Helical polymers for biological and medical applications

Thomas Leigh, Paco Fernandez-Trillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Helices are the most prevalent secondary structure in biomolecules and play vital roles in their activity. Chemists have been fascinated with mimicking this molecular conformation with synthetic materials. Research has now been devoted to the synthesis and characterization of helical materials, and to understand the design principles behind this molecular architecture. In parallel, work has been done to develop synthetic polymers for biological and medical applications. We now have access to materials with controlled size, molecular conformation, multivalency or functionality. As a result, synthetic polymers are being investigated in areas such as drug and gene delivery, tissue engineering, imaging and sensing, or as polymer therapeutics. Here, we provide a critical view of where these two fields, helical polymers and polymers for biological and medical applications, overlap. We have selected relevant polymer families and examples to illustrate the range of applications that can be targeted and the impact of the helical conformation on the performance. For each family of polymers, we briefly describe how they can be prepared, what helical conformations are observed and what parameters control helicity. We close this Review with an outlook of the challenges ahead, including the characterization of helicity through the process and the identification of biocompatibility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-310
JournalNature Reviews Chemistry
Early online date5 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Helical polymers for biological and medical applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this