Biomedical engineers from Duke University have demonstrated a new approach to making self-assembled biomaterials that relies on protein modifications and temperature. The hybrid approach allows researchers to control self-assembly more precisely, which may prove useful for a variety of biomedical applications from drug delivery to wound healing.
The research appears online on March 19 in Nature Chemistry.
Biomaterials have broad applications across the fields of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and drug delivery. Protein- and peptide-based materials are attractive for these applications because they are non-toxic, biodegradable and have a well-defined composition. But these biomaterials are limited to the 20 amino acids found in nature.
One strategy to expand the chemical diversity of protein-based materials is post-translational modification (PTM), a powerful set of reactions that nature uses to chemically transform proteins after they are synthesized from genes. PTM can modify specific amino acids in proteins or add non-protein structures, such as sugars and fatty acids.
“Nature combines different chemical alphabets to make very sophisticated materials,” said Ashutosh Chilkoti, the chair of the BME department at Duke and primary author of the paper. “One way it does this is by combining the amino acid vocabulary of proteins with other very different alphabets -- sugars and fats are just two examples of the many hundreds of such PTMs. As materials scientists, we have not taken advantage of nature’s methods to make hybrid materials, and this provided the inspiration for this research.” Read More