Peptides Bridge The Artificial And Biological

Genetically engineered peptides that can bridge the gap between synthetic materials and biomolecules could be used for ‘seamless’ bioelectronic devices.

AsianScientist (Nov. 21, 2016) – Researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology have designed peptides that can self-assemble and act as an interface between the body and electronic devices. Their results have been published in Scientific Reports.

Our tools for manipulating life—to treat disease, repair damaged tissue and replace lost limbs—come from the non-living 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 existence. Implanted electrodes scar, wires overheat and our bodies struggle against ill-fitting pumps, pipes or valves.

Peptides could potentially bridge the gap where the artificial meets the biological, according to research led by Associate Professor Yuhei Hayamizu and Professor Mehmet Sarikaya.

“Bridging this divide would be the key to building the genetically engineered biomolecular solid-state devices of the future,” said Sarikaya, who is also a professor at the University of Washington.

To find a suitable peptide which can interact with materials such as gold and titanium, the researchers screened through 80 genetically modified peptides. One peptide—GrBP5—showed promising interactions with graphene, spontaneously forming ordered nanowire patterns when place on top of a single-atom thick layer of graphene.

When a few amino acid residues were mutated, GrBP5 was able to alter the electrical conductivity of a graphene-based device. Other mutations allowed it to convert a chemical signal to an optical signal when grown on a surface of molybdenum disulfide, showing that GrBP5 can alter the properties of synthetic materials, thereby transmitting information from the synthetic material to other biomolecules and bridging the chemical divide between biology and technology.

“In a way, we’re at the flood gates,” said Sarikaya. “Now we need to explore the basic properties of this bridge and how we can modify it to permit the flow of ‘information’ from electronic and photonic devices to biological systems.”

The article can be found at: Hayamizu et al. (2016) Bioelectronic Interfaces by Spontaneously Organized Peptides on 2D Atomic Single Layer Materials.


Source: Tokyo Institute of Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
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