Researchers developed self-selecting polymers that form by adapting to their environment, according to a study published yesterday in Nature Nanotechnology.
The peptides continually reorganize their sequences to form polymers most suited to their environment, instead of researchers designing polymers to fit their surroundings or relying on chance discovery.
“In our quest to find materials based on biology’s building blocks – but which are much simpler – it is difficult to rationally design these materials because there are very many possible permutations that could be explored,” Rein Ulijn, director of the City University of New York Advanced Science Research Center’s Nanoscience Initiative, said in prepared remarks.
“Instead of designing rationally to improve materials, we’ve found a way to autonomously evolve,” 1st author Charalampos Pappas added. “We achieve this by having components dynamically connect, rearrange and disconnect, resulting in the spontaneous selection and formation of the most stable self-assembling nanostructures.”
The self-selecting peptides add to Ulijn’s portfolio of tunable peptide structures that could be useful for drug delivery applications, such as biodegradable nanospheres.
The evolution-based peptide discovery is very time-consuming and doesn’t cover the full range of chemical functionality present in natural materials, according to the center.
“These issues can potentially be overcome by automation and miniaturization of the process, which is the focus of current research,” Ulijn said.