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Self-assembling material shows promise for artificial arteries

29 September 2015

Researchers have developed a way of assembling organic molecules into complex tubular tissue-like structures without the use of moulds or 3D printing.

Concept of the technology: creating capillaries from biomaterials (image: QMUL)

The study, carried out by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and published in the journal Nature Chemistry, describes how peptides and proteins can be used to create materials that exhibit dynamic behaviours found in biological tissues like growth, morphogenesis, and healing.

The method uses solutions of peptide and protein molecules that, upon touching 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.

This discovery could lead to the engineering of tissues like veins, arteries, or even the blood-brain barrier, which would allow scientists to study diseases such as Alzheimer's with a high level of similarity to the real tissue, which is currently impossible. The technique could also contribute to the creation of better implants, complex tissues, or more effective drug screening methods.

"What is most exciting about this discovery is the possibility for us to use peptides and proteins as building-blocks of materials with the capacity to controllably grow or change shape, solely by self-assembly," says Alvaro Mata, Director of the Institute of Bioengineering at QMUL and lead author of the Nature Chemistry paper.


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