Dendrimers are repetitively branched molecules that are natural in appearance, but are entirely synthetic.
According to Professor Jørn Bolstad Christensen, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen they have incredible properties detailed in a new book aimed at broadening awareness of these synthetic macromolecules.
"Dendrimers can be used to mimic the natural properties of materials such as hair or skin, and serve as bridge builders between the biological and chemical," explains Bolstad.
Their properties make them ideal for examining how biological/chemical systems, such as proteins, behave. Among other abilities, chemists are able to build protein-like substances in which one is able to change one property at a time, thus furthering much greater precision within biomedical research.
"In contrast with conventional biotechnological methods, with dendrimer chemistry we are no longer bound by nature's own limits. We can actually design molecules to precisely suit our needs," states Bolstad.
In the 35 years since Dendrimers have been around, the bushy molecules have found a variety of applications and one of the largest patent holders is the cosmetics giant L'Oreal; which Bolstad states is not too surprising since the molecules are good at mimicking hair, skin and nails.
"I was really surprised when I went out to discover in which areas this molecule is used. Sure, I knew that it could do some fantastic things, but not that the areas of their application were so many and so divergent," says Bolstad Christensen.
The book is entitled "Dendrimers, Dendrons and Dendritic Polymers: Discovery, Applications and the Future", and is published by Cambridge University Press; co-authored by Ulrik Boas, and Donald Tomalia.
The book's aim is to serve as a portal for those who might benefit from bringing dendrimer chemistry into their own research or areas of development.
It undertakes to explain how dendrimers are made, what their properties are, and how their properties may be characterized and analyzed.