Viruses guide nano-assembly of biomaterials

This contribution has been forwarded by Ivo Rivetta.

Researchers at UC Berkeley have taken a bioinspired approach to control the nanostructure of deposited thin films. In living organisms, the orientation of collagen in tissue determines its properties:

For instance, a number of blue-skinned animals, including the mandrill monkey, derive their coloring not from pigment, but from the specific scattering of light formed when thin fibers of collagen are bundled, twisted and layered in its skin.

In contrast, aligning collagen in a perpendicular, grid-like pattern creates transparency, and is the basis of corneal tissue. And corkscrew-shaped fibers, mineralized after interacting with calcium and phosphate, can generate the hardest parts of our body: bones and teeth.

The films designed in the laboratory are made of the bacteriophage M13; a virus that infects bacteria but poses no threat to humans. The long, slender viruses resemble the structure of the collagen fibers and orient themselves on the glass slide surface depending on how quickly they are evaporated. (video)

The potential of this technique has only begun to be explored with this successful proof of concept. Future steps will include modifying the living M13 bacteriophages to express different surface proteins that will translate to unique mechanical, optical, and chemical properties once arranged in films.

Quote from: Berkeley release “Researchers turn viruses into molecular Legos

Extra Resource: Nature paper [full access requires subscription or payment].

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