triggered release of cytosolic markers, upon supplementation of the culture media of mammal cells with a non-toxic, amphiphilic copolymer that contains azobenzene chromophores.

The project « Photo-channels » is an academic research conducted under the coordination of Christophe Tribet (ENS-UPMC-CNRS UMR 8640, Paris), in collaboration with S. Cribier (UPMC-ENS-CNRS UMR 7203), L. Auvray & C. Huin (CNRS UMR 8587, Univ. Evry),and D. Massotte (IGBMC, Strasbourg).


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