Polysaccharides are the most abundant organic materials in nature. These biomolecules have the ability to form a large number of hydrogen bonds making them ideal candidates for the formation of supramolecular structures (Chemical Reviews 116 (4), pp. 1693-1752 (2016). Yet correlations between their three-dimensional structure and macroscopic properties have not been established. With automated glycan assembly (AGA) we prepare well-defined oligo- and polysaccharides resembling natural as well as unnatural structures. With this approach, we can generate polysaccharide probes with full control over their length and modification, to study their fundamental properties. We employ computational methods, NMR spectroscopy, and single molecule imaging techniques to study polysaccharides’ conformations. Based on these insights, we design unnatural modifications that can selectively alter the shape and aggregation of natural polymers, providing a toolbox for the creation of tunable biomaterials.

We follow three lines of investigation:

  1. Synthesis of natural and unnatural oligosaccharides with well-defined compositions.
  2. Analysis of the correlation between the chemical composition, the three dimensional structure and the properties of oligo- and polysaccharides. Particular focus is laid on how a specific modification affects the properties (i.e. aggregation) of the material.
  3. Development of novel carbohydrate-based materials, crucial for a better understanding of biological process as well as for the creation of engineered platforms for biomedical applications.
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