Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), have recently developed a new bio-inspired process based on self-assembly to fabricate complex and dynamic 3D materials.
The work from this study published in Nature Chemistry, describes the use of self-assembling peptides in promoting protein conformational changes and bringing about their assembly into complex, yet functional materials. Proteins have unique structural and functional properties that are exploited in this work to create hierarchical materials with behaviour similar to biological tissues.
The method developed uses solutions of peptides and protein molecules that upon coming in contact with each other, self-assemble to form a dynamic tissue at the point at which they meet. As the material assembles itself it can be easily guided to grow into complex shapes like say, a network of tubes.
This unique property of the system allows for fabricating scaffolds that are geometrically complex without the use of a 3D printer. Also, because they are made up of biological raw material “protein”, the scaffolds thus formed can be made bioactive.