New Biomaterial Mimics Muscle Elasticity

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, May 11 (UPI) — Canadian scientists say they have used artificial proteins to develop a solid biomaterial that very closely mimics the elasticity of human muscles.

University of British Columbia scientists said their achievement opens new avenues to creating solid biomaterials from smaller engineered proteins.

“There are obvious long-term implications for tissue engineers,” Associate Professor Hongbin Li, who co-led the study, said. “But at a fundamental level, we’ve learned that the mechanical properties we engineer into the individual proteins that make up this biomaterial can be translated into useful mechanical properties at the larger scale.”

Li and Professor John Gosline said they engineered the artificial proteins to mimic the molecular structure of titin — also known as connectin — a giant protein that plays a vital role in the passive elasticity of muscle. The engineered version, the scientists said, resembles a chain of beads about 100 times smaller that titin.

The researchers said the resulting rubber-like biomaterial showed high resilience at low strain and was tough at high strain — features that make up the elastic properties of muscles.

Gosline and Li said the mechanical properties can be fine-tuned, allowing development of biomaterials that exhibit a wide range of useful properties, including mimicking different types of muscles. The material is also fully hydrated and biodegradable.

The study that included Shanshan Lv, Daniel Dudek, Yi Cao and M.M. Balamurali appears in the journal Nature.

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