November 12, 2011 –
Berkeley Bioengineering Associate Professor Seung-Wuk Lee has turned a benign virus into an engineering tool for assembling structures that mimic collagen, one of the most important structural proteins in nature. The process developed in his lab could eventually be used to manufacture materials with tunable optical, biomedical and mechanical properties.
The researchers describe their “self-templating material assembly” process in the Oct. 20 issue of the journal Nature.
“We took our inspiration from nature,” said Lee. “Nature has a unique ability to create functional materials from very basic building blocks. We found a way to mimic the formation of diverse, complex structures from helical macromolecules, such as collagen, chitin and cellulose, which are the primary building blocks for a wide array of functional materials in animals and plants.”