Reynolds - Self assembled nanomaterials

My group focusses on the design, discovery and characterization of self-assembled nanomaterials. Molecular self-assembly is an evolutionary optimized process where biological molecules with two or more distinct regions (e.g. one part of the molecule maybe hydrophilic [water loving] and the other maybe hydrophobic [water hating]) organize themselves to form complex structures with distinct nanoscale morphologies (fibrils, micelles, vesicles etc). Such self-assembling materials have applications in diverse technical fields including tissue engineering, drug delivery, antibacterial materials, biological and environmental sensing and understanding disease.

The goal of my group's research is to develop materials, devices or medicines that have real and tangible benefits to communities in Australia and worldwide. For this to be possible routes to translate our fundamental research to clinics, facilities and factories must be identified. Thus, I work closely with the MedTech industry, clinicians and government agencies to enable the translation of research outcomes into commercial devices, products and therapies.

Research areas

Self-assembled peptide nanofibrils as materials for 3D tissue culture and antibacterial applications

This is in collaboration with the groups of Katrina Binger and Tatiana Soares da Costa at LIMS.

We are exploring the applications of a variety of self-assembling nanofibrillar peptides, and their ability to act as 3D culture materials for a variety of eukaryotic cell types and as antibacterial materials.

Nanoscale characterization of self-assembled metabolites to further our understanding of phenylketonuria and other inborn errors in metabolism

This is in collaboration with the group of Ehud Gazit at The University of Tel Aviv.

A number of common metabolites (single amino acids or nucleic acids) have recently been discovered to self-assemble into nanofibrillar structures that appear very similar to amyloid nanofibrils commonly associated with neurodegenerative diseases (ND’s). Furthermore, it has been found that these amyloid-like structures are likely to be the toxic species in various inborn errors of metabolism (IEM’s) including Phenylketonuria (PKU) and Tyrosinemia. There has been a wealth of nanoscale and biophysical characterization performed on ND (e.g. Alzheimer’s) related amyloid structures, leading to several promising therapies currently in clinical trials. In collaboration with the Gazit group in Tel Aviv we are beginning to perform a similarly rigorous biophysical characterization of metabolite amyloid nanofibrils, to better understand the progression of a number of IEM’s including PKU.

Self-Assembly of toxic and functional amyloid neuropeptides and their interactions with other biomolecules

This is in collaboration with the groups of Raffaele Mezzenga at ETH Zurich, Josh Berryman at The University of Luxembourg, Charlotte Conn and Celine Valery at RMIT.

Amyloid forming peptides are most commonly associated with neurodegenerative disease. However, functional amyloids that play essential physiological roles in many organisms (including humans) are ubiquitous throughout nature. We are using biophysical techniques to study a number of different functional and toxic amyloid forming peptides, and to elucidate similarities and differences in their assembly and interactions with other biomolecules including lipids and sugars. This research will help us understand, at a molecular level, why some amyloid assemblies have a devastating toxic effect on their local environment and others have functions that are essential for life.

Nanoscale biophysical characterization of polymers, surfaces and biological tissues

Using expertise gained in the above projects (and others) we use a range of biophysical techniques (including nanomechanical AFM and synchrotron SAXS) to accurately characterize topographies, architectures, and mechanical properties of biological tissues and other materials at length scales from the nano to the macro. These projects are all highly collaborative, and previous examples have included binary colloidal crystals used for stem cell growth (with the group of Peter Kingshott, Swinburne), multicomponent polymer nanoparticles (with CSIRO), and cochlear tissue (with the group of Stephen O’Leary group, Eye and Ear Hospital). We are always open to new potential collaborative projects so if you have a material or tissue that would benefit from biophysical analysis/nanoscale characterization, please get in touch.

Meet the team

Group members

Group Leader

Dr Nicholas Reynolds

Masters students

Christopher Chong
Shaswat Aryal


See a full list of publications [external link] or view Dr Nicholas Reynold's profile.