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Uniform poly(ethylene glycol): a comparative study


Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) is a biocompatible, flexible, and hydrophilic polymer that is widely applied in numerous fields. Especially in pharmaceutical research, PEG is used as a bioconjugate agent for PEG-ylated drugs. A well-defined structure is crucial, since dispersity affects biological activity (e.g., toxicity and efficacy). Thus, intensive efforts to develop synthetic protocols approaching uniformity have been made in recent decades. Different approaches utilizing iterative step-by-step synthesis procedures have yielded promising results, and improvement is still ongoing. In this comparative study, we adopted several procedures for the preparation of uniform PEGs in combination with careful characterization, including size exclusion chromatography (SEC) analysis, which has yet to be reported. Oligo(ethylene glycol)s up to the dodecamer were synthesized. The results obtained were compared in terms of yield and purity with those previously reported in the literature. We clearly show the importance of SEC analysis with high separation capacity in the oligomer range for the synthesis of short-chain oligo(ethylene glycol)s.

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This work was supported by the DFG within the framework of the collaborative research centre 1176 (SFB 1176, project C3). The authors would like to acknowledge Peter Gödtel, Maximilian Knab, Rebecca Seim, and Fabienne Urbanek for synthetic support; the analytical team from KIT for analytical support; and Prof. Barner-Kowollik and his group for access to SEC-ESI-MS equipment.

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Correspondence to Michael A. R. Meier.

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Bohn, P., Meier, M.A.R. Uniform poly(ethylene glycol): a comparative study. Polym J 52, 165–178 (2020).

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