Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are trying to understand a novel protein structure called forisome in hopes of someday developing smart materials called biomimetics that mimic nature.
Here’s more from the University’s site:
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are putting a different kind of “foursome” together in hopes of someday developing smart materials called biomimetics that mimic nature.
Amy Shen, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and her Washington University colleague William F. Pickard, Ph.D., senior professor of electrical and systems engineering, are collaborating with Michael Knoblauch, Ph.D., of Washington State University, and Winfried S. Peters, Ph.D., of Indiana University/Purdue University in Fort Wayne, on understanding a novel plant protein structure called forisome.
Shen and Pickard are probing the biomechanical properties of the forisome, which, in a variety of plants, responds to injury by swelling up in reaction to an increase of calcium. The swelling of the proteins within transport cells protects the plant from hemorrhaging nutrients. Once the danger passes, the forisomes go back to their original shapes.
The foursome’s goal is to understand the system well enough to enable future collaborators to develop a chemically stable artificial forisome — a non-living system that can integrate functions such as sensing, acting and logic in response to external stimuli. Such a smart material would be biomimetic. One of the best examples of a natural system that exhibits the behavior that researchers would like to synthesize — a biomimetic — is the famed Venus flytrap.
Forisome is particularly attractive as a biomimetic smart material because, unlike most protein motors, it is not dependent on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for its activation, making it more flexible.
Shen used a microfluidic device – a soft lithography system of micro-channels embedded in fluids, so small it fits in the palm of a hand – to see how the forisome proteins would react to changes in calcium, pH and the hydrodynamic environment itself.
Check out this video enhanced press release…