A new way to make nanofibers from proteins developed by scientists at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University could have significant drug delivery implications.
Azonano.com reports on the findings, which are detailed in the latest online edition of Advanced Functional Materials. Kudos also go to the lab of Jin Montclare--head of protein engineering and the molecular design lab at the school's department of chemical and biological sciences, which led the study.
The researchers essentially figured out that high concentrations of alpha helical coiled-coil proteins obtained from cartilage oligomeric matrix protein self-assemble into nanofibers. After mixing in metal-recognizing amino acids, they added nickel and zinc, and the nanofibers changed shape. Next, the researchers will study how to control the nanofiber formation and how the nanofibers bond with "tiny molecules," the story explains.
I know, it doesn't sound like a lot, yet. But consider the implication: The researchers see their protein-based nanofibers as forming a drug delivery vessel for treatments for everything from heart disease and cancer to Alzheimer's disease. In an age when more and more tech has versatile uses, the article notes that the provocative raw material could theoretically also help build human cartilage, bone or tissue.
Those options are years away. Before we get there, we'll have to wait for many more rounds of lab testing, experiments in animals, and then, we hope, in people. Assuming safety, technical and financial obstacles can be surmounted in the meantime, this is the first step of a very interesting journey and one worth watching.