Dendrimers in medicine and biotechnology - new molecular tools

Dendrimers in medicine and biotechnology - new molecular tools 

U Boas, J B Christensen and P M H Heegaard 

Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry 2006 | 179pp | ?69.95 | ISBN 0854048529 

Reviewed by Michael Gross

Dendrimers are essentially molecules that grow like trees, by branching out again and again. Ideally, chemists want to control the growth of these structures 
(eg by adding the branching units in a stepwise, layer-by-layer fashion) so that the resulting molecular tree is a well-defined, monodisperse molecular entity, more akin to a natural protein than to an industrial polymer.  

As dendrimers have been around for over 20 years, there is a growing expectation for them to grow up and do something useful. They have shown particular promise in various parts of the transport business, including the transfer of DNA or certain drugs into the cell. Moreover, dendrimers could act as drugs themselves, if parts of their structures included suitably reactive groups. However, before one can consider throwing a new kind of molecular compound at patients, there is a lot of small print to sort out, such as toxicity, biodegradability, survival time in the organism, and transport efficiency. 

Boas et al  have compiled the current knowledge of what one can and cannot do with dendrimers in a biological context (ie medical or biotech applications) into a handy tome of under 200 pages. There isn’t any complicated chemistry in it, so people coming from the application side should find it useful and accessible. Conversely, there is some medical terminology that comes without explanation, such that chemists may find it a little bit harder to understand.  

All in all, the book should provide valuable insights for anybody interested in the chemistry-biology interface, but it could have been improved significantly by a round of thorough editing, both for its numerous grammatical errors and the occasional lack of clarity in crucial explanations.