Life has always played by its own set of molecular rules. From the biochemistry behind the first cells, evolution has constructed wonders like hard bone, rough bark and plant enzymes that harvest light to make food.
But our tools for manipulating life—to treat disease, repair damaged tissue and replace lost limbs—come from the nonliving realm: metals, plastics and the like. Though these save and preserve lives, our synthetic treatments are rooted in a chemical language ill-suited to our organic elegance. Implanted electrodes scar, wires overheat and our bodies struggle against ill-fitting pumps, pipes or valves.
A solution lies in bridging this gap where artificial meets biological—harnessing biological rules to exchange information between the biochemistry of our bodies and the chemistry of our devices. In a paper published Sept. 22 in Scientific Reports, engineers at the University of Washington unveiled peptides—small proteins which carry out countless essential tasks in our cells—that can provide just such a link.
The team, led by UW professor Mehmet Sarikaya in the Departments of Materials Science & Engineering, shows how a genetically engineered peptide can assemble into nanowires atop 2-D, solid surfaces that are just a single layer of atoms thick. These nanowire assemblages are critical because the peptides relay information across the bio/nano interface through molecular recognition—the same principles that underlie biochemical interactions such as an antibody binding to its specific antigen or protein binding to DNA.
Since this communication is two-way, with peptides understanding the "language" of technology and vice versa, their approach essentially enables a coherent bioelectronic interface.
|Scooped by Mariaschnee|