Biomolecules Self-Assemble, No Equipment Required

November
2015

A new method that coaxes molecules to self-assemble into tiny tubes, even morphing into networks of little cylinders, could be used to make engineered tissues such as veins and arteries that grow and heal like their biological counterparts.

Alvaro Mata, director of the Institute of Bioengineering at Queen Mary Univ. of London, and his colleagues created the new material by combining peptide amphiphiles (PAs) — small molecules known to morph into various nanofibers — and elastin-like proteins (ELPs).

The researchers add an aqueous solution of ELP to an aqueous solution of PA. The ELP chains in solution are initially coiled up. As the PA molecules contact the ELP molecules, they begin to interact at the molecular level through electrostatic forces, and the ELP chains open up and stretch out. The ELPs and PAs form nanofibers that organize into layers, and the layers build up, one on top of the other, to form a membrane. The more the ELP stretches out, the more surface area is exposed to interact with the PA, and the more PA that binds to the ELP...

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