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Self-Assembling Protein Filaments Created from Scratch

By November 19, 2018No Comments

For the first time, scientists have created from scratch self-assembling protein filaments built from identical protein subunits that snap together spontaneously to form long, helical, thread-like structures.

Protein filaments are important to our bodies. In nature, protein filaments play a key role in cell biology. Such filaments are essential components of:

  • The cytoskeletons that give cells their shape and ability to move
  • The cellular microtubules that orchestrate cell division
  • The most common protein in our bodies, collagen, which gives both strength and flexibility to our bones, cartilage, skin and other tissues.

“Being able to create protein filaments from scratch — or de novo — will help us better understand the structure and mechanics of naturally occurring protein filaments and will also allow us to create entirely novel materials unlike any found in nature,” said David Baker, University of Washington School of Medicine professor of biochemistry and director of the UW Medicine Institute for Protein Design. Baker, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator,  was the senior researcher on the project.

Such materials might include man-made fibers that equal or surpass the strength of spider silk, which by weight is stronger than steel, and even nanoscale wire circuits, Baker said.