Chemical Mechanisms of Prebiotic Chirality Amplification

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The open access journal Research, published in association with CAST, publishes innovative, wide-ranging research in life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and applied science.

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Research's Editorial Board includes international experts in fields ranging from life sciences to physical sciences. Tianhong Cui of University of Minnesota and Wei Huang of Northwestern Polytechnical University, China serve as the Editors-in-Chief of the journal.

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Research is indexed in various databases, including: Web of Science-Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI)PubMed Central (PMC), and Scopus

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Mg-Based Micromotors with Motion Responsive to Dual Stimuli

Mg-based micromotors have emerged as an extremely attractive artificial micro/nanodevice, but suffered from uncontrollable propulsion and limited motion lifetime, restricting the fulfillment of complex tasks. Here, we have demonstrated Mg-based micromotors composed of Mg microspheres asymmetrically coated with Pt and temperature-sensitive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM) hydrogel layers in sequence. They can implement different motion behaviors stemming from the driving mechanism transformation when encountering catalyzed substrates such as H2O2 and respond to both H2O2 concentration and temperature in aqueous environment. The as-constructed Mg-based micromotors are self-propelled by Pt-catalyzed H2O2 decomposition following the self-consuming Mg-H2O reaction. In this case, they could further generate bilateral bubbles and thus demonstrate unique self-limitation motion like hovering when the phase transformation of PNIPAM is triggered by decreasing temperature or when the H2O2 concentration after permeating across the PNIPAM hydrogel layer is high enough to facilitate bubble nucleation. Our work for the first time provides a stimuli-induced “hovering” strategy for self-propelled micromotors, which endows Mg-based micromotors with an intelligent response to the surroundings besides the significant extension of their motion lifetime.

Research Article

Synergistically Enhanced Mucoadhesive and Penetrable Polypeptide Nanogel for Efficient Drug Delivery to Orthotopic Bladder Cancer

Intravesical chemotherapy has been recommended after the gold standard of transurethral resection of the bladder tumor to prevent bladder cancer (BC) from local recurrence in the clinic. However, due to rapid urine excretion and barrier protection of the bladder wall, the clinical performances of chemotherapeutic drugs are severely compromised. In the present work, a smart positively charged disulfide-crosslinked nanogel of oligoarginine-poly(ethylene glycol)–poly(L-phenylalanine-co-L-cystine) (R9-PEG–P(LP-co-LC)) was prepared to prolong the retention period and enhance the penetration capability of chemotherapeutic agent toward the bladder wall. PEG significantly improved the aqueous dispersibility of the 10-hydroxycamptothecin (HCPT)-loaded R9-PEG–P(LP-co-LC) (i.e., R9NG/HCPT) and enhanced the mucoadhesive capability by the nonspecific interaction between PEG chain and the bladder mucosa accompanied with the electrostatic interaction between the cationic R9 and negatively charged bladder mucosa. Besides, R9, as a cell-penetrating peptide, efficiently penetrated through the cell membrane and delivered carried cargo. The disulfide bond endowed the selective release behavior of HCPT triggered by the intracellular reductive microenvironment. As an advanced chemotherapeutic nanoformulation, the smart R9NG/HCPT demonstrated superior cytotoxicity against human BC 5637 cells in vitro and remarkably enhanced tumor suppression activity toward orthotopic BC models of mouse and rat in vivo, indicating its great potential in the clinical intravesical BC chemotherapy.

Research Article

Crystalline Structure-Dependent Mechanical and Thermoelectric Performance in


Self-powered wearable electronics require thermoelectric materials simultaneously with a high dimensionless figure of merit ( ) and good flexibility to convert the heat discharged by the human body into electricity. Ag2(S,Se)-based semiconducting materials can well satisfy these requirements, and thus, they are attracting great attention in thermoelectric society recently. Ag2(S,Se) crystalizes in an orthorhombic structure or monoclinic structure, depending on the detailed S/Se atomic ratio, but the relationship between its crystalline structure and mechanical/thermoelectric performance is still unclear to date. In this study, a series of ( , 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, and 0.45) samples were prepared and their mechanical and thermoelectric performance dependence on the crystalline structure was systematically investigated. in the system was found to be the transition boundary between orthorhombic and monoclinic structures. Mechanical property measurement shows that the orthorhombic samples are brittle while the monoclinic Ag2Se1‐xSx samples are ductile and flexible. In addition, the orthorhombic samples show better electrical transport performance and higher than the monoclinic samples under a comparable carrier concentration, most likely due to their weaker electron-phonon interactions. This study sheds light on the further development of flexible inorganic TE materials.

Research Article

Ionic Species Affect the Self-Propulsion of Urease-Powered Micromotors

Enzyme-powered motors self-propel through the catalysis of in situ bioavailable fuels, which makes them excellent candidates for biomedical applications. However, fundamental issues like their motion in biological fluids and the understanding of the propulsion mechanism are critical aspects to be tackled before a future application in biomedicine. Herein, we investigated the physicochemical effects of ionic species on the self-propulsion of urease-powered micromotors. Results showed that the presence of PBS, NaOH, NaCl, and HEPES reduced self-propulsion of urease-powered micromotors pointing towards ion-dependent mechanisms of motion. We studied the 3D motion of urease micromotors using digital holographic microscopy to rule out any motor-surface interaction as the cause of motion decay when salts are present in the media. In order to protect and minimize the negative effect of ionic species on micromotors’ performance, we coated the motors with methoxypolyethylene glycol amine (mPEG) showing higher speed compared to noncoated motors at intermediate ionic concentrations. These results provide new insights into the mechanism of urease-powered micromotors, study the effect of ionic media, and contribute with potential solutions to mitigate the reduction of mobility of enzyme-powered micromotors.

Research Article

Achieving High Thermoelectric Performance in Rare-Earth Element-Free CaMg2Bi2 with High Carrier Mobility and Ultralow Lattice Thermal Conductivity

CaMg2Bi2-based compounds, a kind of the representative compounds of Zintl phases, have uniquely inherent layered structure and hence are considered to be potential thermoelectric materials. Generally, alloying is a traditional and effective way to reduce the lattice thermal conductivity through the mass and strain field fluctuation between host and guest atoms. The cation sites have very few contributions to the band structure around the fermi level; thus, cation substitution may have negligible influence on the electric transport properties. What is more, widespread application of thermoelectric materials not only desires high value but also calls for low-cost and environmentally benign constituent elements. Here, Ba substitution on cation site achieves a sharp reduction in lattice thermal conductivity through enhanced point defects scattering without the obvious sacrifice of high carrier mobility, and thus improves thermoelectric properties. Then, by combining further enhanced phonon scattering caused by isoelectronic substitution of Zn on the Mg site, an extraordinarily low lattice thermal conductivity of 0.51 W m-1 K-1 at 873 K is achieved in (Ca0.75Ba0.25)0.995Na0.005Mg1.95Zn0.05Bi1.98 alloy, approaching the amorphous limit. Such maintenance of high mobility and realization of ultralow lattice thermal conductivity synergistically result in broadly improvement of the quality factor β. Finally, a maximum of 1.25 at 873 K and the corresponding up to 0.85 from 300 K to 873 K have been obtained for the same composition, meanwhile possessing temperature independent compatibility factor. To our knowledge, the current exceeds all the reported values in AMg2Bi2-based compounds so far. Furthermore, the low-cost and environment-friendly characteristic plus excellent thermoelectric performance also make the present Zintl phase CaMg2Bi2 more competitive in practical application.

Research Article

Fibroblasts Accelerate Formation and Improve Reproducibility of 3D Cellular Structures Printed with Magnetic Assistance

Fibroblasts (mouse, NIH/3T3) are combined with MDA-MB-231 cells to accelerate the formation and improve the reproducibility of 3D cellular structures printed with magnetic assistance. Fibroblasts and MDA-MB-231 cells are cocultured to produce 12.5 : 87.5, 25 : 75, and 50 : 50 total population mixtures. These mixtures are suspended in a cell medium containing a paramagnetic salt, Gd-DTPA, which increases the magnetic susceptibility of the medium with respect to the cells. A 3D monotypic MDA-MB-231 cellular structure is printed within 24 hours with magnetic assistance, whereas it takes 48 hours to form a similar structure through gravitational settling alone. The maximum projected areas and circularities, and cellular ATP levels of the printed structures are measured for 336 hours. Increasing the relative amounts of the fibroblasts mixed with the MDA-MB-231 cells decreases the time taken to form the structures and improves their reproducibility. Structures produced through gravitational settling have larger maximum projected areas and cellular ATP, but are deemed less reproducible. The distribution of individual cell lines in the cocultured 3D cellular structures shows that printing with magnetic assistance yields 3D cellular structures that resemble in vivo tumors more closely than those formed through gravitational settling. The results validate our hypothesis that (1) fibroblasts act as a “glue” that supports the formation of 3D cellular structures, and (2) the structures are produced more rapidly and with greater reproducibility with magnetically assisted printing than through gravitational settling alone. Printing of 3D cellular structures with magnetic assistance has applications relevant to drug discovery, lab-on-chip devices, and tissue engineering.