Part 1: Bio Patrika interviews Mr. Bal on his thoughts about “non‐equilibrium polymerization of Amyloid peptides”

Mr. Subhajit Bal’s interview with Bio Patrika hosting “Vigyan Patrika”, a series of author interviews. Mr. Bal is currently a PhD student in the lab of Dr. Dibyendu Das (Swarnajayanti Fellow 2020) at the Department of Chemical Sciences, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata. He published a paper titled “Non‐Equilibrium Polymerization of Cross‐β Amyloid Peptides for Temporal Control of Electronic Properties” as a joint first author in Angewandte Chemie Int. journal (2020).

How would you explain your paper’s key results to the non-scientific community?

 It is crucial to study the basics of all biological processes. Most of the discoveries are made by investigating the natural biological processes. Researchers study the concept and the mechanism involved in these natural processes and try to mimic in the synthetic system. Our basic research on the synthetic system, inspired from the natural microtubules system, is fascinating, and my excitement shows when I talk about it. Our research published in the international journal, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, describes non-equilibrium polymerization of cross-β amyloid peptides for temporal control of electronic properties. We all know the term polymer, and the process of polymer formation is termed polymerization. Amyloid-β42 is a protein polymer that triggers pathogenic diseases that are a prominent feature in patient’s brain, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This polymerization process is taking place under the equilibrium condition. In contrast, if we look into the microtubules system, the tubulin dimer undergo polymerization in the presence of GTP (Guanosine triphosphate) and the polymerized state lives as long as the GTP present. This is termed non-equilibrium polymerization. Inspired from the microtubules system, we have achieved the non-equilibrium polymerization of cross-β amyloid peptides, accomplishing temporal control over steady-state electrical conductivity.

Figure 1. Schematic representations showing non-equilibrium amyloid polymerization and temporal control over steady-state electrical conductivity. Arrows represent β-strands.

What are the possible consequences of these findings for your research area?

We aimed to address the accelerated catalysis from the polymerized state, resulting in depolymerization and show temporal control over its electronic properties. Our study, being a unique exploratory and informative nature, raises several opportunities for future research, both concept validation and biological application, to construct complex bioinspired devices from self-destructing security circuits to real-time diagnostic kits.

“[…] my own eureka moment was the phase transition of our system with time (i.e., sol-gel-sol transition).”

What was the exciting moment (eureka moment) during your research?

In many ways, the idea we presented in this research work is the most exciting thing for me. When I observed visually, my own eureka moment was the phase transition of our system with time (i.e., sol-gel-sol transition). That moment gave us the interest to go ahead with further experimental studies.

What do you hope to do next?

Our next goal would be to use the small peptide sequences to have the self-assembling property to achieve more life-like out-of-equilibrium systems. We are also looking forward to focusing on research areas that can extend the availability and usefulness of technology to develop peptide nanostructure-based bioelectronic devices.

Where do you seek scientific inspiration?

As a research career progresses, the inspiration is achieved after getting some preliminary data that supported our hypothesis. However, the inspiration and skills needed for working effectively were acquired from my supervisor and from the seniors and colleagues. While working with others, the complexity of individual preferences for working and different skills, strengths, languages and cultures, can all get in the way of progress.

How do you intend to help Indian science improve?

In terms of Indian science improvement, we can say that using the non-equilibrium self-assembly strategy is fundamentally important and is the paradigm shift from the existing concepts of current practices. In fundamental science, the most tempting prospect is probably the de novo synthesis of life. Synthetic systems are being developed that capture many of the individual characteristics of life (compartmentalization, replication, metabolism) and their integration under far-from-equilibrium conditions is currently being developed. In this context, fuel-driven dynamic peptide-based nanostructures might be the key substitute for the development of biosensing devices. Consequently, the use of the self-modulating small peptide sequences that shows temporal conducting behavior also promises to solve the biocompatibility problem and might offer the prospect of the ubiquitous use of biosensors in clinical monitoring. In terms of concrete applications, the impact of Systems Chemistry is hard to predict and we can only speculate at this stage.


Bal S#, Ghosh C#, Ghosh T, Vijayaraghavan R K, Das D. Non‐Equilibrium Polymerization of Cross‐β Amyloid Peptides for Temporal Control of Electronic Properties. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2020, 59, 13506. #Equal contribution.


Learn more about Dr. Das lab research interests

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