Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) have developed a new method for creating nanofibers made from proteins.
It is hoped that this method will lead to improvements in drug delivery methods for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, cancers and heart disorders, along with aiding the regeneration of human tissue, bone and cartilage.
Susheel K Gunaseka, a doctoral student from NYU-Poly's Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences, was the primary researcher on this project. During an experiment that involved studying certain cylinder shaped proteins derived from an oligomeric matrix protein, Gunaseka noticed that in high concentrations, these alpha-helical coiled–coil proteins spontaneously came together and self assembled into nanofibres.
By adding a set of metal-recognising amino acids to the coiled coil-protein, the NYU-Poly team found that the nanofibres alter their shapes with the addition of metals such as zinc and nickel.
The details of the research are featured in the article Effects of Divalent Metals on Nanoscopic Fibre Formation and Small Molecule Recognition of Helical Proteins
, which was co-authored by Jin Moteclare, assistant professor and head of the department's Protein Engineering and Molecular Design Laboratory.
According to Monteclare, the team now plans to create scaffolds of nanofibres that can be used to facilitate the regeneration of bone cartilage or human stem cells. The researchers also contend that their discoveries could have applications for use in the production of pharmaceuticals and microprocessors.