Rother, Dag, Sen, Tapas, East, Daniel and Bruce, Ian James
Silicon, silica and its surface patterning/activation with alkoxy- and amino-silanes for nanomedical applications.
Silica and silicates are widely used in nanomedicine with applications as diverse as medical device coatings to replacement materials in tissue engineering. Although much is known about silica and its synthesis, relatively few biomedical scientists fully appreciate the link that exists between its formulation and its resultant structure and function. This article attempts to provide insight into relevant issues in that context, as well as highlighting their importance in the material’s eventual surface patterning/activation with alkoxy- and organo-silanes. The use of aminosilanes in that context is discussed at some length to permit an understanding of the specific variables that are important in the reproducible and robust aminoactivation of surfaces using such molecules. Recent investigative work is cited to underline the fact that although aminosilanization is a historically accepted mechanism for surface activation, there is still much to be explained about how and why the process works in the way it does. In the last section of this article, there is a detailed discussion of two classical approaches for the use of aminosilanized materials in the covalent immobilization of bioligands, amino-aldehyde and amino-carboxyl coupling. In the former case, the use of the homobifunctional coupler glutaraldehyde is explored, and in the latter, carbodiimides. Although these chemistries have long been employed in bioconjugations, it is apparent that there are still variables to be explored in the processes (as witnessed by continuing investigations into the chemistries concerned). Aspects regarding optimization, standardization and reproducibility of the fabrication of amino functionalized surfaces are discussed in detail and illustrated with practical examples to aid the reader in their own studies, in terms of considerations to be taken into account when producing such materials. Finally, the article attempts to remind readers that although the chemistry and materials involved are ‘old hat’, there is still much to be learnt about the methods involved. The article also reminds readers that although many highly specific and costly conjugation chemistries now exist for bioligands, there still remains a place for these relatively simple and cost-effective approaches in bioligand conjugate fabrication.