OXIDIZED SURFACE MODIFICATION
Endless potential for MA-T™ in oxidized surface modification
As an oxidation control system, MA-T™ has a wide range of applications beyond infection control. Oxidized surface modification is expected to have uses in a wide variety of sectors including electronics, drug discovery, and life sciences.Let’s turn to the possibilities of MA-T™ in oxidized surface modification.
MA-T™ activation strongest with light
Oxidized surface modification and energy are areas where light is used to intensify the activation of MA-T™, a system for controlling oxidation. The basic reaction is identical, but the difference is whether the target is a polymer surface or an entire chemical reaction. The Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) has selected this technology as one of its Programs on Open Innovation Platform with Enterprises, Research Institute and Academia (OPERA). Under the theme, Creation of Innovative Oxidation Reaction Activation Control Technology Using Safe Oxidants (FY2019-23), the Oxidation Control Co-Creation Consortium under Tsuyoshi Inoue of the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Science, Osaka University, is carrying out the research (Figure 1).
Introduction of oxygen-containing functional groups to polymer surfaces
Polymers such as plastics, films, and fibers have a wide variety of applications in our everyday lives. Their surfaces are basically stable. MA-T™ can modify the surfaces by introducing oxygen-containing functional groups, overcoming existing issues and adding new capabilities.
For example, the surface only of a water-repellent material can be made hydrophilic. This improves the performance and durability of battery separators (membrane materials that separate the positive and negative electrodes inside a battery and allow ions to travel between them).
Our members have many needs for polymer surface oxidation, and joint research with Osaka University is active. Reaction processing equipment to enable closed R&D within companies is being developed with a view to an early launch.
However, if pilot studies of surface oxidation using MA-T™ are easier to conduct, more companies will likely become interested. We would thus like to develop schemes for reaction processing under contract. Uncovering new possibilities for MA-T™ would spur R&D, boosting the number of applications. We look forward to seeing how the broad field of oxidized surface modification will contribute to industry.
Dawn of cryo-electron microscopy
Cryo-electron microscopy has enabled analysis of three-dimensional structures (of proteins for example), accelerating R&D in drug discovery and the life sciences. The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "For developing cryo-electron microscopy for the high-resolution structure determination of biomolecules in solution" is still fresh in our memories. However, the sample preparation process necessitated trial and error and took about one month. Surface oxidation using MA-T™ dramatically improved the process.
Traditionally, plasma treatment was used to make graphene (a carbon sheet with a thickness of one atom) hydrophilic, but introducing oxygen-containing functional groups using MA-T™ enabled direct binding of samples such as proteins (Figure 2). Sample preparation takes just 10 minutes, for significant gains in efficiency. In addition, because proteins are bound in a range of orientations, images can be collected from various angles, leading to higher structural accuracy (Figure 3).
At a press conference in December 2020 marking the establishment of the Japan MA-T Industrial Association, Professor Inoue shared his early research results. Subsequently we saw an increasing number of successful structural analyses with the world’s highest resolution. The August 2021 edition of JST News published a feature entitled Technological Innovation with “Dream Reaction.” We expect a highly favorable response from future academic studies to be published, and hope companies involved in the project will make great progress.
This technological innovation will enable us to analyze how the novel coronavirus spike protein mutates and what its functions are. This could prove useful for developing vaccines, drugs, diagnoses, and prevention methods. We want to protect people from the threat of COVID-19 using a different approach from infection control.
- Figure 2. Comparison of Cryo-EM specimen preparation
- Figure 3. Comparison of GroEL structural analyses