Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine

July 31, 2013
Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine
The remarkable, rubber-like protein that enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp has major potential uses in medicine. Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

The remarkable, rubber-like protein that enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp has major potential uses in medicine, scientists conclude in an article in the journal ACS Macro Letters. It evaluates the latest advances toward using a protein called resilin in nanosprings, biorubbers, biosensors and other applications.

Kristi Kiick and colleagues explain that scientists discovered resilin a half-century ago in the wing hinges of locusts and elastic tendons of . The extraordinary tops the best synthetic rubbers. Resilin can stretch to three times its original length, for instance, and then spring back to its initial shape without losing its elasticity, despite repeated stretching and relaxing cycles. That's a crucial trait for insects that must flap or jump millions of times over their lifetimes. Scientists first synthesized resilin in 2005 and have been striving to harness its properties in medicine.

Kiick's team describes how their own research and experiments by other scientists are making major strides toward practical applications of resilin. Scientists have modified resilin with for possible use in diagnostics, engineered mosquito-based resin to act like human cartilage and developed a hybrid material for cardiovascular applications. "This increasing amount of knowledge gained from studies on natural resilin and resilin-like polypeptides continues to inspire new designs and applications of recombinant resilin-based in biomedical and biotechnological applications," the scientists state.

Insect-inspired super rubber moves toward practical uses in medicine

Explore further: Resilin springs simplify the control of crustacean limb movements

More information: Resilin-Based Materials for Biomedical Applications, ACS Macro Lett., 2013, 2, pp 635–640 DOI: 10.1021/mz4002194

Abstract
Resilin, an insect structural protein, exhibits rubber-like elasticity characterized by low stiffness, high extensibility, efficient energy storage, and exceptional resilience and fatigue lifetime. The outstanding mechanical properties of natural resilin have motivated recent research in the engineering of resilin-like polypeptide-based biomaterials, with a wide range of applications including use as biorubbers, nanosprings, elements in biosensors, and tissue engineering scaffolds.

Related Stories

Solving the riddle of nature's perfect spring

March 1, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists have unravelled the shape of the protein that gives human tissues their elastic properties in what could lead to the development of new synthetic elastic polymers.

Pygmy mole crickets don't just walk on water, they jump on it

December 3, 2012

Pygmy mole crickets are known to be prodigious jumpers on land. Now, researchers reporting in the December 4th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have found that the tiny insects have found an ingenious method ...

How long do insects last?

May 9, 2013

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have shown that although insects are made from one of the toughest natural materials, their legs and wings can wear out over time. The findings have been just published in the Journal ...

Recommended for you

Findings illuminate animal evolution in protein function

July 27, 2015

Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Richmond researchers recently teamed up to explore the inner workings of cells and shed light on the 400–600 million years of evolution between humans and early animals ...

New polymer able to store energy at higher temperatures

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers at the Pennsylvania State University has created a new polymer that is able to store energy at higher temperatures than conventional polymers without breaking down. In their paper published ...

How to look for a few good catalysts

July 30, 2015

Two key physical phenomena take place at the surfaces of materials: catalysis and wetting. A catalyst enhances the rate of chemical reactions; wetting refers to how liquids spread across a surface.

Yarn from slaughterhouse waste

July 29, 2015

ETH researchers have developed a yarn from ordinary gelatine that has good qualities similar to those of merino wool fibers. Now they are working on making the yarn even more water resistant.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.