New York, Oct 15 (IANS) An Indian-origin scientist from the University of California-Berkeley in the US has taken proteins from nerve cells and used them to create a ‘smart’ material that is extremely sensitive to its environment.
This could lead to new types of biological sensors, flow valves and controlled drug release systems, including micro-fluidic devices that can handle and process very small volumes of liquid such as samples of saliva or blood for diagnostics.
“We created a new class of smart, protein-based materials whose structural principles are inspired by networks found in living cells,” said principal investigator Sanjay Kumar, associate professor of bioengineering.
Kumar’s research team set out to create a biological version of a synthetic coating used in everyday liquid products, such as paint and liquid cosmetics, to keep small particles from clumping together.
The synthetic coatings are often called polymer brushes because of their bristle-like appearance.
Researchers showed that the ‘protein brush’ had all the key properties of synthetic brushes, plus a number of advantages.
“The size and chemical sequence of these hair-like proteins are far easier to control when compared with their synthetic counterparts,” he concluded.
The paper appeared in the journal Nature Communications.